Baldelli-Hunt: We're ready to control our city

Baldelli-Hunt: We're ready to control our city

WOONSOCKET - The state-appointed board overseeing Woonsocket finances since May of 2012 has overstayed its welcome, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt told members last week.

In an angry rant directed at Budget Commission Chairwoman Dina Dutremble last week, she accused board members of allowing politics and personal preference to influence their decisions.

State Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly, meanwhile, says that while the commission's work is almost complete, she won't give the official OK to dissolve the board until all elements of the city's five-year plan are nailed down. That hinges, Gallogly says, on resolution to the lawsuit brought forward by several police retirees.

"The big financial piece is closure with retiree groups," Gallogly said. "That's the piece of the puzzle that's missing." But some believe the departure of the commission - a state appointed group aimed at restoring the city's fiscal stability - is long overdue. Only one of the original members currently serves on the five-member board, with several resigning to take other roles in the private and public sectors. Even the mayor and City Council president, who are required to serve on the commission under the enabling legislation, have changed, thanks to an election held last year.

The issue came up at the commission's Aug. 20 meeting, when the board took up an agenda item addressing the appointment of a solicitor for the School Department. Longtime district solicitor Richard Ackerman retired earlier this year, and while the School Committee voted to have the firm operated by Benjamin Scunzio, Brennan, Recupero, Cascione, Scungio & McAllister LLP, serve their short-term needs, a permanent replacement has yet to be confirmed.

When the item came up, both Dutremble and Baldelli-Hunt began speaking simultaneously.

"I'm going to make a motion..." started Dutremble.

"I have communication from the interview committee and also the School Committee," Baldelli-Hunt said.

The chairwoman said that the mayor could show members the communication after she finished her motion.

The mayor shot back, "Excuse me. I have communication from the School Committee to this board."

Dutremble responded, "And you can provide that."

The mayor reacted with anger.

"Keep your politics out of our city," Baldelli-Hunt said. "We have an item before this board and we are going to vote on this item because we have communication from our School Committee and the interview committee. Don't request interview committee and then because you are not in favor of the recommendation from the committee, you move and you insert your personal opinion and your politics into a decision."

During the tense 10 minutes that followed, Chairwoman Dutremble said that she wanted the School Committee to get a chance to vote on the appointment first, while the mayor accused her of postponing the vote for her own personal reasons.

"You were not elected to represent the city of Woonsocket," Baldelli-Hunt said. "Quite frankly, this Budget Commission has overstayed its welcome. And I do not need members of this commission inserting themselves into decisions within City Hall and the School Department. It's been two and a half long years and we're ready to control our city."

Under the Fiscal Stability Act, which provides guidelines for the state to intervene in distressed communities, Gallogly has the authority to both appoint commission members, and to abolish the board once their job is largely complete. In Woonsocket, former Mayor Leo Fontaine and members of the City Council requested help from the state to resolve a severe cash shortage at the School Department. The state-appointed board has additional powers under law and could obtain an early disbursement of education aid, allowing the district to pay overdue bills and continue operations.

Since that time, the commission has devised a five-year plan, which involved fiscal contributions from everyone in the city, from taxpayers who faced a supplemental bill, to unions who were asked to change their contracts and benefits. Just last month, the commission signed a five-year contract with the final union holdout - IAFF Local 732.

But a suit challenging the changes to health care benefits filed last year by a group of retired Woonsocket police officers is still unresolved.

"We would like to get this wrapped up so that the five-year plan could be completed with certainty," said Gallogly. "We only want to use the powers under the Fiscal Stability Act to the point that (they're) needed."

But Baldelli-Hunt says the commission has already stayed too long, and she used the example of appointing a solicitor, in which she said the chairwoman was being inconsistent, to make her point.

"You have never taken into consideration what the council has voted on or what School Committee has voted on, until it's in your benefit," the mayor said to Dutremble. "You know what I need the general public to understand? This Budget Commission has been in place for two and a half years - two years longer than a Budget Commission was in place in East Providence. And the longer you sit in a community, the more embedded you become, and the more likely you are to begin to make decisions based on reasons that are not necessarily in line with what you're supposed to be making. This has been happening."

Dutremble is the only member of the commission that has served since its inception in May of 2012.

Gallogly pointed out that the length of time that the state has intervened in municipal finances has varied between the three distressed communities in which the FSA has been utilized. In Central Falls, a state-appointed receiver was put in charge for three years. In East Providence, she said, the process lasted roughly two years. Woonsocket, Gallogly asserted, is on track to land right in the middle.

The revenue director also disagreed with the idea that commission members were allowing personal or political biases interfere with their decisions.

"In my experience, they're very sensitive to the issue of the powers of elected officials," Gallogly said.

All of the members, Gallogly pointed out, are unpaid volunteers.

"Residents should be very grateful," she said. "In Woonsocket, I think the Budget Commission members are very anxious to wrap this up because a lot has been done."

Gallogly said the commission would likely be abolished if the retiree suit was resolved, and that the city would move to a lesser level of fiscal oversight, with the appointment of a fiscal adviser who works directly with the mayor and the City Council. In East Providence, Paul Luba has served as finance adviser since December 2013.

The commission ultimately voted to take up the issue of appointing a school department solicitor again on Thursday, Aug. 28, the day after the School Committee is expected to vote.

The mayor abstained from voting on the issue and continued to express her displeasure.

"You could tell from the immediate jump to the microphone that we were going to move to not vote on this, and that there was a reason for that. It didn't matter that I had communication. I can shred all of this. It doesn't matter. The goal today was to make sure we did not vote on legal counsel. It's clear and its evident and anyone who's denying it is fooling themselves."

Comments

Come on Ladies can't we just get along. God forbid if Gina gets elected, we will have to put a dress on the Independent Man !

There's still the issue of the supplemental tax and it's detrimental effects on taxpayers and the local economy. Never forget Woonsocket!

Well, there's the key word, "control". Our city is not being managed, it's being CONTROLLED. This type of leadership certainly does not lead to cooperation but, instead, to divisiveness.

As noted in Ms. Seoane's article, Ms. Dutremble had asked the mayor if she "could provide the document", i. e., the "COMMUNICATION" from the School Committee and Interview Committee; the mayor chose to not answer "yes or no" but, instead, responded with an "angry rant".

Those who are familiar with the Budget Commission's meeting format are aware that all the commissioners meet just prior to the general public meeting, thus if the mayor had truly believed that this document SHOULD have been approved, why then, didn't she share and submit copies of her COMMUNICATION to all the other commissioners,PRIOR to the public meeting? This "COMMUNICATION" could have been properly discussed at that time. Of course, had this approach been taken, it would not have allowed for the "emotional scene" which occurred at the public meeting. Isn't it ironic how "documents" always appear at the 'last minute' in this administration?

It's also interesting to note that although the mayor "accused the board members of allowing politics and personal preference to influence their decisions", she certainly didn't view them as such when they voted to approve the reinstatement of full-day kindergarten (FDK).

It's very important for the PEOPLE to remember the existing suit regarding a group of retired Woonsocket police officers. Unless this administration knows something which the PEOPLE don't know about the future outcome of this case, the city still remains in a very crucial financial position.

The mayor had also stated that the Budget Commission had been in place for two and a half years - two years longer than a Budget Commission was in place in East Providence. Well, again, those who have consistently attended the Budget Commission meetings realize that although many of the East Providence's issues were similar to those of Woonsocket's, there were some differences. Plus, East Providence had won a substantial amount of money from a suit, in which case, the Budget Commission was no longer needed.

One wonders if the "angry rant" had been preplanned???

Where's the "Like" button?

It is called...
Baldelli-Huntanomics.
1. Spend 100 days trying to figure out how to fire the people who won’t “”Work”” with you, while figuring out how to hire back people who have retired and are already collecting a pension from the city. Then Notify everyone who you don’t fire, and those you do hire, “It is only Temporary so don’t get comfortable.

2. Have your friends at the state house change a few Un-necessary City Employment Laws, so those retirees can stay long than the 75 day allotted.

3. Turn all the street lights back on, Pat yourselves on the back, and then use that to increase the budget by 5%. Sure, now we can see, but cannot afford walking shoes.

4. Simply modify the ""Billable Trash services" to a "City Taxed Service”, this is so you can collect last year’s bill's while collect this year’s, via taxes, at the same time. That is so this year’s numbers look “GREAT!!! But not only did the residents have to pay last year’s bill in 30 days, their property tax was increased by the normal trash bill, a freaking budget nightmare for those barley making it.

5. Push to increase property taxes for both residents and business owners, now businesses are moving out in groves, and longtime residents and being told to apply for state help to pay the city bills, but hey you have to give Baldelli-Huntanomics credit! She couldn’t get the state to help the city so, increasing the tax base well beyond the peoples income will cause, that over the next 15-18 months, the property taxes, water and sewer bills, will become so expensive that 25% of property owners will be on state funding, so you see she did get State funding via sticking to the residents.

6. Hold back the development of a new water treatment plant because it might have to be put into a 3rd party ownership, which messes up the current budget, you see they keep raising the sewer cost, Right now it cost twice as much to Flush a toilet, than to fill your bladder with their water. Right now the city gets that money, but if the plant went private, they lose it. So the longer she postpones the construction the longer they can keep raising the cost to benefit the numbers. That is why she will find every possible reason to postpone this new 55 million dollar sewer plant.

7. Hang flowers on Main Street, tear down building and make empty lots, go to the park and play games. This is the New City of “” Woonsocket” on the move, heading straight down the river and she is just another captain who just doesn’t get it. We cannot buy our city out of problem, throwing more and more money at it doesn’t work. The last ten years should have shown everyone that the city cannot operate like it is a multimillion dollar company it does not have the resources it once had. Resident, Business, property base has be slashed drastically, while the operating cost continually goes up. The city cannot afford the current Administration plan.. No one want to invest in this city, it is dead…

We own. And we have done the numbers, our house, taxes value of 122K, has a BPO value of 89.5K and a mortgage balance of 149K, at the rate of “”Baldelli-Huntanomics increases”” by June 2015 we will most likely have to do a short sale, or allow it to go into foreclosure. Which does not hurt the city of Woonsocket, You see the other great plan of Baldelli-Huntanomics, is if you can get the mortgage companies to pay the taxes on foreclosed home, the city ends up with a better monthly revenue, it suck for those residents who have invested year and years into their home, but let face facts, the “Administration does care about the residents issues or problems..

Is the City ready??? the bigger question is are the residents prepared for what she does next with out the commission.

Dear dmdit2:

First of all..........great comment response!

The title of your comments notes the following, "Are we ready, etc...". Hell NO! No one expected the CHANGES which have already occurred, or will happen in this City in the near future. Being an optimist, I truly wish that I could feel differently about this administration.

This City is "changing" right from under our eyes. According to the election results, the majority of voters wanted a CHANGE. Well, they certainly got it and it was NOT for the better. Also, under this administration, the City has lost some GREAT LEADERS. Now, some other communities are reaping the advantages of their skills.

Prior to the election, many people [especially those who voted for the present administration] complained about how the State leaves or left us behind in everything, e. g., lack of proper educational funding, not maintaining the World War II Memorial Park, etc... Surprise! Surprise! Here they come! To date, this administration continues to hire more and more State individuals.

So, should we view these "personnel" activities as being a positive move for WE, the PEOPLE? I don't think so; however, it could be a PLUS, in the future, for whomever is supposed to be leading this administration! Personally, I view these personnel activities in such a way that the State is apt to gain even more control of our City than it had before. I've got an idea----let them take over our School Department, as they did in Central Falls!

Well, those who wanted CHANGE got IT, but it certainly wasn't what they expected, due to the abundant criticisms which exist in our City at the present time. How do you feel NOW about your vote?

Meanwhile, on a more positive note and for those who regret their past votes, it's most important for them to remember that many promises are made during an election and the politicians will ONLY tell the people what they want to HEAR.

CHANGE isn't always for the better, as also proven by our national problems. What we CAN hope for, however, is that our community will make more of an effort to learn about what the candidates "stand for" and if they are TRUTHFUL when they speak. TRUTHFULNESS is not hard to detect in a person if one LIVES by the TRUTH! Everyone makes mistakes, so be aware and correct your mistake in future elections.

RE: MR. JOHN WARD'S PREVIOUS COMMENT:

The "Like" button is broken, Mr. Ward, and no one's around to fix it.......