Candidate’s CVS ‘fair share,’ racism claims go too far; Kithes replies

Candidate’s CVS ‘fair share,’ racism claims go too far; Kithes replies

To our readers:
The letter by Councilman John Ward was printed in error and should not have appeared in the paper the week prior to Tuesday’s election. I apologize for this mistake.
Underneath this letter is a reply from Alexander Kithes.

Tom Ward, publisher

A couple of issues have been raised during this campaign to fill the vacant City Council seat in Woonsocket. The first regards CVS and whether they are paying their “fair share” of taxes. So, rather than just assume the rhetoric is true because someone said it, I “looked it up” as my father always taught his children to do.

During an airing of “The Coalition Radio Show,” a candidate stated that CVS pays “… between one and two million dollars as a payment in lieu of taxes program.” He has also stated that he wants to re-open the agreement for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to address their apparent low contribution to the city. What he fails to mention, or may not know, is that the agreement ends in 2027! And on top of that, it includes the State of Rhode Island as a party to the agreement. So we would have to convince both the state and CVS that they don’t pay enough and we want them to negotiate a higher payment. Can you just imagine the state agreeing to such a thing?

So, here are the facts. According to the letter sent to CVS by the Woonsocket Tax Assessor, the PILOT for CVS in 2019 is almost $3.1 million, far more than what this candidate is telling the world. Furthermore, the total amount of taxes listed as exempt for CVS and the R.I. Economic Development Corp., which is the owner of the real estate occupied by CVS, is $1.8 million.

So, despite the claim that they don’t pay their “fair share” or that CVS doesn’t do enough for the city, I beg to differ. CVS is paying almost $1.3 million more per year that they are exempted for because of the PILOT agreement.

Later, on another local radio show, he complained that a city council member was unresponsive to him and wondered whether it would be worse for someone who unlike him with his white privilege would be treated worse. This is basically calling the City Council a group of racists. It is a classic progressive trope to make themselves seem heroic while falsely accusing others. It’s offensive.

Woonsocket doesn’t need a councilman who promotes his “progressive” views through a lens of uninformed attacks on our biggest taxpayer/employer and unfounded claims of racial bias by incumbent elected officials.

I am supporting Roger Jalette for the open City Council seat.

John F. Ward
Woonsocket City Council

Response from Alexander Kithes:

A sitting Woonsocket city councilman took the opportunity to have his slanderous and incorrect op-ed printed in the most recent edition of The Valley Breeze, published on Thursday, so that I would have no chance to respond in print. I do have a response for the people of Woonsocket, who deserve a clear picture of my record and views ahead of the election on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

I did not, on the radio or at any other time during this campaign, directly attack the integrity of Councilman Brien. It is absolutely a fact, as I stated on air, that he ignored my calls after offering to communicate on the topic of renewable energy development. This is an issue very important to me, and an issue which Councilman Brien claims is very important to him, so I was disappointed that he chose to put the interests of his friend, my opponent, above our desire to transform this city’s green energy economy.

I was absolutely in the right to point out the glaring issue of governmental inaccessibility, which tends to be that much more of a problem for women, people of color, young people, poor people, seniors, and other groups that tend to be underrepresented in government. This is something that a lot of people across the city have told me they experience when I’ve talked to them as part of this campaign, and it is absolutely heartbreaking to know that underrepresented communities are all too often ignored by elected officials who are supposed to represent us all. The councilman who printed the op-ed’s claim that this attack constitutes “race-baiting” is a ridiculous farce, and a political stunt on his part.

As for my comments on CVS, I have no intention of purposely or accidentally driving CVS out of our city. My comments were nothing more than a recognition that CVS is a part of our community. As we strive to build the Woonsocket we all dream of, it is absolutely fair to engage with CVS when their TSA comes up for renegotiation in 2027 on the presumption that as part of our community, CVS has a role to play by contributing nothing more than their fair share to our city in taxes and contributions to local nonprofits. To claim that I said anything else is a deliberate and politically-motivated distortion of my views, views which I am proud to share.

The future that we dream of, where our city attracts young families who contribute to our tax base and the development of a compassionate culture and an innovative and environmentally sustainable economy, can be achieved. The work will be hard, but I am dedicated to seeing it through. I know we can do that if we work together, and transcend the factional division that causes so much personal hate in our city’s politics. That’s why I need your support on Tuesday, so that the work can truly begin.

Alexander Kithes
Candidate for Woonsocket City Council