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Marc Dion: The Startlingly Wrong, The Innocent and The Pleasant Street Shuffle



Local real estate developer Tony Cordeiro wants to create apartments on the lower end of Pleasant Street. The upper end of Pleasant Street is still on it’s own, un-streetscaped, and a bit run down, even though a number of small businesses are hanging on like Crockett at The Alamo.

Cordeiro’s got a better record of “revitalization” than Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who is currently awaiting trial, and Cordeiro will receive tax abatements for doing the rehab job on a couple of his buildings.

Cue the hounds, who are now barking that Cordeiro “won’t pay no taxes!”

This is startlingly wrong. Every time Fall River does a tax abatement deal, everyone in the city believes that the developer or business owner will never pay ANY taxes forever. In fact, “tax abatement” means you pay some of the taxes every year, the amount you pay rising over the years until you’re paying the full amount.

“That’s MY tax money,” the hounds bark, just after receiving their annual $2,500 refund.

“In Fall River, if you have money, they think you stole it,” said my late father, who was born on Thomas Street, to poor people, in a back bedroom, in 1920.

It remains the same. Fall River prefers a colorful failure or an unreformed thief to a successful business person. Other places welcome the successful. We insist they stole every cent they have, and we do our best to chase them off to Dartmouth, where they will build $400,000 homes on which Fall River will collect no property tax.

We don’t like the very poor too much, either, if only because they remind us how close we are to being poor. We especially hate the poor if they’re “not from here.” In case you need the reminder, “not from here,” is Fall River for African-American or Hispanic. We believe criminals who are not from here should be shot. We believe criminals who were born here should be elected to public office.

I had a recent taste of that outlaw feeling. I forgot to renew my driver’s license, and I drove illegally for a couple of months. A kindly bank teller finally pointed out to me that my license had expired, and I went online to fix the problem, where I discovered I had a parking ticket I’d forgotten to pay.

I went to Government Center and paid the ticket on Monday. I went to the registry and renewed my license today.

Still, I drove illegally for a few months, and it might be on my record forever. I suppose I should feel lucky that the feds didn’t get involved. Thank God State Representative Carole Fiola isn’t any madder at me than usual, or she’d have called the FBI and ordered them to indict me for parking ticket fraud and drivers license renewal fee evasion. There but for the grace of God go I.

What scares me is that, if I run for mayor when I’m 65, and I win, sometime during my second term, the whole driver’s license thing could be used against me.

I’m ready for that, though.

“Hey, look,” I’ll say. “I did that driver’s license thing years ago.”

“I was 61, for God’s sake,” I’ll say. “You know how you are in your early 60s. It’s a time of experimentation, and everyone gets a little crazy. You’re too old for beer pong, and you’re too young for a walker, so you do things you wouldn’t do if you were older.”

You think that’ll work? Of course, it’ll work. Fall River can be startlingly forgiving, or at least the small percentage of the population who votes can be startlingly forgiving, particularly after a fundraiser where they’ve had a few frosty Heinekens and taken a selfie with the candidate.

Up on Pleasant Street, where they’ve got some good restaurants, some great bakeries, a buncha stores, a jeweler, and everything else you need to build the walk-able neighborhood experience, they await the spread of upscale housing, which is forming a tight circle around the tired tenements and the brick buildings with scarred street doors that lead inside to steep stairs and small apartments.

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