June 3, 2008

The Real Must Prevail

Justin Katz

A letter from locally known Tivertonian Richard Joslin in last Wednesday's Sakonnet Times let's slip a mild frame of mind that, when metastasized, generates oppression and tyranny. The implication of positing a "Real Tiverton" (i.e., citizens who would naturally support the town's original budget proposal) is that everybody else can and must be overruled by any means necessary. After all, why ought the citizens who really count be pushed around by interlopers?

Herewith, my letter to the editor in response:

In a letter printed in last week’s Sakonnet Times, Richard Joslin scorns the "tyranny of a small minority" (255 Tiverton voters of 11,000) for rejecting a double-digit increase in property taxes. As we now know, a tyrannical minority of 376 undid that mandate the following week, and presumably Joslin's just fine with THAT example of democracy, inasmuch as he encouraged it. Me, I'm still trying to figure out which of the four groups that Joslin blames for the first result is my proper company.

I'm certainly not a senior citizen on a fixed income, although perhaps Richard could spare some sympathy for thirtysomethings with multiple children and limited dispensable cash. I'm also not among the "fairly wealthy people.”

From a certain perspective, I suppose it would be reasonable to count me among the "extreme economic conservatives and libertarians whose anti-tax views border on the 'wacko,'" but since Richard describes this group with reference to his personal knowledge of the Budget Committee's political temperament (rather than, say, an example of the "wacko" views), I can't say for sure. I may also number among those who "for ideological and/or religious reasons are not interested in funding public schools," although I'm once again unable to interpret their nature through Joslin's personal experiences.

If he means people who dislike financing secular schools that teach various topics with which a theist might disagree, then my allegiances lie elsewhere. On the other hand, if Joslin means people who've been frightened out of the public school system by work-to-ruling teachers and who've been aspiring to asceticism in order to pay for their children's education twice, then one I am.

Whatever it is that makes me not part of the “Real Tiverton,” in Joslin's view, I've been around town enough to have made this observation of the empire that struck back last Wednesday: Among those who voted for the faux "compromise budget" were seniors wishing to keep specific services, "fairly wealthy people" who can easily afford a few more hundred dollars a year in taxes, and parents whose children go to private school. I'd also speculate that some of the Yea voters were extreme economic naifs and liberals whose pro-tax views border on the socialist, although I've no names to put on the list.

We also oughtn’t forget those whom increasing budgets benefit financially in a degree much greater than an extra dollar or so per $1,000 of their property value. That would include the contractless teachers who nodded along when a red-faced School Committee Vice Chairman Michael Burk demanded to know which services tax-revolters would like to snatch from school children. Apparently, taking benefits from union members who'll let entire school years pass with bare-bones participation is not an option.

Now Joslin's preferred tyranny has won the day, with a little help from clever budgetary and procedural maneuvering. Some contentious counts and a dubiously judged voice vote brought the second try budget to the floor. Behind-the-scenes scheming no doubt accounts for the fact that two of the allowable three amendments thereto were higher and different from each other by a measly $10,000. And we're one Caruolo Act lawsuit away from finding that all of the contention and "compromise" will have changed the way the town does business not one bit.