In the end, the record will reflect that the math showed us this outcome may well have been inevitable.
We were another exurban town without enough commercial revenue to pad the good times, to say nothing of the bad times. We relied on our residential tax base in Trump’s era of “ENOUGH”, all the while watching health insurance and education costs sky-rocket. We needed planned housing development to get out from under 40B, but bitched about the apple orchards you remembered seeing in high school getting built on. The teacher’s union adopted a militant posture that fomented community discord in a community that values education. But they got their raises. As did the police, and well… everyone else. Which they were entitled to, of course. They work hard. We all do.
But in the end all of the good feelings in the world really don’t help make ends meet. After the 2014 Override, we needed to figure out how long that money would last, and then spend the intervening years figuring out how not to do it again. But we failed. Utterly.
Unless… we do something else.
I spent four years beating my head against the wall trying to get people to see the end result of the decisions we jointly make when everyone is feeling great. But I’ve done a terrible, terrible job. If I’m judging myself on results – the standard I set for everyone else – I’ve failed.
Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting was a real eye opener for me, and I didn’t realize (though I should have, I guess) how ideologically far apart I was from my colleagues. I heard any number of comments that I not only disagree with, but that I believe are seriously detrimental to the community.
They are as follows:
- Tim McInerney, the Town Administrator, runs the Town. No. Sorry. He administers the town. And although he lives here and pays taxes like everyone else, it’s not his town. The BoS runs the Town. Does he have to jump when I say jump? No, of course not. But he damn well better use his judgment in responding to requests for information from elected officials, and suggestions on how to work better with town volunteers trying to avoid another override. To be more direct: in 2021 when Tim’s contract is up, I will be the only presently serving member of the Board of Selectmen guaranteed to still be here when his new contract negotiations commence. Everyone is accountable. Shit, when it comes right down to it, you run the town. What’s the point of a Town Meeting form of government if a guy who isn’t even accountable to the public is “running” the Town? You run the town.
- Financial projections are a waste of time. Well, only if you consider it a waste of time to get all of the tax-paying voters in your community who – I’m sorry – work really hard for their money, on the same page.
- The Town Administrator knows better than volunteers what the projections ought to be. Well, only if you think we’re all dumb. I know damn well, and perhaps you do too, that the TA is motivated to give the town the rosiest projections possible, and then every seventh year or so, claim that various situations out of his or her control resulted in the need for an override.
- The finance committee exists only to review our (Tim’s) work. Entirely untrue. Executive boards are inclined to perpetuate their own existence and authority. You need a legislative body to counter that. We have town meeting. FinComm advises town meeting. They are your Congress. Listen to them. Respect them.
- Our schools get waaaaaaay more funding than comparable communities. Not true. I’m going to do a longer post on this, but anyone who doesn’t believe me can read up on all of the comparison research I did two years ago during the school contract debate. I did whole breakdowns of this information. If only people had read it.
I’ve said this a million times, I’ll say it again:
We are in an unprecedented era in local government. Most of us have never known a time without Proposition 2.5. We’ve also never known a time where we couldn’t fit everything we wanted into that tiny little income bubble of 2.5% plus new growth. But, in our era of lower state income taxes, lower state aid, higher health costs and higher special education costs, we’re left with only a few, uncertain options going forward.
Those options are as follows:
- Wake up and stop voting for state income tax cuts, you suckers. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. What do I care? Oh, are you going to punish me politically? Do you promise? Every dime you THINK you save on an income tax cut, I’m raising your taxes on the local level to pay for shit that I have no control over. You yell at me, but your state officials skate. I don’t get it. Also, state income tax cuts are the “FREE CONDO RENTALS” of regional government. Don’t be dumb. Be smart instead.
- Receive less services. Quick! Name a service you actually receive that you think should be cut. Services you don’t receive are out of bounds. See how quick we solve that problem.
- Tax more locally. We could. But local real estate taxes hurt the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us. As former Newton Mayor David Cohen once said, local budgets pit the poorest against the neediest. Which is why the more progressive state tax model is better. If you make less than $60,000 and you voted for a state income tax cut, you’re one of the suckers they caught. Congrats! We’ll just catch you on the local end.
- Re-examine the basic service model of local government the same way that Newton, Arlington, Framingham and others have done. Why can’t we do this when other communities have?? Easy for you to say! I can’t even get five-year projections done.
So, that’s it. Those are my ideas. They all suck.
And I know I shouldn’t write something like that. It’s against all the rules. I’m supposed to be… I don’t know. A leader? Positive? Inspiring? Please.
I’m not any of those things. Even if I were, it wouldn’t do any good. It takes three votes to move the Board of Selectman, and Tim McInerney, in any given direction. I have Bruce Spinney (until he reads this) , and that’s it. I need one more. Elections are in May, and in the meantime we’re debating whether projections and accountability are actually good things.
I need your help. I’m asking for your help. Please. If you want to help, you need to get involved and ask your local representatives where your five-year projections are, and what numbers they’re based on and who was involved in coming up with them. Nothing less than a community approach will do. We need FinComm and the School Committee to be involved with this process.
Write to them here:
Tell them that you’re in favor of accountability. Tell them that you’re in favor of a joint process that figures out our financials. And tell them that you run the town.
We have one shot to get this right in the next few months. Make it count.