Chapter 40T would allow unelected
panels hand-picked by developers to assume the powers of a municipal
government, taxing without regard for Proposition 2 1/2 and substituting
panel votes for those of the voters themselves.
"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the
the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger
than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism"
– Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938
2006 a bill known as Chapter 40T passed the Massachusetts
Legislature and was stopped from becoming law only because Governor
Romney vetoed it and public outcry convinced the Legislature
to let the veto stand. This year Chapter 40T is back, in the
form of House 159 and Senate 146.
Chapter 40T would allow real estate developers to establish a “special
improvement district” which would constitute a “body politic” under
Massachusetts law. Within the district, an appointed panel,
handpicked by the developers, would replace many of the functions
of elected municipal officials. They could raise taxes (“assessments”)
without regard to the constraints of Proposition 2 1/2.
They could pass their own bylaws. A vote of their unelected
panel would replace any requirement in Massachusetts law for
a democratic vote of the people within the district. In effect,
this bill creates new towns within towns in which democracy and
public purpose are replaced by the rule of unelected officials
with a profit motive.
Chapter 40T turns the concept of conflict
of interest on its head because government powers would
be blatantly exercised to enrich private parties. By evading
democratic checks and balances, it offers unlimited opportunities
Chapter 40T is masquerading as simply an “new funding alternative” for
building needed infrastructure. But in reality it represents
a way of giving the power of taxation to self-interested private
parties. It constitutes a devious sneak attack on the tradition
of New England grassroots democracy that has served us so well
over the years. It is taxation without representation.
And to make it worse, it is taxation for private enrichment rather
than for public purposes.
1) Stop this dangerous step (S146/H159) into uncharted private governance, and speak with the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets (Rep. David Flynn and Sen. Mark Montigny).
2) Seek ways to accommodate infrastructure/financing needs through existing mechanisms, which provide public safeguards.
3) Speak with House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President
Therese Murray and ask that these bills be stopped.
Mention the current bill numbers to establish Chapter
40T: House 159 and Senate 146. And mention Chapter 40T,
in case the bill numbers change.
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