Napolitano’s Privately-Funded Tax Letter

Here is a copy of Napolitano’s letter to taxpayers, sent from an address other than City Hall. I was not able to get an electronic copy of the text from City Hall; it as not available to the press secretary. So I typed it in verbatim (punctuation original), without all the formatting. Any typos, which I hope are nonexistent, are mine.

Dear Fellow Cranstonians:

Be assured that during my term in office “Honesty” with Cranston’s taxpayers will always be one of my top priorities.

During my Mayoral campaign, I promised Cranston’s taxpayers that I would hold the line on taxes. Once elected Mayor of this great City, I honestly believed I would meet that challenge. Unfortunately, when preparing the 2008 municipal budget I, along with my financial advisors, were confronted with a “financial road block” of a $6.5 million dollar operating shortfall. In simple terms, the previous administrator and city council used one-time revenue sources to balance the 2007 budget. These revenue sources are no longer available to me. In preparing the 2008 budget, my administration had to make up more than $6.5 million dollars in revenue.

Fellow Cranstonians that is the honest truth! This is verified by the following actual statements:

“I believe the use of them (one-time revenue sources) were proper”
Allan Fung, City Councilman
Providence Journal
May 2, 2007

“We were able to spend money out of the funds (one-time revenue sources) to avoid a tax increase”
Aram Garabedian, City Council President
Providence Journal
May 2, 2007

“We did not pass on anymore costs to the taxpayers … so we used our savings accounts” (one-time revenue sources)
Paula McFarland, City Council Vice President
Providence Journal
May 2, 2007

“Tax-Relief is short-lived when recurring expenses are funded with one-time revenue sources”
Ernest A. Almonte, RI Auditor General
Providence Journal
May 2, 2007

“My worst fears have been confirmed … because of what the Laffey administration has done, we have no choice but to raise taxes and cannot adequately fund our schools”
Mayor Michael T. Napolitano, City of Cranston
Providence Journal
May 1, 2007

Please read — Important!

Why are property taxes being raised?

–The adopted 2006 budget by the Laffey Administration utilized $4.0 million of the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget

    –The adopted 2006 budget over-estimated motor vehicle taxes by approximately $1.6 million

    –The adopted 2006 budget over-estimated commercial and industrial properties by nearly $1.1 million

    — The adopted 2006 budget included proceeds of $1.5 million from the sale of the old police station (to date it has not been sold!)

    — The adopted 2005 and 2006 budget underfunded the police and fire pension fund by nearly $2.5 million

    –The adopted 2006 budget was infused with one-time revenue sources not available in 2007

City of Cranston Fiscal 2006-2007 Budget Review

“It’s just poor budgeting. It’s already caught up with the city in just one year”
Ernest A. Almonte, RI Auditor General
Providence Journal
May 1, 2007

–City Hides Millions in Stabilization Account. See Providence Journal, May 1, 2007

–Real surplus was drawn down to finance current year operating budget, See Providence Journal, May 1, 2007

Not paid for at taxpayers’ expense.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? I think so, and not a very encouraging lesson for those of us who want to believe that careful and prudent leaders can win elections. By a small but decisive margin, the voting public in Cranston went for the promiser over the more realistic and prudent (and more experienced in local government) candidate. I don’t remember Allan Fung promising that he would not raise taxes, but I remember that promise from Napolitano. In particular, I remember the speech Napolitano gave at Garabedian’s fundraiser the Sunday before the election, where he lambasted the “Laffey-Fung” team for all their “taxes, taxes, taxes,” and talked about how he met little old ladies on the campaign trail who were being taxed out of their homes and how he wasn’t going to let that happen anymore. It’s so easy to talk about fixing problems, isn’t it?

As politicians go, Fung seems to be one of the more prudent — someone who tries not to overpromise. An exchange which a neighbor of mine, Ed, had with Allan Fung reveals the key difference. He asked Fung what he would do for him if he was elected. Fung said flat out, “I don’t make any promises.” Similarly, a member of the Stop the Concrete movement, a movement which ultimately endorsed Napolitano because he promised to pull the building permit, told me that when they first started to question what was going on at the concrete plant site, she called several of the council members and Allan Fung called her right back. Again, he made no grand promises, but gave her a solid piece of advice — that they needed to get themselves a good lawyer.

Ultimately, Napolitano is raising taxes, underfunding the schools, and claiming he can’t pull the building permit for the concrete plant. He knows he overpromised to get elected by a tiny margin, and this letter is his way of trying to explain how he ended up in this less than flattering predicament.

9 thoughts on “Napolitano’s Privately-Funded Tax Letter

  1. I am no great fan of Nap’s, though I wouldn’t agree that Fung didn’t make his own version of promises, i.e., that Cranston “wouldn’t go back” to the O’Leary days and that he “wouldn’t raid the rainy day fund.”

    If Fung had won, I think we’d be having the same discussion about tax increases. It was unavoidable — and Allen Fung would have had to answer for his votes to, first, hold taxes level in 2005 and “reduce” taxes last year.

    He didn’t have a very good answer to those questions during the campaign, and I doubt he’d have a better one now. Fung’s campaign was about fear. Nap’s was more about — well, I wouldn’t say “hope,” but at least optimism.

    As for the concrete plant permit, Nap wrote an op-ed a few months back in the ProJo explaining the legal reasons why he can’t simply revoke the permit. I recall it being somewhat rambling and heavy on the legal-ese, but his point was that he was respecting the court’s ruling and allowing the legislative process to continue — properly, this time.

    For better or worse, this mayor has decided that he won’t simply trample laws and court rulings, and I think that’s an improvement.

  2. I’d like to comment on a couple of things relative to the concrete plant issue. First, I have also heard that Alan Fung told one of the Eden Park neighbors to go get a good lawyer. However, instead of being viewed as “sound advice�, it was taken by many in the neighborhood as a statement that they were on their own. Right or wrong, Fung’s advice was taken as the big blow-off. And given the overall response of the council to this problem from the beginning, except for sporadic statements of support [perhaps self-serving] by some of its members, perhaps it was.

    As for Mayor Napolitano, I, like Jesse, am no great fan. What might surprise some is that neither am I a great opponent or critic. Suffice to say that I am agnostic on the subject of the Mayor. However, I think it’s appropriate to point out, as I have in other venues, that when the mayor wrote his op-ed in February, there was no court order that bound him from doing anything. There was an agreement that he entered into with the court where he agreed to refrain from any action pending the outcome of a hearing in March. When March came, both the city and Cullion entered into a consent order whereby the city wouldn’t pull the permit and Cullion would continue to refrain from building at the site, pending resolution of Cullion’s appeal before the state supreme court to remove the issue from the Cranston ZBR to the superior court.

    Immediately outside the courtroom, representatives of the Mayor’s office ensured the CCRZD members that the city was going to move full speed to appoint two more alternates to the ZBR and that it was probable that a hearing on their appeal of the permit would be heard by the ZBR by end of April. Here it is August and one alternate still remains to be appointed while another member of the ZBR resigned, thus creating an additional vacancy. The city’s actions so far amount to a glacial “rush� to meet the needs of the Eden park neighbors and resolve the concrete plant issue.

    My point about the mayor is that while his hands may have been “tied�, he supplied the rope. Why he chose to do so is unclear. Perhaps it was a wise decision, perhaps not. Only time will tell. However, he can’t have it both ways and claim that he is unable to act without accepting responsibility for his part in creating the conditions of his political disability.

  3. Additionally, the Mayor has not hired a Building Inspector Director (replacing former Kerry Anderson). He has not retained an outside law firm according to the Council’s request, nor has a Alternate Zoning Member been appointed by the Mayor. The Council reappointed a member that will cause Cullion to react and further slow the process. Finally, I can’t agree more with Geoff’s statements that he can’t have it both ways…that’s how I see going around and appealing to the resident’s with lip service. He needs to stop being reactive and assume the leadership role and condem Cullion and drive home the fact that Laffey’s Administration cost this City hundreds of thousands of dollars with this deal and effectively left his mark to change Cranston for the worse off.

    The Fireman’s contract is an outrage.

    I am not a Fung fan, as he lied to me about the flood issues I was fighting. I never forget, and when it comes to the games the Laffey Administration played – I will never forget. Napolitano should have never made those promises about taxes, but he never realized how many millions Laffey had misspent, therefore we were doomed for tax hikes. However, deals like the firefighter (sellout) contract.

    1. Longevity pay at retirement is added to their pension ( UNHEARD OF) – demand an answer from your councilman as to why.

    2. end of 30 year they get a 30% increase from base of retirement pay.

    3. At time of retirement – they get free family health insurance until 65. (Jim points out he is a retired Federal worker and still pay – this is an unheard of deal).

    4. Days off for weddings, etc., extraordinarily generous to the point of crossing the line of our rights –

    RI is 7th in Highest Taxes and 6th highest in property taxes.
    Property taxes in Cranston is based on 80% of budget issue (police, fire & School) and this is not subject to normal budget processes such as in other Cities and Towns.

    Engage neighbors, friends and family in the urgency to get things changed – NOW. Tell them to write. Better yet, tell them to go to council meetings and demand a REVERSAL and change….don’t quitely sell your house, take our City back. We can’t let them go on being Anti-Resident!

  4. Rachel:

    I would guess that it was either a.) paid for out of his own pockets, which are fairly deep, or b.) leftover campaign funds — although this would have been specified on the letter.

  5. Anyone read today’s ProJo? Have you had enough yet? It’s your money, it’s your property, it’s your quality of life and it’s your neighborhood’s character? This contract, plus the issues regarding Domestic Bank, Mulligan’s, Northeast Tree, Knightsville wetlands, Jimmy D’s and the concrete plant….. Someone pinch me, I feel like I’m at Disney

    http://www.projo.com/opinion/columnists/content/CL_achorn7_08-07-07_196JLT7.20b1bb3.html

  6. It would help if people would eliminate the emotion and stick with facts. Whether Jesse or Schoos or Arena like it or not, the only one that told the truth – something they really don’t want to hear – about the cement plant is Laffey. Even though it cost him support in his own neighborhood, he didn’t want to put the city in legal jeopardy of illegally restricting a property owners rights. And that is all this issue comes down to. Just wait and see.

    What is quite laughable is how people like Suzanne Arena try and talk a good game about what is good for the city. But when it comes down to it, the reason she is against Laffey is because in these cases what is good for the city, is, unfortunately, was not good for Suzanne Arena’s very selfish own interests. Quite ironic, isn’t it?

    You concrete people need to understand that you cannot simply trample over the property rights of others.

  7. I suggest Mr. John Campbell you stick to your Anchor Rise B.S. web blog.

    You spewed 7 year old nonsense without paving any solid facts. Your reasoning is really weak. “…he didn’t want to put the city in legal jeopardy of illegally restricting a property owners rights. And that is all this issue comes down to. Just wait and see.” Really, that’s why NO PUBLIC HEARINGS we given. A simple addition or deck is “months of wrangling” with the Planning Commission. Laffey knew about this deal and left us with a HUGE LEGAL BILL – hello, R U okay! Wait and see, yeah, we are and hope that the card will be played just right. I guess that’s why Laffey couldn’t answer some of the questions when poised to him by his residents right?? Or maybe these were some of his reasons:
    Top 10 reasons that Concrete Plants make Great Neighbors!
    10. What a play ground for the kids!;
    9. Built in alarm clock at 7:00 a.m. every morning;
    8. The towering vats make great shade in the hot summer sun;
    7. Kids can learn new words they can share with their friends at school;
    6. We miss those whacky characters from the Sopranos;
    5. Cement Shoes are a fashion statement in Rhode Island;
    4. Relieves the stress of keeping up with the neighbors yard;
    3. Crash the Union picnics;
    2. Toxic ponds make great swim holes;

    And the number 1 reason:
    1. Have “find Jimmy Hoffa” parties with the neighbors!

    Hey John, why do you suppose the American Lung Assoc. came to stand behind us. I think my expectations of you are too high.

    Barone ran a little worried last term that I was going to run – I think he should spend more time doing (and not just coming through for people around election time). I take any opportunity to spar about the facts with anyone. Perhaps ya’ll have a problem because I stand strong to my convictions (which don’t include lies) and I work tirelessly on my knitting projects which benefits my family, relatives and friends and the good of the community. I do it for free, I don’t go around saying look at me I deserve a Citizens award blah blah ~ I just do it. Who knew there would come a day where people could get paid to do community work like Toxic Actions Center in Boston.

    So, there is no way Campbell that a FEMA wetlands in a densely residential neighborhood deserved a Concrete Batching Plant on the cusp of a 4 day ordinance. At least you are consistent with the Laffey goons that believe in their B.S.

    Done with the Tango. I declare – can’t you find bigger fish to wrangle with….I wish I could say I was flattered to have such attention from a Laffey boy, but i think you should move on.

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