The Politics of Woonsocket
This morning saw dueling press releases, both issued shortly before 4 am. They were in reference to negotiations between the Woonsocket delegation of state representatives, including Jon Brien and Lisa “You’re cute” Baldelli-Hunt, and Governor Chafee.
Rosemary Booth-Gallogly, the state’s Director of Revenue and Leo Fontaine, Woonsocket’s mayor, have come to the conclusion that one step to possibly save the city from bankruptcy is a 13% tax to property owners in the city. No one takes these things lightly and taxes in an amount like that are never something that anyone enjoys. But just like when a patient is sick, medicine is required. This is the medicine that is being prescribed by the experts at this time.
Late into the night and early morning, the Woonsocket state reps negotiated with the Governor’s office, but couldn’t come to an agreement. In their press release, the representatives offered:
“We cannot force our residents to pay a 13.8 percent supplemental tax,” said Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket). “We originally started with a five-point plan and narrowed it down to a two-point compromise for the governor. But in the end, he said our proposal for an 8.5 percent tax, which would not have been added to the base, was not large enough.”
Aside from the compromise on the tax, Woonsocket legislators in both the House and the Senate had reached a consensus on another item that would allow the city to push back the start of construction for the DEM-mandated wastewater treatment plant.
“We made it known that we would be willing to meet in the middle, but we would not go back to the original proposal for the $6.6 million tax levy,” Rep. Jon D. Brien (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket) said.
Meet in the middle? Is that how it works? So how about this, the next time I need a car, I’ll go pick one out. Let’s say its price is $20,000. Well, I want to pay zero. I’ll tell the dealer, “Let’s meet in the middle!” Maybe I can try the same thing on a house. How’s that work? Or even better, when that payroll comes due up in Woonsocket, maybe the mayor can tell the employees, “Let’s meet in the middle and we’ll pay you half.”
Additionally, the state reps’ press release included:
“I’ve grown even more concerned after seeing the number of homeowners on the most recent tax sale list,” Representative Phillips said. “This isn’t fair to them. I’m sure the governor’s decision today will not ease their minds.”
Really? You’re concerned about the number of homes on the tax sale list? So your concern is the taxpayer and homeowners of Woonsocket and elsewhere around Rhode Island? If that’s true, then did we see a push for Governor Chafee’s “tools bill” that would have eased burdens on cities and towns and given the mayors the tools necessary to cut costs from crazy mandates. If the reps were being honest with their intentions, they’d have pushed for the Governor’s bill even harder than they fought against this tax hit.
So why are they doing this? I don’t know, though it wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if Ted Nesi was on to something yesterday with his questioning of Representative Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and her desire to be Mayor of Woonsocket, and the whole strategy was to tar up current Mayor Fontaine. Once they started down this road, they had to see it through, not thinking it would come to this and be this visible. Over the next few months, if the city does get forced into bankruptcy, many people will be asking questions and looking for reasons why.
Maybe a part of that will be answered for us by June 27.
Addendum: Thank you to commenter brassband who reminded me that Woonsocket’s elections are in odd years, so there is no election this year. I did know that, but clearly forgot it while writing this post. Thus, we get a whole additional year to see what happens with the political drama up north.