COUNCIL PUTS ADDED BURDEN ON HOMEOWNERS, GIVING BUSINESSES HARDLY A BREAK … ‘NO TALK’ ZONE WILL BE VIOLATED MANY TIMES, AS IT SHOULD BE … GOP: ‘WOMEN LACK THE NECESSITIES’
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28, 2012) — At the council meeting last night, our Right Honorable Good Friends set the new tax rates, nearly six months after approving the budget. Are you sitting down for this:
For both residential property owners and the commercial-industrial-business sector, taxes are going up again, 3.6% for homeowners and 5% for businesses.
We know. THE PLANET was there, on the scene of the accident.
The Triple Whammy
The tax classification hearing, an annual song-and-dance, was especially funny this year. The council got into an anguished debate on how to split the tax rates between homeowners and businesses, but in the end, homeowners got screwed and, despite “the break” given to business, the commercial rate stands at an astronomical level, high enough to continue to deter growth, development, and investment. The council brought the rock to the table, and Mayor Dan Bianchi furnished the hard place.
In the end, residential taxpayers will have to cough up $16.70 for every $1,000 of value (up from the current rate of $16.11), with the commercial rate tabbed at $34.48. Though councilors dubbed the new commercial rate at benign (“business friendly,” as Ward 6 councilor John Krol put it), it means the current rate of $32.85 will increase by $1.63 per thousand. See, that’s what tax happy politicians mean by giving out “tax breaks.” They mean your rate will still increase, but not as much as we first wanted it to do.
The vote was 10-1 on the new split (Ward 2’s Kevin Morandi siding with Bianchi, wanting to put more of the extra burden on the business side).
What No One Tells You … but THE PLANET
What no one tells you, of course, is that each time taxes go up — this year marks the 40th consecutive increase for Pittsfield, in what has to be an unofficial state, and perhaps even national, record — taxpayers experience The Triple Whammy. They get hit three times:
* First, taxpayers get hit with the increase itself.
* Second, year after year, with raises on top of raises, the rate of increase compounds, the way interest does in the bank.
* Third, the increase is made even steeper when assessments go up, as they have recently for many Pittsfield property owners.
Seeing is Believing What Should Not be Tolerated But Is
THE PLANET saw it with our own four eyes, or we wouldn’t have believed it (not). At each tax classification hearing, we hear a number of truisms, the least true of which is:
* No one likes to raise taxes.
No one likes to do it, but they do it anyway. After the usual hand-wringing over how to divide the split between residential and commercial (the council opting to dump more of the burden on homeowners this year), after the speechifying, the vote gets cast, and Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, as well as small- to medium-sized business owner Sir Tiberius Fruitjuice will have to dig deeper to fund an increase in spending, mainly for the school department (or didn’t you hear of the 10%-16% pay raise the teachers just won over three years?).
There are several topics that should be part of the discussion but aren’t. They include:
* Non profits — Why does Pittsfield have so many, and why are they allowed to retain that status? You mean to say that each and every so-called “non-profit,” especially the one that dish out six-figure salaries, deserves to be ranked with The Little Sisters of the Poor?
* Free cash — More on this later, but with $5 million in “free cash,” what is going on budgetwise? THE PLANET refutes the “conventional wisdom” that having such an amount is a sign of financial stability and secures the city’s bond rating. This “accepted wisdom” needs to be challenged, no matter who gets ruffled by it.
* Unfunded liability — This is a nearly $400,000,000 bill that will come due in the next 20 years.
The winner of the next mayoral election will be that person who will have the gonads to stand up to this mindless string of tax hikes that are strangling homeowners and destroying the economic competitiveness of the city.
DON’T SAY IT, SPRAY IT
There are some provisions that our Right Honorable Good Friends put before us that will not simply slip quietly into the good night. One such is the recent open meeting hubbub involving the Pittsfield city council.
After Melissa Mazzeo threatened to go to the Attorney General with a complaint that colleagues Kevin Sherman, John Krol, Barry Clairmont, Christine Yon, and Jonathan Lothrop violated the state’s open meeting laws, Sherman signed a resolution letter with Mazzeo, basically saying an amazing thing: That city councilors did not possess First Amendment rights of free speech.
The council voted 9-2 (Krol and Churchill Cotton objecting) to accept this embarrassing restriction, even though Clairmont and Lothrop said it would not affect how and what they discuss prior to council meetings, particularly concerning agenda items. Most neutral observers (if there are any) and disinterested Radar Men from the Moon read Mazzeo’s actions as revenge for the Oct. 9 Noconfidencegate, when Yon and Sherman cosigned a request calling for a no-confidence vote in city solicitor Kathy Degnan.
‘Censorship is No Antidote’
Clairmont has said he would ignore the agreement not to discuss agenda items in the media … or any other topic. Krol and Yon said as much as well, Krol putting it well when he said to our good friend, the Eagle’s Dick Linsday, “Censorship is no antidote for our ills.” At least he’s admitting to “ills.”
Yon thought it would “be the end of it” when she withdrew her petition on Oct. 9. Mazzeo and Sherman hope the compromise letter would “be the end of it” several weeks later. Though it may not be readily apparent, the “end” has not come and will not come until the municipal elections next year. That “end” shall only be the “beginning of the end.”
‘LACKING THE NECESSITIEIS’
When House Republicans announced their list of recommendations yesterday for committee chairmanships in the upcoming new Congress, they put forth an all-male list. The list included returning Paul Ryan to head the budget panel and Ed Royce of California to replace long-time Foreign Affairs chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
Asked about the lack of women, Michael Steel, mouthpiece for House Speaker John Boehner, said three women have been selected for party leadership for 2013. Boehner didn’t have it in him to explain the real reason (borrowing from Al Campanis): “Women are pretty and cute to look at and all that, but they lack the ‘necessities’ to handle the duties of chair.” This item prompts two questions: Gee, do you think UN Ambassador Rice (she’s a “she”) will face a grilling by Republicans if President Obama nominates her as Secretary of State? And do you wonder why Obama outscored Mitt Romney among women voters?
THE AGE OF LOVE IS AS WISE AS THE SERPENT AND HARMLESS AS THE DOVE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.