It was another black day for this city's tax-delinquents as Mayor Kevin White passed a milestone in Boston's "Great Tax Chase," unveiling his latest scheme to collect more than $50 million owed [WORD ILLEGIBLE] city - a "rogues' gallery" of politicians, corporations and wealthy [WORD ILLEGIBLE].
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] between nearly 100 [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in front and the newly created [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of 17 photographs of the city's tax-delinquents on one side and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] property on the other, White [WORD ILLEGIBLE] this latest gimmick in his 6-[WORD ILLEGIBLE]-old beefed-up tax collection campaign is designed to "embarrass people into paying their taxes."
"These delinquent taxpayers have stonewalled on every effort the city has made to communicate with them on arrangements for payment," White said, pointing to the 22-inch-square "Wanted" posters mounted on an 8-foot aluminium structure in the lobby of city hall.
"These people have an almost total disdain for the city and the rest of us mere mortals," he said. "It's just arrogance. Sheer arrogance."
Boston last year faced a 28 per cent tax hike, adding $56.20 to the already high rate of $252.90 per 1,000 assessed property valuation, one of the highest in the country.
Assistant Treasurer Newell Cook, the city's top tax collector, said Boston's new "get-tough policies" has already netted the city $5 million in back taxes, and he said he anticipates collections of an additional $15 million next year.
Cook said the sharp increase in payments has come not only from those persons and corporations the campaign has focused on but also from small taxpayers influenced by "peer-group pressure."
Boston, however, is still plagued by such scofflaws depicted in the "rogues' gallery" as the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad, which owes the city about $17.5 million - part of $450 million owed to 2,400 taxing authorities in the Northeast and Midwest.
Also on display are photographs of two state legislators who reportedly owe $18,000 repectively; $7,300, a member of the Governor's Council who claims he doesn't owe $40,000 in excise taxes on the cars in his dealership, and a recently fired Boston building inspector who owes the city an estimated $65,000.
Herbert Connolly, the car dealer, whose tax problem is being argued in the courts, said Mayor White's action was "irresponsible and an utter disgrace to the city. Kevin is being rather ridiculous about this whole thing."
But city officials say they are not taking the matter lightly - not when faced with tax evaders who have been contacted up to 50 times without responding.
Cook and Mayor White fired the starting gun of the "Great Tax Chase," as it has been dubbed, with the release of the names and amounts owed the city in May. The Boston Globe devoted much of its front page to publication of that list for several days last spring.
Last week the city stepped up its campaign against tax delinquents, impounding several taxicabs and revoking license plats of companies that owed a total of $20,000 in back taxes.
The same day, with reporters and television crews trailing behind him, Cook made an ill-fated attempt to seize the helicopter of attorney F. Lee Bailey, who reportedly owes the city $18,000 from taxes levied against his Boston law offices dating back to 1971.
"Bailey was apparently tipped off and he locked himself in the airport hanger when we got there," Cook said. "But we made our point. Baily paid us $5,000 the next day, and the cab companies were in my office three hours after we made the impoundments with $8,000 in cash."
City officials say they don't want to "tip their hands" on their next move, but White told reporters today that billboards have been made available for a possible large-scale citywide "rogues gallery."