December 19, 2005

A Madeline Walker Irony -- or Coincidence -- or Something Worse

Carroll Andrew Morse

Madeline Walker is the elderly Providence resident who lost her home for failing to pay a $500 sewer bill. A law proposed in the legislature earlier this year would have given Ms. Walker and others in similar situations a better chance to learn that their houses were being sold out from under them. House bill H6020 and its companion, Senate bill S478, would have required mandatory notification of the Department of Elderly Affairs during tax-lien sales involving residents with elderly abatements and explicitly invalidated tax-lien sales if Elderly Affairs was not notified.

Here's the irony, or coincidence, or maybe something worse. In the Senate, the first Representative listed as a sponsor on the mandatory notification bill was State Senator Harold Metts. Senator Metts represents District 6 -- the Senate district where Madeline Walker lived (122 Chester Ave, Providence).

In the House, the first sponsor listed on the mandatory notification bill was State Representative Joseph Almeida. Representative Almeida represents House District 12 which is, yes, that's right, the House district where Madeline Walker lived.

This is quite a coincidence. Apparently, Senator Metts and Representative Almeida had reason to believe that their elderly constituents needed some extra protection from tax-lien sales. And, it turns out, they were right.

So, what was it exactly that motivated Senator Metts and Representative Almeida to press for changes in tax-lien sale procedure at the start of last year? And who in the legislature convinced them to water down their changes, making taking advantage of an elderly citizen like Madeline Walker much easier than it should be?

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This incident is yet another example of government's growing infringment upon personal property rights. Government can already declare well-cared for homes as "blighted" and take them to build shopping malls. If the average person had any idea how broad-ranging goverment powers have become in this area, they would be outraged. Walker's case just happens to be the extreme, but this happens all the time.

Posted by: Anthony at December 19, 2005 11:31 AM

I disagree with Anthony in his comments on this article. Tax sales have long since been in place to help cities guarantee the revenue they need to operate. Perhaps we need to change the definition of “notice” to take into consideration people who may have become mentally infirm for various reasons. However crying that the man who bought the tax lean is an evil capitalist because he followed a legal path to foreclosing on a property smacks of socialism. I think the people screaming that she should get her house back after she had fair notice under currant law are moral relativists. They are circumventing the rules because they don’t “feel” right at the time and under the circumstances. The lien holder’s rights are the one being violated. The finger needs to point at this woman’s family. Where were they as this wonderful old woman slipped into confusion over her affairs? Where were they as the house fell into disrepair, her health slipped and mail went un-opened. There are reports that the house was held as collateral for several bail bonds. The family (I assume) seemed to show up then, when they needed money from her. Let us cry out what has happened to society that we don’t take care of our elderly so that no one should ever loose their house for some sad amount like five hundred dollars. Let us not jump to conclusions that because a real estate investor followed the rules set in place for tax lien and foreclosure of property that he is the one at fault.

Posted by: Rebekah at December 20, 2005 4:55 PM