2017-08-31 / Opinion


Taking a New Look at Tax Models

To the Editor:

At the suggestion of Dennis Turano, I proposed to my colleagues on the Town Council, and they agreed, to establish the Middletown Tax Exploratory Committee to examine and recommend options to the current residential property tax methodology.

We considered a number of options to the existing residential property tax model to recommend adjustments to the residential/ business property tax methodology to make it more transparent, predictable and fair.

We examined the current residential/ business property tax model. We will propose changes and develop alternatives to the existing model, and examine replacing the market value system with an acquisition price system.

The current model with exemptions, has property tax models with a two percent cap of the millage/ tax rate (locked at 2016 assessment). The market value is the amount the property would likely sell for. The assessment ratio is zero percent of the actual market value. The assessed value is the property’s value for tax purposes. The exemptions are the allowed reductions in the property’s assessed value. The taxable value is the actual taxable amount after all exemptions are subtracted. The millage rate is the property tax rate per 1,000. The property tax is the actual property taxes that are owed.

The millage rate equals the total value of real property, divided by the number of residential properties. It caps the millage rate/tax rate increase at two percent. It can be less, but no higher than two percent from the previous year.

Please try to attend our meeting on Sept. 11 at the Middletown Fire Station Community room. We will be looking at property transfers and improvements that do not trigger reassessment, and property transfers and improvements that do trigger reassessment.

Antone C. Viveiros
Middletown Town Council

Rules of the Road Apply to All

To the Editor:

Thank you for your editorial coverage of road safety issues “Rules of the Road Apply to All” (July 27).

As you note, more education and dialogue are needed. One example of the need for more dialogue and education are the painted sharrows recently added to the roadway on Broadway.

The long-awaited sharrows, apparently having been prioritized right after potted plants, finally appeared, but they have inexplicably been placed where they function as “suicide sharrows.”

Instead of placing them where they would help to safely integrate bicycles and vehicles, the sharrows direct cyclists to the most dangerous areas. They have been placed in an area called the “door zone,” the space where an opened car door protrudes into a roadway. Since the rules dictate that a bicyclist has the right of way, a driver of a car is responsible for any crash where a bicyclist hits an opened car door. The RI version of the “Door Law” rule is General Laws 31-21-14 (Opening Vehicle Doors).

To prevent “dooring," some have suggested the Dutch Reach, opening a car door with the right hand, forcing the driver to look towards the rear of the car. This technique is being promoted internationally and was added to the Massachusetts drivers manual in June.

For another example, bicyclists going down Broadway have the right of way when drivers are attempting to back out of a diagonal parking space. A bicyclist can’t even see the intention of a driver because the rear and side windows of cars are often darkly tinted. Only the driver can see as they back their car out, and since the sharrows are directly behind the parking spaces, it is an engineered danger for everyone.

The rules of the road specify that when speed limits are 25 mph or less, sharrows should be placed in the middle of the travel lane. (National Assoc. of City Transportation Officials).

The Broadway project was built with taxpayer funds under the “Complete Streets Plan,” which is supposed to balance the needs of all users: pedestrians, cyclists, cars and public transit.

Again, thank you for your efforts, but more dialogue and education are definitely needed, especially regarding your request that cyclists be aware because “many drivers are already distracted.”

Now, why are so many drivers distracted?

Judith A. Byrnes

Ready to Get to Work

To The Editor:

I want to thank the residents of Jamestown and Newport for their participation in the Special Election on Aug. 22. I am truly honored and humbled to have been elected as the Senator for District 13.

Throughout this campaign I had the opportunity to meet and talk with thousands of people about their ideas of how government should best work for us. I will continue to listen and engage with the community and will always strive to do what is best for Jamestown and Newport.

As I transition into my new role I know there are so many issues that need to be addressed at the local, state and national levels; such as jobs, health care, school funding, senior services, the environment, housing, civil rights, infrastructure and small businesses. It will take a lot of collaboration between the government and the public to make certain that the best decisions are being made. I believe that our democracy works best when people show up and get involved.

Today, I simply want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jamestown and Newport for the confidence you have bestowed on me. I promise you that I will work hard, be honest and open, and fair-minded in carrying out my duties as the Senator from District 13. I consider it a high honor, a distinct privilege and a serious responsibility to serve on your behalf in the RI State Senate.

Dawn Euer
Senator-Elect, District 13

Not Too Late to Change

To The Editor:

"Country Life," the celebrated English magazine that documented English preservation for more than a century, captioned its July 26 editorial "The visitor center is a poisoned chalice," stating that such centers “run the risk of compromising the character of the places they serve," finding that “such buildings are vastly expensive to design and construct” and doubting that they “can ever return their cost.” Most important, the magazine says “no number of shiny award-winning visitor centers can ever make up for the destruction of genuine atmosphere.”

This important outside voice reminds us what is at stake with the Preservation Society of Newport County’s disastrous plan for a new welcome center on The Breakers.

In the 1890s, Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his architect, Richard Morris Hunt, removed existing structures from the property to create a vista of maximum impact. The focus was on the magnificent limestone palazzo behind the highest gates in America, one of the most iconic views of The Gilded Age. The unique landscape was designed in tandem by Boston’s Bowditch Brothers; the grounds remained remarkably intact for 120 years.

What could possibly justify tampering with this national historic landmark? Certainly not placing a modern pavilion next to the historic gatehouse, in front of the mansion itself.

The PSNC has used economic and political muscle to override Newport’s zoning and historic district protections, riding on earlier dispensations that permitted vending machines and a ticket tent. It ignored its compact to work with the neighborhood, citing the need for toilets that already exist in The Breakers basement. The PSNC even sued the city to gain the ability to serve food and beverages on its properties.

Aside from irretrievably damaging The Breakers, the precedent of the welcome center will hurt our future and impact the entire city. PSNC’s behavior has caused it to forego millions of dollars in bequests and grants, and deeply divided our town. The center is opposed by people from all walks of life, many members of the Vanderbilt family, the National Park Service, the Garden Conservancy, prominent architects, designers, historians, and landscape architects from around the country, and former PSNC trustees and significant donors.

The PSNC Trustees apparently don’t see that the major benefactors of this wanton act of cultural vandalism are a small coterie of overpaid marketers at the top of the PSNC employee pyramid, and a CEO who prides herself on winning at all costs.

They should put a modest facility in The Breakers parking lot and cooperate with other cultural institutions and the city to put a public interpretation center downtown or in the North End. Newport’s themes of religious freedom, yachting and commerce, architectural and civic history, the rise of the Gilded Age and preservation can inform our visitors and support the entire community, instead of creating wanton destruction.

There is still time to Save The Breakers.

Ronald Lee Fleming

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