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Know your history, part II

Darrell West, who came to Rhode Island in 1982 and is departing in June for a job at the Brookings Institution, also stopped by the Newsmakers' set today. Like journalists, West has had a rich vein of fodder here, and he says the Ocean State will stay with him after he moves to DC.

Among the highlights of his exit interview:

-- Rhode Island remains handicapped by a lack of long-term economic planning. The General Assembly habitually responds to the governor's budget at the last-minute and in a frenzied fashion. It will not be surprising if the state experiences another fiscal crisis another 10 or so years down the road.

-- Rhode Island remains a place with a high quality of life and where the economic base has grown more multi-faceted since the sharp decline of the old industrial base in the '80s.

-- Bruce Sundlin's airport expansion was controversial in the early '90s, but now looks like a genius idea.

-- The jury is out on Buddy Cianci's impact as a radio talk-show host. West says that although Cianci has a platform with which to criticize David Cicilline, the mayor's office is generally a stronger position from which to operate.

-- The jury is out on Governor Carcieri's record. While Carcieri exhibited an early strong suit in communication skills, he has gotten bogged down by taking on too many different fights and by not having more of a single-minded focus on budget issues, West says. The governor has had some success, the professor adds, in changing the discussion on budget-related topics.

-- It remains a challenge for some Rhode Islanders, including those elected as reformers, to overcome the "insider" mentality once in office, but the state has strong ethics laws for use in responding to the situation. "You can not reform human nature," West says, who also referred to Elmer Cornwell's observation that the Ocean State is marked by "the politics of intimacy."

-- Asked what he would leave as a gift to Rhode Island, West says it would be a greater emphasis on regionalization.

The show will be broadcast Sunday, at 5:30 am on Channel 12, and at 10 am on Fox 64. 

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