Halsey Herreshoff: Don’t Let the State and Its RhodeMap Move In on Municipalities


Rhode Island’s towns, including Bristol, are threatened by an alarming proposal in keeping with RhodeMap RI to start taxing high-end property.

Many of us have feared eventual consequences of that document’s extreme socialistic, unwise, faulty proposals for state usurping of town prerogatives. The good news was that state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s stated his intention just to put the idea on a shelf. The bad news is that the new administration brings it forth along with the alarming involvement of Bruce Katz, a gentleman of utopian theory, who perhaps does not sufficiently appreciate a practical American sense of fairness for wise governance.

The state has its income tax and sales tax. We and all other cities and towns support services and schools by taxation of property. Neither should cross the line between respective domains. But RhodeMap RI wants to violate that principle by taxing the (supposed) rich who own substantial properties. This would be in addition to the taxes already levied upon such properties by individual towns which, like Bristol, fund services in that way.

It has been called the “Taylor Swift tax,” in reference to famous performer Taylor Swift. She has prospered from a successful performing career, enabling her to obtain a valuable estate near Watch Hill. To proponents of this dubious idea to double tax the rich, Ms. Swift seems a logical first victim. Some have labeled this offensive RhodeMap RI plan a “Sin Tax”! That obscenity just defines the evil purpose of the proposition; since when in America is it a sin to work hard, succeed, and amass wealth?

“Sure,” some may say, “just go ahead and penalize her and her type because that won’t hurt the rest of us.” But just reflect upon how the tentacles of government seek and gradually attain undo power over residents.

What probably would happen in this case is creeping expansion from initially taxing just the top 1 percent. After a while, liking the ill-gotten money, the state would go ahead and tax the top 10 percent, then 50 percent, and before you know it, 100 percent. That’s how modern government under the influence of Washington works.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has been impressive in emphasizing improvement of existing businesses plus seeking new entrepreneurs to establish Rhode Island businesses for good jobs here. I applaud that. But the implementation of the plan described above would accomplish the direct opposite; it would drive away business people and further poison the image of Rhode Island as a place to work and live.

Already — through crazy taxes, undue regulations, and the pessimism that accrues from such faulty negative excesses — Rhode Island has driven away many of its best entrepreneurs, who might have produced more work for its citizens. Now, why would any potential business owner want to stay in the Ocean State if we pinpoint him or her for special exploitation?

Further, under the philosophy of RhodeMap RI, there is a move afoot for the state to usurp the town administrations of boat moorings. Probably, the motive is to steal those town fees that now quite properly fund necessary town surveillance and service. We have wise, hard-working harbormasters in Newport, East Greenwich, Bristol, and elsewhere. Isn’t that the correct administration, rather than some Providence bureaucrat who is not informed and likely does not even care about serving fishermen and boat owners? This is another threat of misguided unsatisfactory raiding of towns.

RhodeMap RI is an absurd document of horrendous potential for failure and harm. It wants to usurp the rightful authority and prerogatives of municipal governance. Our message should be that we in Bristol and elsewhere have citizens and public servants who manage our towns very well, indeed, better that most. The word should be “Hands off; don’t mess with our system to levy taxes on property to support town services. Do not seize our municipal private property rights.”

We appreciate state assistance in responsible areas, but for most matters, we can do much better on our own than with some remote bureaucrat who would not appreciate our Bristol passion for success!

Halsey Herreshoff is a member of the Bristol Town Council.

  • Mike678

    Adapting Martin Niemoller’s famous quote:

    They raised taxes on the top 1%, and I did not speak out.
    Because I wasn’t in the 1%

    They raised taxes on the top 10%, and I did not speak out.
    Because I wasn’t in the top 10%

    They raised taxes on the top 50%, and I did not speak out.
    Because I wasn’t in the top 50%

    They raised my taxes, and I cried out; the others laughed and said “welcome to our world.”

    • Philip Spadola

      I think this is typical of the selfishness and smallmindedness of anti tax advocates. The Martin Niemoller poem listed three groups of people (Socialists, Trade Unionists , and Jews) the Nazis imprisoned and murdered. Equating that to raising taxes on weathly summer home owners is ludicrous.

      • Mike678

        If you actually took a moment to think about it Phil, you’d understand that Martin was trying to educate people on the evils of self-interest, divisiveness, class warfare and so forth.

        Please educate us on how our wanting to keep what we earn to care for our families and minimize what I need to pay for services is selfish and small minded? Please educate us why we should be pro-tax? Be generous with your wisdom and raise the consciousness of the “small-minded.”

        • Mike678

          I guess it was too hard to share….

      • Max

        Equates? Love the left’s math. If you’re in that top 1, 10, or 50 percent, that equates to not paying your share. If you ‘target’ a Democrat during an election, it equates to vitriol. If you disagree with a black president, it equates to racism. If you think we should elect a president based on qualifications, integrity, and ideology and not based on gender, that equates to sexism. If you think government shouldn’t force a private business to cater a same sex wedding, that equates to bigotry. Unless you believe what liberal believes, that equates to hate.