December 18, 2014
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Finally taxpayers say ‘enough is enough’
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

CENTRAL COVENTRY FIRE BUDGET REJECTION:  

Finally, a small group of people said, “enough is enough” and showed the rest of us that a community of dedicated individuals can indeed take control of its government and wrest their fiscal future from those who would milk every possible dollar from its residents.  Residents of Coventry’s central fire district overwhelmingly rejected a revised budget proposal that would have kept the beleaguered fire district running.  Rejection means the fire district will be liquidated.  Many Rhode Islanders are accustomed to one or two percent annual increases in their tax rates to support local government.  But an increase of 64 percent in one year?  That’s what the Coventry fire district wanted to impose on its residents.  It would have raised the average homeowner’s fire tax from around $400 per year to well over $700, and that’s before the property tax every homeowner must pay for police, public works, etc.  With four fire districts in Coventry - each with its own chief, administration, equipment, fire houses and firefighters, it’s high time local residents said “we just can’t afford this anymore.”  Coventry residents told the public service employees something very simple; that government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.  Kudos to Coventry!

 

TAVERAS RAISES UGLY HEAD OF EMINENT DOMAIN:  

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras shared with state and city business leaders his plan for improving the capital city’s economy.  While many of actions planned for the Providence Redevelopment Agency are reasonable and prudent, such as streamlining the building permitting process and fighting to restore historic tax credits, Taveras also mentioned that he might try to stimulate redevelopment by taking property through eminent domain.  He specifically mentioned the Dynamo House as an eminent domain possibility.  Such a taking would be nothing less than legalized theft!  The Dynamo House is private property that does not stand in the way of building a public highway, doesn’t obstruct any other public works project, and isn’t needed for the public good as envisioned by eminent domain doctrine.  Surely we all remember when New London, CT took a large parcel of private property to give to Pfizer Pharmaceutical.  The property owner took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where she narrowly lost.  The court has changed.  Its conservative wing will no longer stand for this kind of theft from private parties when there is no public necessity, when the only purpose is to advance the agenda of what can only be called a socialist government.  Our free enterprise system is doomed when government can steal private property and give it to others for their private development.  It’s reminiscent of the USSR, China and Cuba.  Is that really where Mayor Taveras wants to go?  

 

BODY SHOPS AND SOCIALISM:  

Lobbyists for auto body repair shops want the General Assembly to pass laws that would mandate insurance companies pay them what they demand rather than the prevailing market rate.  Citing the fact that 47 small auto body shops have gone out of business in the past three years because the cost of living is so high in R.I. and the shops have to pay higher wages than do shops in other states, the auto body shop lobbyists contend we should rid our free enterprise system of market forces and allow government to establish rates.  None of us has to go to another state to have our cars’ body work completed. There are still plenty of auto body shops in Rhode Island. But, it’s because of market forces, not because of government intervention.  Shops that were run inefficiently, that charged more than other shops, and that had low volume went out of business, while those that were run efficiently, charged reasonable repair fees and garnered high volume remained in business.  That’s how the free enterprise system works!  Our state has leaned about as far as it can toward socialism without falling into the abyss.  Let’s not allow the auto body lobbyists to push us over the edge and cause repair prices to double and insurance rates to skyrocket.

 

START-UP BUSINESS INVESTMENTS:

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has finally called it quits on continuing to pour money into start-up businesses that promise to remain in Providence for one year.  The program’s expenditures were debatable from the beginning since it devoted one million taxpayer dollars to $50,000 “loans” to each company.  With no apparent oversight, the program exceeded the planned one million dollar limit and has now awarded $1.65 million of taxpayer money to 33 companies.   Tavares said, “The original plan was $1 million, and we blew past that.”  Taveras has now decided to halt the program while the city studies whether the investments have worked by determining how many companies have succeeded or failed.  How did city government blow through so much taxpayer money without exercising the minimum fiduciary oversight that common sense, and law, requires?  How did it spend so profligately without even checking whether it was getting the intended results?  Remember, this money is not coming from Providence property taxes; it comes from federal grants financed by the federal income taxes of all Rhode Islanders.  This demonstrates precisely what’s wrong with government today.  It finds spending other people’s money so easy.  Taveras is commended for halting the program, but he and his administrators should have been exercising proper oversight long ago.         

 

DOMA’S SUPREME COURT HEARING:  

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was argued openly before and among the U.S. Supreme Court justices last week.  One of the justices being asked to invalidate major portions of the act that legislates “marriage” as the union of a man and a woman brought up an argument that should be supported by all Americans - state’s rights.  Whether we like it or not, the U.S. Constitution grants power to pass laws regulating marriage, divorce, custody, etc., to the states, not to the federal government.  Yet, DOMA tells states that, regardless of their laws allowing same-sex marriage, married gay partners will be discriminated against by the federal government when it comes to benefits like health care, taxes, and survivor rights - that they will not receive equal protection under the law as required by the 14th Amendment.  DOMA is, in essence, the federal government’s bald-faced attempt to force the states to give up their constitutional authority to control marriage. Fortunately, more and more states are passing laws allowing same-sex marriage.  Hopefully, Rhode Island will be one of them this year.  With there being very little likelihood that the Supreme Court will make a major leap and decide same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, the best course of action for our country is for the Court to reverse applicable parts of DOMA and allow everyone married in states with same-sex marriage laws to enjoy the full benefits of marriage - to include federal benefits.     

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:  

Commenting on Governor Chafee’s decision to give raises to state government directors, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry referred to the governor’s rationale for the raises when he said, “We should all be pleased that the governor has been pushing his directors hard to manage their budgets and run their agencies effectively.  But that’s their job.  We should expect that.  That can’t be the justification for a salary increase.”  Though the directors may deserve raises, Chafee’s lame rationale for the raises - especially after telling URI that it should not give raises to faculty - provides further proof that our governor suffers from a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease. 


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