EDITORIAL: Elorza’s Speed Camera Tax — Government At Its Worst
Thursday, March 08, 2018
|Providence cameras program has been a mismanaged mess|
It is a regressive tax wrapped in a bogus claim about safety to drive revenue to overcompensate for the unwillingness to demonstrate leadership.
As Mayor Jorge Elorza has been incapable or unable to take on any of the most difficult financial challenges facing Providence, he has instead used a three-year-old tragedy of a teacher’s death outside Mount Pleasant High School in 2015 to claim that there is a public safety issue around the schools -- to justify a "city-wide" deployment of an arbitrary, onerous, and capricious money-grab.
Make no mistake about it, there is plenty of speeding that needs to be addressed, but this is anything but a public safety play. If a Mayor cared about public safety, he would hold press conferences, he would deploy police details with radar guns, and he would place proper signage and implement a public education campaign.
This traffic camera program was rolled out with little, if any, real notification, except a press release, saying cameras were being deployed -- and that was it. Coming from a Mayor who will hold a press conference to announce that a blade of grass was cut at a park, this lack of notification only further raises cynicism that this had little to do with safety. In two months 17,000 $95 tickets have been issued - a volume so large that police have had to be re-deployed and the court has been overwhelmed. A mismanaged program trying to drive revenue for an administration unwilling or not capable of taking on Providence's fiscal problems.
The City of Providence has a nearly billion dollar shortfall in paying for the pension obligation of its existing and retired workers. And the pension obligation is funded at less than thirty percent -- abysmal and the second worst of any peer city in New England. In Hartford, CT, which is moving towards bankruptcy, the pension system is funded at 70% plus.
Moreover, add more than a billion for the long-term unfunded OPEB (other post-employment benefit) obligations for workers and retirees — healthcare, dental, and beyond -- to that amount.
In September 2017, a statewide panel found that Providence Schools need hundreds of millions of dollars to fix deficiencies in its buildings. The cost to get Classical High School up to standard alone is $17.3 million. The amount needed at Carl G. Lauro Elementary School is $23 million. Hope High School’s cost is $37.8 million and Mount Pleasant another $31 million. And on and on.
Every school in Providence needs at least a million — even the recently improved Nathan Bishop ($1.4 million) and the Providence Career and Technical Academy ($4.7 million) have million plus needs.
Add in roads and sidewalks (over $868 million in deferred maintenance) as well as the understaffing at the Providence Police Department — Providence is now really pushing over $3 billion in unfunded obligations.
Providence has had decades of failed fiscal management, now we have a pathetic solution. It is government at its worse.