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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homestead Tax Credit KILLED by Town Council majority

If you ever had any doubts about who runs Charlestown, this should settle them
By Will Collette

An overwhelming turn-out of Charlestown's elite as well as an influx of non-resident property owners was more than enough political cover for the Town Council majority of Tom Gentz, Deputy Dan Slattery and Lisa DiBello to kill the proposal for a $1000 Homestead Tax Credit to Charlestown homeowners who make this town their home.

By the end of the onslaught of poor, rich people, it seemed like the only thing missing was a proposal for the town to run a Telethon to help millionaire homeowners make the payments on their primary home, summer home, and all the other essentials of their lifestyles.

The turn-out was organized by the RI Statewide Coalition, whose head kahuna, Harry Staley, stepped to the podium twice to denounce the very notion of giving permanent residents a tax break. "Class War!" "Divisive!" And the Charlestown Citizens Alliance Steering Committee came out in force, too, to denounce the Homestead Tax exemption concept. We heard from Tom DePatie, Ruth Platner, and Leo Mainelli and from the CCA's allied group, the anti-wind energy NIMBY group Ill Wind RI.

Mary Taylor, formerly of the town Republican Committee, delivered remarks that sounded a lot like Jim Mageau's diatribes against the Homestead Tax Credit proposal. Could have been a coincidence, though.

Among the irate millionaire homeowners were a few people who make their living by serving the rich. Former Council member Forrester Safford spoke out against the proposal noting that he makes his living by doing work on the homes of the summer residents. Yassuh, Forrester loves them summer folk.

Only The Democratic Town Committee Vice-Chair Deb Carney and state Representative Larry Valencia stood to support the proposal. From the Council platform, Gregg Avedisian and Marge Frank attempted to pull something positive out of this debacle, suggesting that there are a lot of Charlestown residents who are hurting, and if the Homestead Tax Credit wasn't going to fly, then some other approach was needed. They suggested that instead of killing the Homestead Tax Credit, there should be a task force to look at a range of alternatives to achieve some similar affect.

But blood was in the water, and emboldened by the big turn-out from their true constituencies - the rich and powerful, whether they live here or not - Gentz, Slattery and DiBello chose to defend the rich and privileged and voted to screw the majority of Charlestown residents.

It was a very good night for them. And for Jim Mageau, too. A remarkable band they are - the CCA, RISC, the South of One millionaires, the Connecticut non-resident property owners AND Jim Mageau - triumphant against the very notion of giving tax relief to working families in mid-priced homes.

Speaker after speaker stood up to denounce "class war," as they each and every one of them practiced class war in its most vicious form. RISC's Harry Staley even intimated that if Charlestown adopted the Homestead Tax Credit - which is no different than the tax break that most of his out of state board members get in their home states - the wealthy might start withholding charitable contributions, business, etc., to punish the peons for their impudence. When he was called out for this pretty blatant threat, Staley didn't deny it.

Gentz, Slattery and DiBello. Harry Staley, Jim Mageau and the CCA crew. What an extraordinary combination! Joined together to make sure that the 279 owners of $1+ million properties don't have to pay extra to lend a helping hand to more than 2000 Charlestown households who could really use the help. That's Class War, Charlestown-style.