Letter to the Editor

Vote No on CPA

Earlier this year, the Chelsea City Council unanimously voted to place the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on the ballot this November 8th. The CPA, which will impose a 1.5% property tax surcharge, was touted at the time as a necessary tool to address a shortage of affordable housing, a lack of open space, and an inability to preserve historic sites across the city. I assert that the CPA is nothing more than a gimmick for city government to extract more money from the people of Chelsea without actually voting to do it themselves.

As of today, approximately 16% of Chelsea’s housing stock is classified as affordable by the state, the fourth-highest rate in Massachusetts. No one disputes that property taxes and rents are increasing, but throwing more of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money at the issue does nothing to solve the underlying problem – why are so many Chelsea residents struggling to afford rent or property taxes now?

The answer to that question is complex and multi-faceted, and one that is easier for elected officials to not talk about in the misguided hope that the problem will go away with more of your money.

An incredibly weak economic ”recovery” has left many people working multiple jobs, or unable to find full time employment. Coupled with stagnant household incomes, many Chelsea residents (and many people across the country as well) are unable to keep up with rising property values and the corresponding rise in rent and property taxes. Large-scale residential development that continues unabated is also contributing to the problem.

With one of the lowest rates of higher education in the state, and a high school graduation rate that is not at the level it should be, many Chelsea residents sadly lack the education to acquire higher-paying jobs. Question 2, also on the ballot this November, would make great strides in solving that problem, which makes the City Council and School Committee’s decision to publicly oppose its passage based on misinformation all the more insulting to Chelsea’s students.

While the City Council should be rightly commended for approving measures aimed at reducing property taxes for owner-occupied properties, small business owners, and water bills for seniors, that does not justify the decision to raise taxes now. Nor does it give the City Council the right to do so and pass off the blame for that decision onto you.

Part of being an elected official means making tough decisions, and if Council believes more tax money is needed, there are means for them to raise taxes and/or fees on their own. Of course, doing so directly could make reelection problematic, especially for those Councilors who were elected promising change and transparency.

Between free cash, which the new City Manager has generously tapped into since January, and unaddressed budget harming line-items (I.E. Fire Department overtime), the notion that funds are not currently available is absolutely ludicrous.

I urge the people of Chelsea to vote “No” on the CPA this November 8th, and tell your City Councilors that if they want to raise your taxes, they should do it directly themselves and not hide behind political tricks. Solving Chelsea’s problems is difficult, but not impossible if we work together and look beyond the gimmicks for real solutions.

Clifford Cunningham

 

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