Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

UPDATE: 4:00 PM So Amherst Select Person Stephanie kind of proves my point over at her blog as she, finally, updated yesterday; and when talking about the vote to increase the CPA tax from 1.5% to 3% (she co-wrote a column for this week’s Bully with Alisa Brewer opposing the tax increase and His Lordship Gerry Weiss and his water carrier Diana Stein writing one in support) blatantly admits:

“If we are going to ask people to accept higher tax bills, I think it ought to be for funding the essentials of Town government, not just open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. I worry that making this increase now would jeopardize an override later, if one becomes necessary”

Yeah, “IF” (many people in this town never met an Override they did not want to take out for sushi)

Subject: big time...
To: FCCC Committee (all 10 other members)
Date: Monday, October 6, 2008, 11:51 AM

OK...we have now made the "big time" in Amherst...we are featured in Larry Kelley's blog. http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/ I have been monitoring it ever since I emailed him to ask him if he would consider it. I wrote in a comment so that our actual web site address could be immediately accessible...Larry includes a link but the link says "Just Say No!" which might not be what some people want to hear so they might not click. Plus, it never hurts to be able to put a name to a committee. Check it out!

This makes appearances now in Mary Carey's blog, Stephanie's blog, Catherine Sanderson's blog, and Gavin Andresen's blog. But making Larry Kelley's really gives us a lot of visibility. And, at this point, any publicity is good publicity!
Alison Donta

Sooooo, somebody who got this email from somebody forwarded it my way (actually two people). It’s a public document--since it went to the entire Facilitation Of The Community Choices Committee including liaison, Assistant Town Manager John Musante.

Anybody who uses the internet regularly should know that when you send something to a listserve of 10 people (friends and family, committee members, or terrorist cell) chances are pretty good that some of those people will pass it along to one trusted friend, who in turn sends it along to another trusted friend, who….

But of course I’m glad to help publicize their survey--even if I do think it is flawed because of potential ballot stuffing. Over two years ago Select Man Robie Hubley came up with three non-binding questions concerning the beleaguered budget to put before the voters on the April annual election ballot.

One asked if the town should simply implement budget cuts (level funding), another asked if an Override was the way to go and the third asked if a combination of cuts and tax or fee increases (level services) was the solution. A little over 2,500 people showed up at the polls that year and about 1, 800 participated in the survey.

The results were useless to town officials, as the following year a $2.5 million Override went down in flames. Curiously the FCCC’s s three “scenarios” pretty much mimic Mr. Hubley’s previous questions to the voters.

Scenario 1 Level Funding (cuts)

Scenario 2 Level Services (no cuts, no additions) BUT requiring a hefty tax (or fee) increase.

Scenario 3 Priority Restorations/Additions that would require most of the gold in Fort Knox, or a HUGE Override.

The Bully reports



Alison said...

Thanks, Larry, for continuing to support our efforts (even if you see potential flaws). Also thank you for reminding us (and everyone else) of the recent history of this sort of work in town...it is important to keep this in mind as we move forward. Not only the work that was done but also what resulted from the work.

I also wanted to continue to assure you (and everyone) that we are not a committee hand-picked because we support one particular view of "what Amherst needs." We are not an "override" committee; we are not a "live within our means" committee. You will see both opinions (and all others in between) represented in our group. And we DO want to hear everyone else's opinions...so check out what we have to say and complete our questionnaire!

Alison Donta-Venman, member, FCCC

Ed said...

The thing people fail to realize is that the money simply isn't there anymore. It never really was, but Amherst has lived on borrowed money for the past 25 years or so and the borrowing ended last month.

The local colleges which used to be charities started paying good salaries which were indirectly financed by the student loans of their customers. So you had an income shifting away from the towns in which the graduates would return and to Amherst.

This - both directly in terms of employees having more money to spend and indirectly in terms of college kids needing places to live - served to drive the local housing market. Housing prices in Amherst doubled and then doubled again. Eventually, this was also all borrowed money.

Nonprofits came to Amherst and these outfits lived off the excesses of the now-ended gilded age. They aren't going to be doing as well in future years.

So much as the "128 belt" benefited from Reagan's DOD buildup in the '80s and hence was particularly hurt in '89 when it ended, Amherst particularly benefited from the easy money of the '00s and now will be particularly hurt in the aftermath.

You folk have absolutely no idea of how bad it is going to be. You might even have to start mowing your own lawns -- and as to the cash-hungry People's Republic of Amherst, well....

Tell me again why the town has an ASSISTANT Town Manager????

Anonymous said...

No New taxes for my family thank you, it is time to end the pork barrel spending this town is known for. Again why do we operate three town libraries in a town with three college libraries. Now is the time to examine and change the tax and spend culture that is Amherst.

- Ryan Willey

LarryK4 said...

I always mow my own lawn. And at three-quarters of an acre with a push mower, it's a pretty good workout.

Yeah, the crusty Gazette did an editorial today about the final burial of the Hampshire Community Action Commission, a monster of a social service non-profit that collapsed three years ago of its own inept weight (interestingly, once headed by Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins.)

We have an Assistant Town Manager because folks felt bad he did not get the job as Town Manager when he was in the running a few years back.

Believe me Alison, I'm convinced of YOUR sincerity.

Anonymous said...

The Assistant Town Manager was actually the Finance Director and the retitled the job, and did not hire a new finance director.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and he received a $10,000 annual raise in addition to the fancier title.

Not to mention the extra $10,000 he got to act as Town Manager for three months (plus an extra month of vacation) when Barry Del Castilho flew the coop in April rather than June 30 (after saving up comp time for all those wonderful meetings he attended)

Ed said...

Larry, drive down Lincoln Avenue sometime on a good day. Note all the landscape trucks driving around and such.


Anonymous said...

Plus Ed, Lincoln Avenue is a road that goes to Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass Umass

Anonymous said...

I hope question 1 passes and all the people who voted to cut the flat income of 5.3% sees their real estate taxes spike through the roof.

The referdenum would shift the tax burden from a large number of income earners in the state, some of whom live in NH, CT, and RI to a much smaller group of land owners in the state, check that, land owners in the town.

Let's do the math.

We'll assume the state would reduce local aid by $21 million, and that a majority Amherst residents agreed to make up the diff with real estate tax rather than see their schools and services go down the tubes, the what percentage real estate tax increase would Amherst home owners realize?

A. 30% ?
B. 60% ?
C. 99% ?
D. 150% ?

Q2: Are the same people who vote yes on Q1 also voting yes on Q3?

Ed said...

What you folk simply don't understand is that the rising tide of government has ended.

Lets look at it another way. The state cuts back and the citizens cut back and the town then reduces municipal services to the point where the people -- instead of agreeing to pay more -- run an UNDERride demanding to pay even less for what they aren't getting.

$17K per student? Good lord - what does it cost the Catholic schools and look at how much better they do. Look at all the shiny Town vehicles, not a one of them like the not-so-shiny ones we drive.

You simply can't keep saying "give us or else" -- and should you try the "or else", be prepared for underrides and other further cuts.

And I am not even getting into how the changes announced yesterday at UMass will affect the town because that is UMassUMassUMass although I might remind folk that Amherst College owns more on Lincoln Avenue than UMass does...

Anonymous said...

This the worst type of tax increase because it's just "hand us some money and we'll do with it what we see fit." Preserving open space and affordable housing are opposites so it's really just money for any darn thing you want. House going to be torn down? Hand them some cash. Want soccer fields? Here's a bucket of cash. The people in Amherst are just suckers if they vote for this one.

Anonymous said...

"the rising tide of government has ended."

Ed, you are so full of ignorant platitudes its hard to know where to start.

If you are trying to say that government is getting smaller by design, you are wrong. It is simultaneously growing (IE by $700 Billion for financial system bailout) and shrinking as a result of the declining growth in the economy and declining revenue from taxes.

Try to string together a sentence that is simple and direct and post the high fallutant empty blather somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

George W. Bush to Reaganism: Drop Dead
By David Corn

Remember when Bill Clinton in 1996 pronounced "the era of big government is over"? Liberals were incensed that a Democratic president would bolstered Conservative Talking Point No. 1 and would accept the fundamental tenet of Reaganism.

Well, it turned out Clinton was sure wrong about that. Today, Big Government is on the march, with a Republican administration spending hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street and to partially nationalize banks. So while we wait for the final presidential debate of 2008, here's a question to ponder: is Reaganism dead? Short answer: you betcha.

Ed said...

Simple. The era of the Amherst Town Government having a blank check is over. People simply aren't going to keep funding it. And if you try to punish them by eliminating the services they want, they well could punish back in return.

We will go back to town governments of the 1950s, largely volunteer labor and low pay for those who are paid.

You might even start liking the Boy Scouts again...

Anonymous said...


The difference between parochial schools and privates schools, as compared with public schools, is that public schools have to take special needs students by law, even if they need one-on-one teacher ratios. Their costs would soar if all the special needs students were dumped in their lap.