Thursday, August 1, 2013

Opinions, not facts, about the candidates for Medford City Council

Medford City Council elections are coming up, sadly. Here are the candidates, complete with my opinions or the opinions I’ve heard from others:

Michael Marks (incumbent): the best of a truly terrible group of incumbents
Breanna Lungo-Koehn (incumbent): somewhat harmless
Paul Camuso (incumbent): sometimes harmless
Frederick Dello Russo, Jr. (incumbent): desperate to appear harmless
Robert Penta (incumbent): this is the lunatic who gets Medford City Council into the papers for all the wrong reasons
Rick Caraviello (incumbent): the new guy, anti-Green Line
Robert FitzPatrick: clearly the best candidate
Adam Knight: can’t find any actual policies, though he appears pro-labor
Mark Crowley: some good ideas, but he must know he’s being completely dishonest about property tax rates as his leading issue (we care about how much we pay, not about the calculation that got us there)
Robert Cappucci: prominent local Republican
Neil Osborne: appears to have the full support of Bill Wood and Carolyn Rosen, the worst people in Medford
Jeanne Martin: goes on endless incoherent public tirades, frequently uses "liberal" as an epithet, vehemently opposed to just about everything
Jim Morse: writes a lot about local issues, an anti-development and anti-Green Line crusader

Now let’s create an interesting and smart Medford City Council. Here’s a slate: Ken Krause, Sharon Guzik, Doug Carr, Laurel Ruma, Dee Morris, John Roland Elliott, and Allison Goldsberry. Why are none of these people running?


Mark Crowley said...

As a candidate for City Council, I appreciate that you believe I have some good ideas for Medford. However, there is nothing dishonest with my discussion of tax rates. I have spent every weekend since July knocking on doors across the city. I have visited several thousand voters, and they are frustrated with higher tax bills yet are seeing their property values steadily decline. People are doing the math. The City has maintained the amount it collects each year by offsetting decreases in property values by increasing tax rates. That is a fact that residents deserve to better understand, which is why I’ve made it an issue.

For the record, total tax bills on single family homes are up 18% over the past five years, more than twice the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, property values are down 13% and household incomes have declined 8%. These are also facts and Medford residents are feeling the pinch.


Mark Crowley
Candidate For Medford City Council

Michael said...

Thanks for commenting here! I certainly agree that residents deserve to understand how their property taxes work, but there's nowhere in Massachusetts where the property taxes a homeowner pays go up and down in line with increasing or decreasing property values. You weren't complaining about your property taxes only going up a few percent when your property value more than doubled in the last real estate bubble.

The costs of city services don't magically change because of huge swings in the real estate market. So if property values go up or down, the tax rates change accordingly as you note.

But on your web site, you say "Property tax rates are up 35% over the past 5 years, with not much to show for it. Even the price of gas is up only 10% over the same period. Do we have 35% more police or 35% more teachers? Are there 35% fewer potholes?" That is specifically what I say is dishonest, because you're pretending that the tax rate is equivalent to the amount of tax collected. You know better.

If property values doubled again and the tax rates dropped by 50% so that the city collected the same amount of money, would you expect that meant the city should be getting rid of 50% of the police or teachers?

We voters are frustrated with higher tax BILLS, because that's what we actually pay. You're only making tax RATES an issue because the numbers sound more dramatic that way. That's not how I want to see important issues discussed, because it gets in the way of understanding the actual problems and finding workable solutions.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that tax rates are also largely affected by the shrinking percentage of the state budget that goes to local aid. The state budget has been under two kinds of pressure. First the Great Recession that began back in 2008. Unlike the federal government, the state must balance its budget. So shrinking personal incomes mean a shrinking state budget. Second the state has never quite recovered from the tax cuts that occurred during the Romney Administration. The structural deficit that imposed has put long-term downward pressure on local aid.

Mr Crowley wants us to believe that Medford operates in some kind of vacuum where the loss of millions of dollars in state aid can just be wished away or blamed on whatever quirky council behavior he finds most irritating.

-K J Busch