Fighting Tyranny Inherently Breaks the Rules
I’ve been meaning to comment on the latest development in the governance of Central Falls: the city council’s decision to hire an independent lawyer, apparently without knowing how it will pay the bill if Receiver-King Mark Pfeiffer, appointed by the state, refuses to allow it.
The move by the council is a reaction to state-appointed receiver Mark A. Pfeiffer’s announcement last week that to close a $2.1-million deficit in last year’s budget and a projected $6.3-million hole in the current year, he will need to raise the tax rate by 10 percent. For homeowners, that will mean the rate per $1,000 of assessed value will go from $19.22 to $21.14. There are different rates for commercial and industrial buildings.
On the limited matter of whether the council should be spending scarce resources on such a thing, it’s difficult to argue with Amy Kempe, here:
[The council’s prospective lawyer, Lawrence] Goldberg said the council needed its own lawyer in cases where it disagreed with Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer has told the council to use the city solicitors, but Goldberg said they now answer to Pfeiffer.
“They have divided loyalties,” Goldberg said.
Amy P. Kempe, spokeswoman for Pfeiffer, said Tuesday night that Pfeiffer wouldn’t approve a new lawyer.
“They should utilize the services of the solicitor’s office so as not to add extra expense to the city of Central Falls,” Kempe said.
But this is the problem with dictatorship. People lose trust in the process for addressing grievances or (rightly) conclude that the route is unduly long and complicated. To resolve differences with the receiver, the people of Central Falls would have to change enough state officeholders to halt a targeted law. Otherwise, they’d have to argue to a judge that the law or the actions being taken in its name are illegal. To expect city solicitors to take on their own boss in the name of residents, through their elected council, is little more than a banana republic pretense toward representative democracy.
Of course, beneath all of these fine procedural points, we can only shake our heads at the capacity of the state government of Rhode Island to come up with a way to make the mayor and city council of Central Falls look like victims.