Cournoyer: No, Kithes & Co., John Ward was correct

Cournoyer: No, Kithes & Co., John Ward was correct

Woonsocket councilman John Ward’s letter published in the July 31 edition of The Valley Breeze addressed two subjects that then city council candidate Alex Kithes had commented on during his campaign. Specifically, Ward addressed Kithes’ remarks related to a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement between the City, CVS Health and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, as well as Kithes’ comments suggesting that City government is inaccessible, especially to people who do not enjoy his so called “white privilege.”

Responding to Ward’s letter, Kithes and his flock of uninformed, ill-informed and misinformed Progressive comrades (e.g. Steve Ahlquist and David Fisher) did what Progressives do when faced with pesky facts. They doubled down on their misinformation campaign, confidently asserting that Ward’s letter was “full of… lies”, “incorrect” and “slanderous” – even though “slanderous” refers to the spoken word, not the written word – but why quibble?

Ward correctly noted that during Kithes’ city council misinformation campaign, Kithes was outspoken and critical regarding CVS’s PILOT agreement, with the majority of his comments being factually incorrect (because they came from a place utter ignorance). Without reprinting Ward’s letter, suffice to say that, despite Kithes’ and his cronies’ protestations to the contrary, what Ward wrote was accurate and not a lie.

Kithes absolutely stated on Coalition Radio (at the 14.5 minute mark) that CVS pays between $1 and $2 million in taxes to the City via a PILOT agreement. WRONG! As Ward correctly pointed out, the current PILOT payment is $3.1 million – well above the “between $1 and $2 million” peddled by the fact-challenged Kithes.

Moreover, the amount paid by CVS in connection with the PILOT agreement is significantly more than what they would otherwise pay in the absence of the PILOT. Said differently, CVS is not getting a break. But of course, having no desire to understand the important facts and details of the issue, Kithes and his ilk wouldn’t know that. For Progressives channeling their anti-business Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, facts never get in the way of a good story.

David Fisher, an emotional fellow who is a role mode and mentor of Kithes, and who is best known for spewing fiction with conviction, asked Kithes if he would “be agreeable to renegotiating or completely eliminating the tax breaks that CVS gets from this city." Kithes responded with “The short answer is yes.” He followed that beauty by saying the long answer is that he’d have to do an economic analysis to determine how much we could “reneg” so as to not incentivize them to leave. He concluded with his true feelings, saying “But yes, I believe CVS needs to start paying their fair share.” All this despite the fact that CVS’s PILOT currently has them paying far more than if they didn’t have a PILOT.
And by the way, misinformation and false assertions aside, is it not rich and most ironic that someone who himself has made no investment in the City and who pays zero in taxes is lecturing others on paying “their fair share”?

Make no mistake, after Kithes initially stepped in it regarding CVS’s PILOT, he attempted to walk it back, while simultaneously trying not to offend his “pay their fair share” Progressive cheerleaders. After Ward educated him on the fact that the PILOT has a term extending to December 2027, Kithes tried to use that as a life-line, suggesting that he couldn’t really do anything with it even if he wanted to, so those who appreciate CVS’s value need not worry. But the reality is that Kithes arrogantly and confidently spewed forth an incredible amount of misinformation and fiction on an important matter he knows nothing about – a common trait he displayed throughout his campaign.

Consistent with his misguided and uninformed criticisms of the CVS PILOT agreement, Kithes happily participated in a Coalition Radio pod-cast wherein the host did not hide his contempt for CVS, hurling all manner of disparaging remarks at a company that provides an enormous level of employment and ancillary benefits to both the City and the State. Kithes gleefully nodded his ill-informed head in glowing agreement and support of every swipe taken by the host.

In short, Ward’s letter hit the nail on the head. He did not lie. He provided facts and revealed Kithes’ uninformed, if not dangerous, views on important Woonsocket matters. Frankly, his letter should have been in the news section, not the opinion section of the paper.

Also, Kithes and his progressive flock, doing their best impression of “Russian Collusion” conspiracy theorists, howled that The Breeze colluded to influence the election by printing Ward’s letter days before election day. They expressed faux outrage at the impact and influence The Valley Breeze and its substantial distribution would have on the election, yet, in reality, they didn’t think the Breeze was at all influential, since they did not run a single campaign ad in the paper.

Lastly, as Ward accurately reported, Kithes employed the Progressives’ favorite and preferred campaign tactic – that is, Kithes engaged in divisive and poisonous “identity politics”, labeling and identifying people by age, race and gender and dividing the City’s population by those with and without “white privilege."

To his credit, after employing an enormous amount of resources (much from outside the City), coupled with a massive misinformation and disinformation campaign, Kithes was able to squeak by his opponent. He’s now officially an “establishment” politician. If he hopes to be effective and productive, he’ll need to learn that facts matter and that there is more to governing than spouting uninformed community activist slogans. He can count on the John Wards of the world to correct him when he forgets these important points.

James Cournoyer
Woonsocket City Councilor