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.

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13 years ago

” For homeowners, that will mean the rate per $1,000 of assessed value will go from $19.22 to $21.14.” Where’s Hill getting that number? According to every source I see, including the RI Dept of Revenue (, the tax rate for Central Falls is 10.78. Even if the data is a year old, there’s no way Moreau raised the rate to 19.22 this year. Even some commenters to the article picked up on that. Oh, and not only is the property tax rate ridiculously low for their situation, at 10.78, but they also have a HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION for $60,000. How much are CF homes worth? On average about $150,000? So they’re only taxed on $90,000 of that value, and at a low rate? No wonder why they’re broke! “Even though members have been told that the bill won’t be paid, the City Council will go ahead with its plan to hire its own lawyer” Well, then this sounds like they’re acting as private citizens and as such, they can pay for it as private citizens. If they win, then they should be able to sue the state for damages. “Pfeiffer also announced the city’s motor vehicle tax exemption will drop from the first $6,000 of the value of the car to the first $1,000.” Sounds pretty good to me. In my own town, we went to $500. So CF is getting off pretty nicely here. “While unveiling his budget last week, Pfeiffer said it was incorrect to say the city was insolvent; it was taking in enough money in 2009-10 to cover its expenses. But he cautioned that solvency was achieved by putting off a $3.4-million contribution to the city’s police and fire pension fund, a fund that auditors said was $24 million short after the 2008-09 year…the pension fund… Read more »

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