Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wolves in the fold


So Kathy Feldman has now wimped out and decided not to “shut the door” on an Override this coming year. Looks like that’s a tiebreaker--and this Committee’s ticket to oblivion.

----- Original Message -----
From: Joan Golowich
To: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; RSPURGIN@CLARKU.EDU ; 'Andrew Steinberg' ;
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:56 AM
Subject: RE: inputs for Thursday

Hi All:
I started with the four paragraphs we discussed last night and made some changes based on what I heard then and inserted some other changes of my own. I still do not want to completely shut the door on a possible override for FY10. That decision is for the elected officials.

----- Original Message -----
From: Katherine E. Vorwerk
To: Joan Golowich ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; RSPURGIN@CLARKU.EDU ; 'Andrew Steinberg' ;
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 4:01 PM
Subject: Re: inputs for Thursday


I really like what you, and the Committee, have done. It is strong and direct. It must have been a fruitful meeting.
And I agree with your position on an FY10 override.

They were supposed to be the Leading Edge, Vanguard, Tip of the Spear--the opening salvo in a campaign of Shock-and-Awe to pummel taxpayers and make them surrender to yet another Proposition 2.5 Override this coming year.

Ah, but as the Chinese would say, “be careful what you wish for” or better yet a British take: create a Frankenstein and it could turn against you.

The Facilitation of Community Choices Committee
Summary Findings and Recommendations

Override, Short Term: The Facilitation of Community Choices Committee does not recommend that the Select Board seek an override vote for FY 2010. In the current fiscal climate, the feedback from our outreach efforts indicates that there is little support for higher property taxes at this juncture. It is the opinion of the Committee that a general override for FY2010 is likely to be defeated.

Kind of says it all (lead paragraph no less), eh?

But, like most boards and committees, they had second thoughts about the, errrrrr, directness of the lead bullet for their Final Report, due December 1. Mainly because they know it will be a bullet to the back of the head for next year's Override.

And at last night’s sometimes heated meeting where 7-of-10 members attended, three members strongly agreed to keep in the succinct statements (Irv Rhodes, Stan Gawle, Alison Donta-Venman) and another three strongly wanted it out (Richard Spurgin, Joan Golowich, Gerry Jolly).

Co-chair Martha Hanner sounded like she could go either way. So we had a tie. Members Katherine Feldman (who at a previous meeting said she would not support an Override this coming year) was not present and neither was Isaac BenEzra, who probably never met an Override he did not embrace. So again we’re tied.

Co-Chair Bob Saul also was not present, but in written comments for the meeting suggested: “We blame the public (or at least our perception of the public sentiment). This wording avoids having the committee take a specific stand.”

Yeah, the old blame the public routine.

The Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee meets again Thursday morning for a final crack at the most important paragraph in their entire report. Will it stay or will it go? Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

"there is little support for higher property taxes at this juncture"

They got that right!

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, that's the unfortunate thing: they HAD it right, and now they may get it wrong.

Anonymous said...

this committee was actually the brainchild of jere hochman, who was planning to pursue this approach before he moved on to greener pastures.

i, for one, am tired of the elected, appointed, paid staff abdicating responsiblity to the masses. anyone who's attended town meeting knows that concensus, forget about unanimity, is impossible.

start cutting...

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and if you remember the FIRST thing Jere wanted to do was hire a consulting company (he actually brought one of the flacks to a Budget Coordinating Group meeting)for $100,000 in tax money so they could better Sell, SEll, SELL an Override.

This FCCC group was created as a sub-committee of the Budget Coordinating Group and their Final Report first goes to the BCG even before the Select Board, hence my skepticism.

But, last night they ALMOST turned me around.

Anonymous said...

"there is little support for higher property taxes at this juncture"

Let's see where the support will be for the cuts that will be necessary to town, school and library budgets without an override (or perhaps, the way things sound, even with one). Everyone's quick to say, "start cutting" until the things near and dear to their own heart start to go. The branch libraries, "Nooooo!; the pools, "How will our children learn to swim!!!!!!"; Leisure Services subsidies or Social Service Funding for the disadvantaged, "How cold hearted can you be..!!!!!!; Police or Fire, "Public safety is at risk at current levels of funding!!!!!!"; DPW, "We can't keep up with our roads as it is!"; Town government, "You've already inconvenienced us enough with the unbearable reduction in town hall service hours on Thursdays."; the Schools, "What about excellence, not to mention equity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

Let's see where the support will be for the cuts that will be necessary to town, school and library budgets without an override (or perhaps, the way things sound, even with one).

There is no support for an override and this is telling the people in charge to be wiser with our money. No more white elephants like the money pit Cherry Hill. One gets the feeling that we pay dues not taxes for facilities most of us never use. I have said this before and will say it again. Schools, Public Works, Police, and Fire are at the core of town responsibilities.

We also need to take a look at how they are run, can they be run more efficiently, are there too many directors and so on? Like executives at Toyota the select board should engage in open talks with the ordinary people in these dept's. They often have great insight as to where money is wasted. Toyota proved this with making their company more efficient.

-Ryan Willey

Anonymous said...

"Schools, Public Works, Police, and Fire are at the core of town responsibilities."

And funding them is also the core challenge we face in reconciling our looming deficit. Getting rid of Cherry Hill and other perceived excesses won't begin to balance the budget. So be prepared to kiss even a bit of your "core" goodbye.

Anonymous said...

So be prepared to kiss even a bit of your "core" goodbye.
Prepared we are, but also be prepared to see Dept's that are not at the core be shelved or reorganized.
As I also said before my wife and I will be moving out of Amherst when the housing market is more stable and predictable. This will be my solution to a bogged down inefficient town meting style of government where no one is held responsible for the decisions that are put forth. What are we going to do fire volunteers?

-Ryan Willey

'bach said...

What are we going to do fire volunteers?

maybe start with the 250th art and lit. sub-committee?

Anonymous said...

Damn, Ryan, why move? I am going to stick around for another 66 years and see the change that is going to come. If we , the people, get sick of this form of government, then we need to come together to oust it. Hang in there and join the forces.

Util later.....................

Alison said...

No matter which way the Committee ends up majority-wise on the override issue, there is still a lot more that is discussed in the report. The public was asked their opinion on a wide variety of budget and gap-closing measures and they did give us a lot of feedback. So even if you end up disagreeing with whatever the override decision is, please don't give up on the entire report--read it! There is a lot of good information in there.

Alison Donta-Venman, member, FCCC

Anonymous said...

Many people I know are contemplating moving out of Amherst it is just plan to expensive to live here. Our main frustration is hearing and witnessing how our hard earned money is spent. As our newly elected president said on 60 Minutes we need a common sense approach to solve our problems, amen. That is exactly what this town needs but it seems to be in short supply. Botched soccer fields, Cherry Hill, Lincoln Ave, the list according to myself and many friends can go on and on. The time to act is now so disasters like these hopefully do not have a repeat performance.

Someone once described Amherst as a country club and I believe that they were no far off the mark in saying so.


Anonymous said...

i'm curious why lincoln ave is lumped in with cherry hill and potwine lane? i understand the "good money after bad" with the golf course and soccer fields, but what "disaster" has occured there?

Anonymous said...

when i came to town in 89 my first place was at 318 lincoln ave. i remember rumblings back then about the "traffic" on that road and they were trying to just block traffic from umass, if i recall correctly. the disaster is that there are a bunch of whiners who live on a main artery into campus, and they would rather have a bucolic pedestrian way than a road that services the whole town, and helps keep traffic from other side streets. lately they have forced the town/dpw to deal with their selfish complaints by investing in silly speed bumps and whatever else...which undoubtedly cost the town taxpayer's money, for their selfish little microcosm.

i say, if you don't like the train, don't live next to the tracks.

they seem like a bunch of babies afraid to live in a semi-urban environment. in my view it is a good way to teach the kids to stay out of the road....and to accept that umass is and the town have been growing steadily over the years.

i thought it was hilarious when they staged the picket line protest that no one gave a rat's donkey about.

Anonymous said...

why so bitter? you sound kinda like sarah palin.