November 28, 2014
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In Cranston, larger families shouldn’t have to pay for larger trash bins
Lonnie Barham

CRANSTON TRASH CONTAINERS: City services are supposedly paid for by normal city taxes. If enough money isn’t collected in taxes to pay for the services, then the tax rate is increased. Extra fees and levies should not be necessary to support such services. Certainly, no one would expect families to pay a fee for extra police patrols in their neighborhood after a rash of burglaries, or for a family to have to pay an extra fee for a second or third fire truck to respond to a fire at its home.

Yet in Cranston, the city charges families $150 per year for an extra 65-gallon trash container if the issued 65-gallon container isn’t large enough.

Families that generate more trash than the 65-gallon container holds are generally larger families. Such families generally live in larger houses and pay more in property taxes than residents living in smaller ones. Such larger families also are likely to have more cars and pay more to the city in vehicle excise taxes. And these larger families generally spend more in the local economy, thus generating more sales tax for the state, much of which is returned to cities and school departments.

So larger families that generate more trash are already paying more taxes for city services. To force a “trash fee” on them seems unfair.

Cranston residents who are forced to pay this fee should move to Warwick where residents are given 96-gallon trash containers, where bulk items are picked up for free, and where no trash fees are levied on larger families.

WHEN DIVORCE IS GOOD FOR BOTH: Rafaelian vs. Feroce. Alex and Ani vs. BENRUS. Either could have been the court title for a divorce case between a strong woman and her female-centric company and a strong man and his male-centric new enterprise. And the divorce is apparently turning out well for both parties.

Rafaelian’s Alex and Ani “lifestyle” company was founded on the success of small charm bracelets that are “imbued with energy by physicists and blessed by my (Rafaelian’s) shaman friends.” It’s a company with a soft image that certainly appeals to women.

A retired soldier and Iraq veteran, Feroce is reenergizing a solidly male company, BENRUS, and turning it into an active lifestyle company. Its genesis is the watches it made beginning before World War II; watches that were issued to all soldiers during that conflict. Feroce has already added BENRUS backpacks to the company’s planned list of active lifestyle products. It’s a company that will certainly appeal to men.

Both companies seem destined to great success. And both are adding jobs to Rhode Island’s anemic economy. It seems that sometimes two when divided equals more than two together. Yes, divorce can sometimes be very fruitful.

THE WORST PRESIDENT IN 70 YEARS? A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University last week that included Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters found that a plurality of those polled believe President Obama is the worst president our country has had in the past 70 years.

There have been 12 presidents during that period, including some that many Americans considered dumb, highly incompetent, or corrupt – such as George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. Yet, a greater number of poll respondents found President Obama to be the worst president – worse even than any of these widely ridiculed former presidents.

By 54 percent to 44 percent, the poll respondents also said that the Obama administration is not competent to run the government. And in a separate poll, only 40 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s performance.

Yet another poll shows 76 percent of Americans believe the IRS purposely destroyed email records to help cover up its illegal targeting of conservative groups.

All this is on top of the U.S. economy contracting by 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014 – a potential new recession indicator.

All in all, President Obama should be quite troubled by these numbers. Unfortunately, his response is to blame Republicans, to whine (“They don’t do anything except block me and call me names”), or to issue playground taunts (“So, sue me!”).

It’s no wonder Washington is gridlocked when we have a president who refuses to compromise with Congress and instead insists on antagonizing anyone who disagrees with him.

TAVERAS SHOOTS HOLE IN AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, just vetoed a city council ordinance that would have cut the tax rate on hundreds of apartment buildings with five or fewer units. The current tax rate for owner-occupied dwellings is $19.25 per thousand dollars of value, while apartment buildings without a resident owner are taxed at $33.69 per thousand. The ordinance, designed to put a bit more money in the hands of non-resident small apartment building owners and thus encourage them to decrease rental charges and take better care of these rental units, would have lowered the tax rate to $30.80 per thousand dollars of value – still 60 percent higher than that levied on owner-occupied homes and apartment buildings.

Making investors who own small apartment buildings pay more in taxes simply because they don’t live in one of the apartments is unfair on its face. Just because the owner is not a resident doesn’t make police and fire protection more expensive for the building, nor does it increase the cost of garbage collection or road maintenance. So why should the city enjoy a windfall at the expense of the building owner?

Higher taxes are passed on to renters – either in higher rent charges or in lowering of building maintenance. Thus, Taveras’ unwillingness to lower the already unfair and exorbitant tax rate will result in fewer affordable housing units for the city’s poor and lower middle-class residents. And the small apartment buildings that survive will not be maintained as well as they should be.

As much as Angel Taveras claims to be in favor of lowering taxes and supporting affordable housing, this veto shows he clearly is not.

$323,000 AND COUNTING: That’s the amount of money the city of Pawtucket has paid in salary and benefits to disgraced police officer Nicholas Laprade, who was suspended with pay in 2010 and convicted in 2011 for exposing himself to two women. City officials tried to fire him but the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights has thus far stymied their efforts.

After years of superior court judges siding with Laprade and, in essence, telling Pawtucket that it must return him to duty, the state’s Supreme Court has now ruled against the suspended officer and decided that he can be sent before a Bill of Rights panel again and possibly fired.

It all turned on a fairly common legal doctrine known as “judicial notice,” which says judges, juries and other adjudicative bodies can consider well-known facts without either the plaintiff or defendant presenting specific evidence of those facts. In this case, the city presented its evidence to Laprade’s defense one day late and a judge refused to grant an extension. The city then asked the three-officer panel to take judicial notice of the well-known, highly publicized fact that Laprade had been convicted of indecent exposure. The panel refused to do so and acquitted Laprade. A superior court judge upheld the acquittal. The city appealed and the Supreme Court has now decided in its favor.

The problem here is the law itself! The Police Officers’ Bill of Rights grants far more legal protection to police officers than criminal laws give to those the police arrest. And police administrators’ hands are tied every time they try to discipline a police officer. Untold millions have been paid to suspended police officers who should have been fired on the spot.

The very group that knows our laws, enforces our laws, and has the power of life and death over citizens in many situations is the group that is given extra legal protection. The group of public servants who should be held the most accountable are held the least accountable. It just doesn’t make sense! Surely, there is at least one legislator who recognizes this and will submit a bill to make the law more reasonable.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: It seems we’re all lab rats. In an editorial last Thursday about the uproar over Facebook’s experimentation with subscribers’ news feeds to track emotional responses, the Wall Street Journal opined that the issue is, in essence, much ado about nothing. The editor wrote: “If you leave a digital trace - post to a social network or for that matter swipe a credit card, carry a smart phone, send an email from the cloud, watch cable television, take the EZ-pass lane or receive government benefits - you are already and inevitably a lab rat ... If you’re seeking an unmediated social experience, there’s an easy solution: Get off Facebook.”


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