Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SELL, Sell, sell the Override

As usual the Gazette on Tuesday gives us one of their typically wishy-washy “on the one hand…but on the other” kind of editorials--although the headline was perfect.

Any Group, Task Force, Blue Ribbon Panel or Ad Hoc Committee--as opposed to just a plain old Committee that has to abide by the Open Meeting Law--formed by Town officials with cherry picked, insider committee members is suspect when it comes to a Proposition 2.5 tax Override.

And the Budget Coordinating Group is the perfect posterchild! They immediately considered raiding the town treasury for $100,000 to hire consultants to lead a “public engagement process,” to package a "bulletproof" Override. Superintendent Hochman even brought a company flack from Unicom ARC to the November 7’th BCG meeting to sell, Sell, SELL the idea.

Unicom’s webpage proudly hypes feedback from a School official that obviously benefited from the hired guns: “They can steer a district through a public engagement process, secure accurate survey data, and guide election efforts to achieve even the most ambitious district goals.”


And after the May 1’st Override failure, Superintendent Hochman and school committee folks are nothing if not “ambitious.”

Select board member Greeney outed the shady aspects of the BCG Override aspirations yet the Gazette thinks, “Ms Greeney needs to exercise caution in making claims that could unfairly tarnish the budget group’s reputation.”

Well, if the Gazette took its watchdog role seriously, maybe Ms. Greeney would not have to act as whistleblower.

So somebody on Masslive/Amherst Forum who doesn’t like my Cherry Hill stance (a golfer who plays there) and doesn’t like the Chinese Charter School my daughter attends (parent with kid in Amherst schools) posted a link to my blog because he does likes that I’m keeping tabs on town officials behind the scenes maneuvering.

So he’s probably a homeowner concerned about yet another tax increase. Pocketbook politics indeed makes strange bedfellow.

And O’reilly wanted me to post a link to the town budget. Not that anybody would read it. So I’m posting a link to BCG meetings minutes. Especially interesting is the 11/7/07 meeting where the PR flak gives a free sample of his propaganda campaign. And I especially like the Town Manager’s comment just after the presentation: “Facts can kill a campaign. Message is critical.” Hmmm….


O'Reilly said...

Publish the town budget on the Amherst.gov website.

LarryK4 said...

The budget is now available on the Town webcite--at least the one the Town Manager has crafted. But his original budget prior to last May's Override had a cut of three firefighters that never could happen (because they had been hired under a Federal grant) so he's a little hard to take seriously these days.

I did update at the end of today's post a link to the BCG meeting minutes (also available on the town website). Hilarious reading.

maryd said...

Wow, the minutes were quite an eye opener. I feel so, so, manipulated!

Although if you want to put a positive spin on it, they really laid out a handy guide to help the "No" side fight it again....

LarryK4 said...

Good point. But after 25 years of running a small business and engaging in small-town political guerilla warfare, I picked up most of that along the way.

So I almost hope the YES side hires this spinmeister company anyway (although hard to believe they can afford them without raiding the town treasury).

I love his advice about “staying on message” and not getting distracted by folks (like me) setting fires. Kind of like the pilots of B-17’s in those early daylight raids on Germany where Messerschmitt fighters swarmed like angry bees and the pilot had turned over control to the bombadier on final approach.

The Norden bombsite locked out the pilot so he HAD to stay on course. Town officials have no such device.