Thursday, May 7, 2015

What is a Constitution?

A constitution is a set of rules that govern the behavior of a state. The word “ought” expresses a duty or obligation but is not the same as a rule.  The US Constitution does not have one occurrence of the word “ought” in it. 

But the word “ought” appears six times in the Rhode Island Constitution, Article 1. eg;
  • “the burdens of the state ought to be fairly distributed among its citizens”  
  • “Every person ought to obtain right and justice freely”. 
  • “punishments ought to be proportioned to the offense”.
Our constitution should follow the US Constitution and state the rules clearly and positively with no ambiguity.
  • “the burdens of the state shall be fairly distributed among its citizens”  
  • “Every person shall obtain right and justice freely”. 
  • “punishments shall to be proportioned to the offense”.
would be language befitting our constitution.

Maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Who votes against good bills?

When reporting on the votes on Bills to the General Assembly I would urge the reporter to list the names of those who voted for and against.  Perhaps if legislators knew that the public would see in print who voted against popular bills such as Ethics Legislation they might think twice.  We might get better legislation too.

American Exceptionalism

There was a letter to the editor in the Providence Journal on Friday, Apr 3, "Students right to defend their pride in America ", which said in part: "Moreover, if the fools to whom we entrust our posterity’s education can’t let go of their screwball ideological positions long enough to actually teach our kids the truth about who we are and what we stand for as a nation, then maybe it’s time to get some new teachers!".

It reminded me of an incident which happened many decades ago when my children were small.  My middle daughter came home crying because she told us that our next door neighbor's son fought with her and beat her up.

I called the neighbor and told her that her boy beat up on my daughter and came home in tears.  Her response was that she would always support her son, no matter what, right or wrong.

Sounds like the letter writer believes the same thing about our country. The great truth about our country is that when we find something wrong we are willing to fix it. I don't believe that's a "screwball ideological position".

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In some respects the property tax is the best tax.  When a town sets a budget it knows exactly how much it will need from the citizens (the tax levy) and no other tax method can produce a specified amount as this can.  But is the property tax fair to all property owners every year?

By valuing all property, a rate can be set to produce the tax levy. 

Until 1998, revaluations were required once every 10 years.  Back then some towns revalued even less  often and some tax assessors were actually unable to tell me the date of their last revaluation.  But towns still collected the required tax levy every year.

During those early years property values remained fairly stable and most people saw their taxes change in step with the changes in the budget. But things changed dramatically in early 2000 and property values escalated.  People were buying property at increasing values and being taxed on older assessments.  Property owners rightly felt this was unfair.

The solution was to require triennial revaluations. New owners would now pay taxes based on fair market values.

But what was the impact on the rest of the property owners? Were their property tax increases used for the tax levy or for something else?

Let's imagine that one year, say 2007 which was a revaluation year, North Kingstown did not increase its tax levy.  NO tax increase.  The taxes would have looked like this:

For residential properties up to $100K the average tax would have increased 64.5%
For residential properties from $100K to $200K the average tax would have increased 13.6%
For residential properties from $200K to $500K the average tax would have decreased -0.4%
For residential properties from $500K to $1M the average tax would have decreased -5.4%
For residential properties from $1M to $5M the average tax would have decreased -11.6%

In 2007 owners of the lower priced properties would have received large tax increases which did not go to the town but merely lowered the taxes of other tax payers, in this case the owners of more valuable properties.

How can anyone call this fair?  We can have a system that taxes both new and existing owners fairly every year.  There is a solution. 

For more see R.I.G.H.T.

Monday, January 26, 2015

In the  Washington Post, November 26, 2014 Joann Weiner writes “The evidence is overwhelming. Diversity – gender, racial, ethnic, whatever – is good. Companies that put a priority on innovation are worth more when women hold top leadership positions. These companies are $44 million more valuable, on average, according to a multiyear academic study of Standard and Poor’s top 1,500 firms.”  But is diversity the real reason?

I believe when women get those leadership positions they must be more aggressive, more talented and more qualified than the men who had held those positions. This is still a man’s domain and I suggest that these women are just better in their jobs and that diversity alone has little to do with the success of those companies. They have better managers.