Thursday, May 3, 2007

Override Post Mortem

So yeah, I’m a tad disappointed in the Override results (of course I would have blown my brains out if Yes won) because like President Johnson in the 1968 NH primary, we should have won BIGGER. The Town Manager previously stated (although I’m sure he’d like to take the arrogant comment back) that if the Override were not a blowout he would “give it a haircut” and return with a smaller one.

And I find it troubling that ‘The Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change’ did everything right and the Overriders did almost everything wrong, and they still came within a “moderate margin” of winning. Some of those last minute votes, however, were won via shady tactics.

For instance, a last minute oversized postcard direct mailer stole our yellow and black bumblebee design, so successfully used in our “No More Overrides” lawn signs.

Particularly troubling the postcard using all the clichéd Spin carried the following prominently placed statement: “Endorsed by Amherst Town Manager, Amherst Select board, Amherst Superintendent of Schools, Amherst School Committee, and Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee”.

Now leaving aside for the moment that the Select board only voted 3-2 in support of the Override, that statement makes it look as though those important boards endorsed the Postcard itself. Like those political television commercials that now require the candidate to say “and I approved this smaltzy ad” at the end of the commercial.

‘The Amherst Plan Committee’ also raised and spent money before they were legally authorized to do so.

Fortunately we asked our contributors at the very beginning if we should spend all our money now or hold some in reserve for the NEXT Override (everybody except ‘The Amherst Plan Committee’ seemed to get why we specifically used the pleural “Overrides” on the lawn signs.)

The almost unanimous response was to use it all now and they would recontribute the same amount if the Override returns in the next year or two. So we’re ready, and since the second wave of lawn signs had an unusually low rate of theft, we probably don’t even have to reorder any for the next battle.

Although I’m sure ‘The Amherst Plan Committee’ will not make the same monumental blunder twice, and will order lawn signs. Let’s hope they don’t steal our angry bumblebee motif again.


maryd said...

I've been waiting for you to comment on our school committee chair saying, "We've got no money and we really don't have any leadership." It's interesting that the yes side blames the loss on parents not turning out even though we did. They still don't realize how many parents are not satisfied with how they are running the schools, mostly the middle school. I've heard suggestions that maybe they should do a survey but that would probably cost us another $30,000 or so.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, what’s funny is that Mr. Churchill IS the LEADER of the school committee. Kind of a "we have met the enenmy and he is us" routine.

Of course he was directing his ire at the Select board and town manager, but he’s as much to blame as anyone since he's in charge of the schools that consume the lions share of the town budget.

My wife, who only starting paying attention to politics a few months back when she was appointed to the Town Commercial Relations Committee (doesn’t hurt to be an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship) thinks the Override results demonstrate that the School Committee, Finance Committee, Town Manager, and three-fifths of the Select board are out of touch with the voters.

And they are cheerleaders for a select group. The town manager cheers for the Select board, the School Committee cheers for the schools, and the Finance Committee seems to cheer for anybody but the taxpayers.

I hate to say it (as Amherst has more committees than bees have buzz), but we need to form a Financial Task Force comprised of CRITICAL-thinking, business-minded individuals who will work for the taxpayers.

James said...

(new here, hi)

I am looking forward to seeing the other shoe drop - Town Meeting has to approve the budget, which should make for some interesting wrangling.

When I was a town meeting member in another town in Mass the school budget was worked out between the finance and school committees, and submitted to TM as a package. We could not, as a practical matter, open it up - although a faction would always try to knock out a few items just to show they cold do it.

izzy said...

Hey Lar, this is great news! I didn't think there was enough people left in Amherst with that much commonsense. I stand corrected. Congrats on the victory.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Izzy,

Well as you know, like Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, they will be back (although they will not be in as good shape). Fortunately, because of Eric the Rat’s lawsuit the town does not hold elections in the summer so we're safe until the Fall.

Hey James,
Yes Town Meeting approves the budget but now we have a group that has gotten their attention (and most of us are Town Meeting members). The Amherst Citizens for Responsible Change will offer a package of cuts, redirections and some money from the $4.3 million we have stashed in reserves.