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RHODE MAP

This RWU Law student thinks he has the solution to R.I.’s pension problems

(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

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LEADING OFF

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’ve got a hot take for you: Season two of “Crimetown” is better than season one. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

When it comes to fixing underfunded local pension systems, the most common solutions we typically hear involve some combination of bankruptcy, the slashing of benefits, and the sale of assets for an infusion of cash.

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Xay Khamsyvoravong has one more idea.

In a commentary piece published in the Roger Williams University Law Review, Khamsyvoravong makes the case that municipalities should consider transferring their most valuable assets – Providence’s water supply, for example – to their pension funds in order to boost their balance sheets.

Some might argue the concept is simply an accounting trick that wouldn’t result in the windfall that desperate communities need, but Khamsyvoravong suggests it’s important for cities and towns to improve the on-paper health of their pension systems. He writes that it might also stop governments from entering into bad deals with private companies for water systems or treatment facilities.

“The transfer is analogous to one’s parents moving into a nursing home and signing over the title of the now empty house to their children,” Khamsyvoravong writes. “The parent is able to keep the home in the family, while allowing the children to realize the benefit of ownership.”

Keep in mind Khamsyvoravong is not your typical law school student. He’s a senior vice president at Webster Bank and the chairman of the Providence Water Supply Board, which means he had a front row seat for Mayor Jorge Elorza’s unsuccessful quest earlier this year to sell or lease the city’s water system.

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The idea isn’t unique to Rhode Island. Officials in New Jersey recently transferred their lottery to the state pension system and Pittsburgh counts its parking revenues toward pensions.

No matter what happens, Rhode Island’s local pension problems remain a challenge. Of the 35 locally administered plans in the state, 21 were less than 60 percent funded as of 2018.

NEED TO KNOW

Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• Federal Hill is one of the best-known neighborhoods in New England, but tensions are running high following last month’s stabbing death of a man outside the nightclub Seven. Amanda Milkovits dives into the showdown between longtime residents and the club owners.

• So much for that local academic health center. Care New England stunned state leaders yesterday when it withdrew from negotiations with Lifespan and Brown University. The logical next question is whether it will turn back to Partners Healthcare to discuss an acquisition.

• One more from Amanda: Providence police are investigating the deaths of seven people suspected of overdosing this month “with the same intensity as a homicide [case],” according to Major David Lapatin. A new state law allows for a life sentence for those convicted of selling drugs that lead to a fatal overdose.

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• Providence is planning to bring on former Central Falls Superintendent Fran Gallo as its interim head of schools. Meanwhile, Jonathan Brice has been tapped as the interim superintendent in the Bristol Warren Regional School District.

• I’m blushing just typing this. How a “best sex ever” text message led to a marriage fraud case in Rhode Island. The Globe’s Travis Andersen has the details.

WHAT’S ON TAP TODAY

Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• State leaders are set to cut the ribbon on the Wexford Innovation Center on Dyer Street this afternoon. Scoop: I hear the Globe will have an office there.

• The Providence Board of Licenses meets today to consider the future of Club Seven on Federal Hill.

• Fun for kids: It’s Pirates and Princesses Day at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

• Enjoying Rhode Map so far? Do us a favor and encourage your friends to sign up here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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