Wednesday, January 2, 2008
And the winner is...
Okay if the bricks-and-mortar Media can recycle the tired, traditional, Top Ten stories of the past year I suppose this blog can name the single most important story in the People’s Republic of Amherst for 2007. Of course if I were a clever blogger you would have a drum roll MP3 file to click.
The May 1’st Proposition Two and a half Override FAILURE. I emphasize failure because if it had passed the story would have been one of those journalistic “dog bites man” stories and would barely have made anyone’s top-ten list BUT...because it failed in education oriented, overly enlightened Amherst it's a “man bites dog story.”
Why did it fail? Let me count the ways! The oldest martial arts truism in the 'Book Of Secrets' unequivocally states: “Never underestimate your opponent.” In this case, Overriders didn’t even know they had opponents until after heavy artillery had been brought to bear.
With ample ammunition: like the $4.3 million Amherst had hidden in reserves thus translating to town officials wanting taxpayers to consume their savings so the town could keep money stashed in its Stabilization and Free Cash accounts (currently at $3.9 million.)
The Town Manager made the rookie--throwback to the 1980’s--mistake of threatening cuts to Public Safety that he would never implement (although, unfortunately, Police did take a hit); and he turned down a guaranteed $30,000 annually for a retched municipal golf course that squandered an average of $100,000 per year for six consecutive years.
And for some inexplicable reason all the Heavy-Hitter, Usual Suspects in the 'Save our Schools' crowd let a guy who had absolutely no political experience whatsoever run their inept campaign.
Overconfident Overriders failed to order lawn signs; and that monumental mistake plus some immature High School kids stealing the “No More Overrides” lawns signs the first night they sprouted all over town, combined for a Perfect Storm of publicity. One clueless kid was caught by police after dropping his cell phone and paid $250 in restitution that Taxpayers for Responsible Change donated to local charities.
Of course all the dire predictions failed to materialize and the Regional School finished the year with an extra $1 million left over in their operation budget (which they promptly spent) and no teacher layoffs. Now we learn Amherst taxpayers subsidize the Ambulance service we provide to nearby towns and Umass by about $650,000 per year. And those empty outreach buses cost just over $100,000.
Thus, town officials have their managerial work cut out for them in 2008—especially since an Override is out of the question. But hey, that’s why we pay them the Big Bucks.
My Christmas wishes (A leprechaun granted me three) for next year: The Grinch/Scrooge Town Manager learns from his most recent mistake and axes the tax on our Boy Scouts Christmas tree sales; Amherst police catch the culprit who stole money destined for children from the Christmas light display on Whippletree lane; and the Chamber of Commerce actually decorates downtown Amherst like an American town rather than a North Korean village.