To the Editor:
Tiverton Citizens for Change has, since our inception, encouraged participation in our community, to join a committee or to volunteer for the public good, which is for everybody’s benefit. Organizing is encouraged. Certainly it was with that spirit that TCC was created, and continues to flourish. We embrace the idea that all of us have a constitutional right to express ourselves, and to disagree. So welcoming new voices to the conversation is a part of who and what we are. We also believe that our words and deeds define who we are. A new name for an old idea does not change the message, or the messenger. Reflecting upon public remarks of key officials and leaders, old and new, can be enlightening.
Three letters, two written by Chris Cotta, a Tiverton Democrat Party member, writing as Chairman of the Budget Committee is where we begin. These letters were received by the Town Council just a few days before the FTR Charter approval hearing at the State House March 21 2012. Mr. Cotta made no effort to vet his letters to the Department of Revenue with the Town Council, the Town Solicitor, or the public; rather it was timed to avoid any public hearing. Both letters slam our FTR as “wrong and unlawful”. The third letter is a reply from the Chief of the Division of Municipal Finance stating that the FTR Charter Amendment is legal in all of its aspects.
An audio of a meeting Chris Cotta attended trying to persuade the General Assembly house committee to reject the FTR Charter Amendment (bill H7044) is informative to Mr. Cotta’s perspective on the matter. Mr Cotta raises objections to taxpayers’ petitions which “will end in bankruptcy” for the town, because there may not be “funds for ill-conceived budgets that will come forth”. He demands that the Assembly Committee “let the town go back and redo this. This is going to create a bigger problem that will come before this legislature” Continuing, he remarks that a local “political action committee” worked “trying to get this thing rammed down our throat”. Wow.
A telling letter from Mr. Mike Burk, the Chairman of the Tiverton Democrat Town Committee, “The FTR is Rotten to the Core” states “..their budget referendum proposal will not make our budget process more democratic, it will allow for minority budget proposals to become the final budget and it will not increase voter participation!“ We now know it increased participation of the previous FTM by a factor of ten. Divisive statements like this were issued in a steady stream, intended to misinform and frighten voters away from this initiative.
Next, Brian Medeiros, founder of Tiverton1st, writes the catchy title “The FTR Should Be Called “Leave No Lawyer Behind” and states that “The one certainty is that it will result in a flood of lawsuits.” That never happened, but the statement reinforces a narrative of fear and disinformation to sway community sentiment away from passage of the FTR, and a mindset opposing the concept that this FTR is based upon. Next, Gloria Crist, founding member of Tiverton1st, weighs in with “Forget Denmark: Something is Rotten in Tiverton”, highlighted by the remarkable line “I did not like what the FTR was really about.” There are others as well, conveniently located on the CURB website. Many of them are equally cringe-worthy.
During debate in the months before the November 2011 Special Election, Town Councilors Ed Roderick and Brett Pelliter repeatedly spoke against the FTR, ultimately voting to prevent the question from reaching the special election ballot, as evidenced by their vote on July 25th. Mr. Roderick in particular objected to the absence of the voters “right to reject”. What that actually means many never did figure out. On July 11th, at the public hearing for the FTR, Mr. Roderick also objected to the Town Council having to take a 4/5ths vote for any budget over the cap until the legislature changes the law. That is in the meeting minutes folks, page 4.
The leadership of the organizations, Chris Cotta, Mike Burk, Brian Mederois, Linda Larsen, Carol Herrmann, Ms Black, Susan T. Krumholz, and Deborah Anna Pallasch are leaders in Organizations such as Tiverton1st which opposed the FTR and the Tax Cap. Do you conclude the attitudes of these folks will change after Election Day?
Keep in mind the FTR passed in an absolute landslide in the biggest turnout for a special election in our history. After a blizzard of misinformation, the voters did not buy the doomsday message from the School Committee, Councilors Roderick and Pelletier, Tiverton’s Democrat Party, Curb, Chairman of the Budget Committee, and a posse of politicians past and present.
The Tiverton Town Council has, in the years past, ignored the Rhode Island Tax Cap, notably in 2008 and again in 2009 -2010. The leaders quoted above share responsibility for allowing, even encouraging, that to happen. TCC will continue to stand by the cap and require a 4/5ths vote by the council, no exceptions.
The FTR’s increased participation makes for a stronger community and a more robust watch over the government, and the Tax Cap encourages the trust required to continue making investments in the community for business and families. Vote for the TCC leadership team.
Tiverton Citizens for Change