Rhode Island Politics and Government

By Maureen Moakley; Elmer Cornwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
Local Government

It is the intention of this article to grant and confirm to the people of every city and town in this state the right of self government in all local matters.

Article XIII, Rhode Island Constitution

More than once in recent decades the phrase “city-state” has been applied to Rhode Island. The state's very small size, compactness, high population density, and high degree of urbanization around a core formed by Providence suggest that nothing but city-state organization makes sense. Why not one school district, one fire department, one police department, and so on? To Rhode Islanders, however, any such city-state would be unimaginable and violently opposed. Despite encouragement, off and on over many years only a handful of the smallest among the state's thirty-nine cities and towns have joined in combined school districts. In all other spheres local autonomy has been guarded fiercely.


PROVIDENCE AS THE CORE OF THE STATE

There is, in other words, a kind of schizophrenia in Rhode Island about local government. In part it is a clash between sentiment (devotion to local autonomy) and reality: the state, by all appearances, is virtually a city-state. Rhode Island's size and compactness seem to belie the strength of Rhode Islanders'emotional parochialism. Part of the problem lies in the fact that in Rhode Island, unlike in Delaware or other small states, Providence is at one and the same time the state's metropolis, economic center, and capital. It is easy, therefore, to see the rest of the state as little more than a ring of suburbs around the core city. (Newport is a partial exception to this perception.)

Providence was not the only or even the preeminent original settlement.

-196-

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Rhode Island Politics and Government
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Series Preface xi
  • Authors' Preface xiii
  • Rhode Island Politics and Government *
  • Chapter One - Rhode Island in Transition 1
  • Chapter Two - Political Culture in the Ocean State 19
  • Chapter Three - Rhode Island and the Federal System 36
  • Chapter Four - The Constitution 50
  • Chapter Five - The General Assembly 65
  • Chapter Six - The Executive and the Administration 84
  • Chapter Seven - The Courts 108
  • Chapter Eight - Political Parties 125
  • Chapter Nine - Interest and Group Representation 144
  • Chapter Ten - Budget Politics and Policy 163
  • Chapter Eleven - The Politics of Education 178
  • Chapter Twelve - Local Government 196
  • Epilogue 213
  • General Resources 219
  • Notes 225
  • Index 241
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