TOM WARD - Museum’s new exhibit worth spending time with

TOM WARD - Museum’s new exhibit worth spending time with

There were a nice couple of events last weekend that I had the pleasure of attending. While both were “forward facing,” one group prides itself in looking back. Congratulations are in order for Woonsocket’s Museum of Work & Culture, where community leaders celebrated its 20th anniversary. Part of the R.I. Historical Society, the museum on Saturday night opened for the first time its new “Mills Along The Blackstone” exhibit, an electronic and interactive display that brings visitors back to the time when the city practically ruled the textile manufacturing world. The exhibit is the brainchild of the museum’s Preservation Foundation president, Paul Bourget.

Like many museum exhibits, this one will take time to really drink in, and during a gala is not that time. I admit to taking more than a passing glance at a few Christmas ornaments manufactured by Coby Glass, a mill where I spent three hot summers in the early 1970s cutting, boxing, and shipping them. I’ll be going back to spend more than a few hours with this exhibit. I hope you might, too, especially if you ever worked in a Rhode Island mill, or haven’t been to this museum in awhile – or ever!

The second dinner I attended was the first big fundraiser for the new Cumberland Education Foundation, a group formed to not only provide scholarships, but also smaller grants to town teachers who might have a great idea, but few dollars to make the classroom magic happen. More than 200 people attended the group’s premiere event at Kirkbrae Country Club. We wish organizers continued success in the months and years ahead.

Go Emily!

Woonsocket’s “voice,” Emily Luther, who honed her craft on the Stadium Theatre stage as a teen, continues her march forward on NBC’s “The Voice,” winning her “Knockout” round over rocker Adam Pearce Monday night. Go Emily!

Tax reform?

The federal tax reform put forward by Congressional Republicans last week doesn’t feel like tax reform to me. I was hoping for more ... not in the way of cuts, but in the way of changes that lead to more simplicity for taxpayers.

Most tax cuts will go to corporations, with only some flowing directly to workers. In the end, we have to trust that corporations will use the money to hire more people and pay them better, but I have my doubts. You only need look at Sunday’s Providence Journal. Rhode Island and Connecticut pay millions to train workers for Electric Boat. But General Dynamics, the shipbuilder’s parent company, has spent more than $10 billion on stock repurchases since 2013, a move that boosts its stock price. Clearly, they can pay their own money to train their workforce, but they’d rather play us for suckers. So for me to see this big corporate tax cut flowing to workers ... well ... I’m not sure I’m buying that one.

Still, the U.S. has the highest corporate taxes in the world, and some cuts are in order so we can compete globally, and bring cash piles of profit like that of Apple back home.

Nobody is seeking my advice, but if I were king, here is what I’d do.

• The move to lower taxes on smaller businesses, most of them so-called “S-corps,” is a good one. Higher profits there are much more likely to benefit employees.

• I’m glad the new top rate goes to people making more than $1 million per year. That’s a far cry from the current $418,000. There’s a world of difference between those two families.

• I wish they had phased out fully – over, say, five years – the deductibility of property taxes and mortgage interest. In the U.S., our tax code favors home ownership. But why should it? Growing numbers of younger millennials are happy to rent, and there are no tax breaks for them.

If a national consensus is developing that younger people are rejecting the so-called American Dream of home ownership, then tax policy should follow. There is no mortgage interest deduction in Canada, and they are coming off a real estate boom. Were we to change our policy over time, there would be no crisis. Only more fairness.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze.


Tom, you're killing me. I don't know where you guys get off speaking for millennials ALL THE TIME. I've chided Larry on WNRI for letting him and his callers to blast an entire generation relentlessly. Who does that? How do you pigeonhole 75 million Americans into one made-up anecdote? That's like me going to a dive bar in the afternoon, seeing a handful of 50 yr olds and concluding all Baby Boomers are drunks. Why are millennials fair game to you people? Why do you pretend to know what they think and do what they do? You actually let the word "lazy" come out of your mouth when speaking about millennials, and then tried to justify it. Here's a noble concept, let those 75 million young Americans actually catch their stride and carve out their own history before you criticize. Millennials are still living in the world YOU CREATED. I'm in Woonsocket, I look back 30 years and I see nothing but mismanagement, poor planning, and an astronomical debt and burden that's being left for millennials to clean up. Well played.

That said. I usually respect your opinions and insight. On the radio, you went off on millennial buying and the mortgage deduction. Your first mistake is that your research is off on young buyers. First off, millennials are the largest group of home buyers, by far. About the same as Gen X and Baby Boomers combined (depending on month and region). First time buyers ARE waiting longer. Just like millennials are waiting longer to marry, have kids, move out, etc. You probably consider their waiting a sign of laziness or indecision. Perhaps...its actually a sign of prudence. Not jumping into the water before you're ready, so you don't drown. But you'll never agree to that concept. You also claim that millennials don't see home ownership as part of the American Dream. lol

I'm a pretty active Realtor and I've help dozens of millennials buy homes. They come in all shapes, sizes, and motivations. Some buy multi-units for investment. Some buy houses or condos in leu of renting. Some buy as a couple just starting out. You make the claim that millennials don't buy fixer-uppers. Wrong. Many try to. Here's a scenario. Most single level ranches in East Woonsocket or near Cumb High were build in the late 50s, early 60s. These homes were family homes. You bought them, raised your family, and now you are well past retirement. A huge percentage of these homes haven't been updated since the 80s, if ever. You know the ones, with the pink or blue bathrooms and old kitchens. One of two things happens. The seller takes a haircut and an investor swoops in offering cash and beats out the first time buyer. Or there is so much neglect, that makes it near impossible for a first time buyer to be financed. There are many great programs for rehabs, but the hoops and the regulations are ridiculous. So cash is king, and many first buyers are forced to pick it up after a flip. I'm also seeing a lot of Boomers "inherit" these family homes after the parent passes or gets tossed in a home. Give me a call anytime, I'll show you some rehabs done by actual millennials.

Last, I'll touch on the mortgage deduction. I sort of agree with your assessment of how the tax incentive doesn't really affect home buying. I will go further to say it doesn't at all. It simply rewards a life choice. I would keep the deduction simply for that. Incentivize good life choices. Retirement planning, home buying, higher education, heath and fitness are all great life choices for the future. This is personal responsibility at its best...reward that.

You also mentioned that renters indirectly pay property tax. Stop saying this. It's not true. Rent is rent. Most landlords do not raise and lower rents based on the current tax rate. If you have a 3 unit and one becomes vacant, you don't split that missing revenue with the other simply eat until you rent it again. Property tax is a CoDB (cost of doing business) just like water, sewer, trash, electricity, insurance, smoke alarms, landscaping, etc. You don't say tenants pay for your grass cutting. If you have a lot of snow one year, you don't raise rents by $100. I'm also not paying the property tax of the restaurant I eat at. Revenue is on one side. Expenses on the other.

Thanks for the time and the forum.

There is much we agree on, and some I will challenge back on, but all and all, too much. I haven't the time.
But I was a landlord, in a Woonsocket 4-family, for 20 years. I took good care of it, and had many nice tenants. I was not greedy; good tenants were at a premium and treated well. And most years, yes, I absorbed small tax increases, or just moved rents up a bit over time. One year, however, I got savaged, and taxes (and sewer use charges) went up $1,000 or so. I showed my tenants the bill, and raised rents $20 per month. They paid the taxes, not me, and I made it clear this was not a rent increase from ME, but a tax increase from the city. I got nothing. They understood.
And yes, I have four millennial children, all working hard, and all doing the fixer-upper thing that they learned from me. I was just reporting anecdotally what 4 Realtors told me for the story I wrote Sept. 28. I applaud your buyers. Apparently, the folks quoted for my story haven't met enough of them.
Best, Tom Ward

Speaking of “blasting a generation”----Wow! You did a fine job yourself, Mr. Keith!

To begin with, I shall not get into the “FINANCIAL” aspects of this conversation. I would like to focus mainly on the MILLENNIALS.

You asked, “Why are MILLENNIALS fair game?” Then, I ask, “Why is the PAST GENERATION fair game?”

Considering that I'm from the “past generation”, it's not too hard to JUSTIFY the word "lazy", and if you want to be TRUTHFUL about it, you must admit that many, if not most
Millennials, are not the most “VIGOROUS BUNCH”, especially if they're using Marijuana which is very prevalent these days--- BUT that's a story for another day!

Yes, Millennials are living in the world that the “past generation” CREATED. You wrote...“as you look back 30 years, I see nothing but mismanagement, poor planning, and an astronomical debt and burden that's being left for millennials to clean up.” No world has been PERFECT to live in---even during the “past generation's” lifetime! The “Millennials” are a SPOILED generation! They want EVERYTHING and, many times, without having to work for it, plus they want it “yesterday”. Enough said about the Millennials' distinctive features!

Now, about the 'Millennials being the largest group of home buyers, by far'....had the “past generation” SCREWED UP that badly, the Millennials would NOT NOW be able to AFFORD to buy a house!

You also wrote....“First time buyers ARE waiting longer. Just like millennials are waiting longer to marry, have kids, move out, etc. You probably consider their waiting a sign of laziness or indecision.” If you believe that first-time Millennial BUYERS are waiting longer to buy a house, you should probably ask the “past generation” how long THEY had to wait to buy a house??? Don't forget that those Millennials who DO buy a house, have often ASSURED themselves that they “won't go without” the “little luxuries” which they are used to. Of course, there ARE exceptions, however! There weren't too many LUXURIES when the “past generation” bought a house. YET, nothing has really changed regarding the AMERICAN DREAM of home ownership----whether it's for the Millennials or not!

You have a very good point in that one should “not jump into the water before he/she is ready”; however, regarding marriage, having babies, moving out, those are PERSONAL CHOICES and no one should JUDGE those activities!

As noted above, I'm part of the “PAST GENERATION” who is well past retirement and am damn PROUD of it! There are also many MILLENNIALS in our family and they come in all shapes! They are LOVED and RESPECTED because they are the type of Millennials who RECOGNIZE their responsibilities and REALIZE what is required to accomplish a lucrative future! They are NOT "lazy" Millennials!

You also wrote that Millennials try to buy fixer-uppers, and that there is “a huge percentage of these homes which haven't been updated since the 80s, if ever. You know the ones, with the pink or blue bathrooms and old kitchens.” Well, did you ever consider that these same people have NOT BEEN ABLE to modernize their homes, due to the ongoing TAX INCREASES that they have to pay for their homes?

Yes, you're correct----“CASH IS KING” and it ALWAYS will BE---whether it's for the PAST GENERATION, the MILLENNIALS and/or a NEW generation! AMEN!

I loathe being "classified" at least that's what I tell my shrink and probation officer...

Some subtle differences: Millennial-Bernie Sanders, Baby Boomer-Colonel Sanders, Millennial-Gal Gadot, Baby Boomer- Lynda Carter, Millennial- Steve Jobs, Baby Boomer- Job in the Bible, Millennial- Facebook, Baby Boomer- face in a book...Peace everyone.

Hi Pauline. With respect, I never never mentioned "past generation". I definitely didn't speak bad toward any generation. Just the opposite. I find it absurd to group people by when they were born. That was my whole point in defending millennials against the endless barrage of insults and stereotypes. I'm not even a millennial by definition. I think I'm lumped in with Gen-X. According to my stereotype, I should be cynical and grungy, with wild hair, listening to alternative rock and rotting my brain from violent video games and TV. lol not quite.

**The “Millennials” are a SPOILED generation! They want EVERYTHING and, many times, without having to work for it, plus they want it “yesterday”.**

You are applying this to the majority of Americans ages 18-35. Yikes! Then you and Tom Ward make exception for the millennials in your family. lol. That's oddly convenient. Here's where it gets funny. I've heard that millennials get participation trophies for everything they do. Well, who is giving out these so-called trophies? They are not giving trophies to themselves. So either you're doing it! OR...It's not really a thing. Your choice.

With respect to the ongoing tax increases. Up until about the mid 2000s, Woonsocket enjoyed the LOWEST property taxes in the state. People my age and younger, never had that. All we know if paying a lot for everything. For younger people, our taxes have always been through the roof. Our insurance is outrageous. College is unaffordable. Utilities won't stop rising. All this while saving for retirement because we don't get pensions and avoiding the hospital so we don't go broke. At least a gallon of milk is still affordable.

Add to this, that Woonsocket is sitting on well over $200 million in debt. Who managed to rack this up? And who's going to pay for it? I miss the days when Cumberland and Woonsocket used to compete on everything. Housing, quality of life, sports, education, business...we used to be neck and neck. What happened? Must be those lazy millennials...they ruin everything.

Hi Tom-- did not use the words, “past generation”. That was my description regarding what you wrote in your first comment about people “owning homes in the “late 50's and early 60's” raising our families, and being well past retirement, etc... I believe those characteristics represent the “past generation.” I also agree that you “definitely didn't speak bad toward any generation”. After all, you must admit that if you would do this, it would affect your line of work. Frankly, I, personally, don't care about people's “age level” when I meet them. One either CONNECTS with people or they DON'T!

I'm not blaming the Millennials for being a SPOILED generation, wanting everything yesterday, etc.... because let's face it, those who represent this description were ALLOWED to become that way.....they weren't born that way. I do admit that I “am applying this to the majority of Americans ages 18-35. Yikes!” because it's TRUE! As I had noted in my previous response, however, there are EXCEPTIONS! Now, if you really think about it, it wasn't the people who bought/built houses in the 50's and 60's who are responsible for this SPOILED's their children's children!

Yes, Tom Ward and I are from the 50's and 60's parent era. You wrote that we 'make exception for the millennials in our family'. lol. That's oddly convenient.' Well, you can laugh all you want, but whether you want to believe it or not, it is not only ODDLY CONVENIENT, but it is TRUE. You also wrote.....'who is giving out these so-called trophies? They are not giving trophies to themselves.' Tom, parents can be very proud of their children without “giving them trophies”! I'm sure you realize that “trophies” are now very rarely given to children because today's society doesn't focus on those who "excel" but on the “victims”, i. e., those who can't/don't receive trophies! It's almost like EXCELLING is a crime these days! By the way, whatever trophies our children received was because they EARNED them!

You're correct about the taxes being at its lowest in the mid-2000. One of the reasons for the low taxes was due to NO tax increases for about 10 years. Yes, again, people have paid the “price” for this avoidance. You must also know, however, that the State “played a big part” in Woonsocket's deficit situation. Re: College----hey! What are you talking about........College is FREE now......check with our Governor!

In closing, ALL generations have gone through their own “aches and pains”! We will ALL have to worry if a “gallon of milk” becomes unaffordable.....ha.......ha........ha!! Great chatting with you!