As many of you know, Rhode Island blogging star Matt Jerzyk has taken up residence in our fine little berg. As a result, I have decided to query him on all the hot Cranston issues such as the plan to build a new Stop and Shop in Pawtuxet (he hates it!) and whether we should have a yearly business registration fee. He also talks about what it’s like living on the river and delves into one of his favorite topics — Rhode Island tax policies that give breaks to the wealthy and big corporations.
Kiersten Marek: So, now that you are a Cranston resident with kids, how do you feel about the estimated 9 million dollar deficit for our schools? Are you hoping to send your kids to the Cranston public schools?
Matt Jerzyk: My hope if for my two boys to attend Rhodes Elementary on Shaw Ave. Both my wife and I are big believers in the public education system. In fact, my wife Suzanne is currently a teacher at Gladstone St. Elementary.
Regarding the Cranston School Department’s current deficit, I have not had time to study or research my new city’s finances yet. I look forward to sitting down and talking with my school committee member, Steve Stycos, who I have a lot of respect for. However, the continued and outrageous shifting of the tax burden from the state to the municipalities has got to stop. Local property taxes keep skyrocketing and education funding keeps plummeting so that politicians can wave their tail feathers and announce that they haven’t raised “broad based taxes.” That’s a lie. Each year, the most regressive tax (property tax) goes higher and higher. And working families in Cranston and children across our state suffer.
Kiersten Marek: Regarding the shifting of burdens issue, I recently had a phone conversation with our local elected official, Robert Jacquard, who serves on the General Assembly’s finance committee. I have a lot of respect for Bob. He was tremendously helpful to me in understanding how to run a mayoral campaign in Cranston and he has been responsive and dependable as a legislative leader. One thing Bob and I disagree on, though, is the issue of the tax cuts for high income earners in Rhode Island. Bob thinks that these tax cuts are “good for Rhode Island’s image.” (NOTE: Since I wrote this question, Bob sent me an email saying he was “leaning toward” voting to repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy) while I’m more concerned with what these tax cuts do to our tax base for funding education and other services. Do you have any thoughts about this?
Matt Jerzyk: I sure do!
For the last decade, the Democratic-controlled House Finance Committee has conspired with the last two Governors in creating some of the largest tax breaks on record for the richest of the rich in Rhode Island.
Their claim was that these tax cuts would “trickle down” into job creation for the rest of us folk. Of course, the policy makers never directly linked tax cuts and job creation (what a novel idea!).
Now, years after the “tax cuts without strings for job creation” planhas been implemented, Rhode Island has unemployment in the double digits and a long list of factory closings and layoffs.
Question: has anyone in Gov. Carcieri’s office or in House Finance produced a fact sheet on how their previous tax cuts for the rich produced a single job?
And yet they want to keep slashing taxes for the rich and for big business (meaning higher property taxes and less funding for public education for middle class Rhode Island)?!?!?
They say that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This seems a pretty accurate assessment of the General Assembly’s finance committee at this point in time.
Kiersten Marek: I have a hard time understanding how people manage to buy the “trickle down” theory. But how do we change things? Do we need an infusion of representatives who understand how to put working families first? And strategically speaking, how do we pull this off? Have you any thoughts of running for public office in Rhode Island?
Matt Jerzyk: We have seen an increase in the number of Representatives and Senators who understand that we need to change the failed economic policies championed by Governor Carcieri and Speaker Murphy. The 2008 election of Chris Fierro, Scott Guthrie and Michael Rice are but one example.
Regarding your specific reference to Bob Jacquard, I must say that I have always found him to be a great listener on these issues. He has a quality that few politicians have – a willingness to change his mind. And to take advantage of this, it is incumbent on people in his district to email and call him and let him know that trickle down economics just doesn’t work. As for me running for office, I have no current intention as I am focused on my new legal career and my young family. I intend to get to know and to press my concerns with my new elected officials: Councilman Livingston, Mayor Fung, Rep. McNamara and Sen. Miller.
Kiersten Marek: I understand your house is right on the Pawtuxet River. What do you see out your windows? Have you noticed the water levels on the river rising or falling? Do you notice any wildlife in or near the river?
Matt Jerzyk: We see the river out of our windows and ducks! it is very relaxing and peaceful. and across the river, we see the back of a manufacturing facility – I think its the Unit Tool company. We haven’t been in our house long enough to notice rising or falling water levels. Although, it was interesting to learn recently that the Pawtuxet river was the original boundary of “Providence” as deeded to Roger Williams by the Narragansett Indians.
Kiersten Marek: Speaking of the river, there was a proposal recently to put a Stop and Shop up in Cranston right near the Pawtuxet River, an idea opposed by the group, Friends of the Pawtuxet River. Do you favor this idea or not?
Matt Jerzyk: Regarding the Stop and Shop, I am 100% opposed. Changing city zoning laws to benefit multi-national companies and big box developers while threatening the Pawtuxet River with increased pollution is disgraceful. There is absolutely NO NEED for a big box grocery store a block away from another one. The city council and the mayor should be ashamed. They would find a better use of their time talking to current Cranston small business owners about the help they need to weather this economic crisis. After all, it is small businesses – not big box stores – that have the greatest economic multiplier effect in a local economy.
Kiersten Marek: You may have heard that Cranston is considering enacting a new fee and regulation process for small businesses not already regulated locally. (This bill has since been voted down.) What’s your take on this idea?
Matt Jerzyk: Regarding a new fee for all businesses in Cranston, I am opposed. We should be encouraging the growth and entreprenurial spirit of small businesses, not drowning them in paperwork and fees. The city has planning and zoning regulations for a reason and there is no need to add an extra layer of bureacracy.