Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Half Way There

 Town Meeting (on a voice vote) approved $26K for hand held voting devices

Last night Town Meeting meeting dealt with almost half (7 of 15) the articles on the fall warrant and only screwed up one of them (maybe two if you're a Patriots fan); meanwhile Charter change enthusiasts who wish to terminate with extreme prejudice the esteemed institution report they are half-way to the goal of 3,215 voter signatures needed to put the change question on the ballot.

 Select Board unanimously recommended approval of Capital Stabilization Fund

Town Meeting failed to muster the two-thirds vote required to create a seperate "Capital Stabilization Fund" to squirrell away money for the four mega-building projects on the immediate horizon: new Fire Station and DPW buildings, expansion of the Jones Library and the new mega school the Amherst School Committee will support later this evening.

The original "placeholder" figure used by Finance Director Sandy Pooler was $57 million for all four, but only $7 million of that was for Wildwood School renovation.  And tonight the School Committee will vote to support a plan (new mega-school) estimated to cost $20 million.

 Town currently has $9.9 million in savings

Which gives you an idea of what all four of these projects will cost if they ever get done.  The new South Fire Station, for instance, has been in the hearts and minds of South Amherst residents  for over 50 years now.

 If you can't trust the Finance Committee who can you trust?

Both the Select Board and Finance Committee supported the idea unanimously.  But conspiracy theorists on the floor of Town Meeting thought it would tie future Town Meeting's into supporting the as yet not-in-the-pipeline building projects.

Some of those folks would much rather have the money available to feed unicorns.

 Test question

After a ten minute or so hands on demonstration that actually (mostly) worked, Town Meeting overwhelmingly supported  the bylaw change required to allow electronic voting and then quickly followed up with near unanimous support to spend the $26,000 necessary to purchase the devices. 

Fortunately the gizmos, which will see first official use this coming spring, can be repurposed once Town Meeting has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

And Town Meeting also overwhelmingly supported borrowing $200K to renovate the Amity Street parking lot dead in the center of town.  Good news for struggling small businesses located in the high rent district.

Amity Street lot. Jones Library top center


Anonymous said...

Town Meeting as a body did not believe in the principle that it's a good idea to set aside money earmarked for expensive capital projects in the future.

One member stood up and argued that Town Meeting, if it had done so, would have been actively misleading the public about the actual costs involved.

In other words, the sound money management proposed by Select Board and Finance Committee is transformed rhetorically on the floor of Town Meeting into a devious attempt by those boards to railroad the Town on capital projects, and to deceive the voters as to their price tags.

Got that? Is anyone following this? Hello?

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree. The money is still there for capital projects. It's just not in a separate fund. Some thought a separate fund was a good idea. Most thought a separate fund was unnecessary. Everyone had good points. Please don't rush to demonize people who have different viewpoints. If you think town meeting is terrible, this isn't a great example to hold up.

Anonymous said...

Many Town Meeting members are too easily swayed by a single negative voice. They succumb to a mob mentality based on their affiliations with other members, and act out of fear rather than rational thought. Actually this is the case for human beings in general. I'm not sure why we think town meeting would be any different.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:52 am:

It's the characterizing of the motives of SB and FC members that I heard from the floor last night that bothers me. So the "rush to demonize" started there, with repeated remarks about claimed deceptions and political railroading. Ms. Gray indicated that a separate fund would mislead the public as to the actual cost of the plan. I heard that, and Scott Merzbach reported it that way in the Gazette.

I think that Town Meeting needs to be followed carefully by the voters of the Town, the ones that go to the polls and elect the same members year after year.

And, unlike you, I sign my name,
Rich Morse

Kevin said...

The Finance Committee clearly stated that the state looks for a Capital Stabilization Fund (or something like it) when considering funding for capital projects like a fire station or school. As John Musante pointed out, Amherst was turned down (twice) for funding for Pine St because Town Meeting failed to pass "Smart Zoning" under MGL 40R. Failure to establish something as mundane and harmless as a Capital Spending Stabilization Fund will not only cost the Town $9,350 (a year) in lost interest earnings (by leaving the money in the regular fund where it earns less interest), but may well jeopardize future projects. Pine St ended up two years late (while the Town raised funds through a bond issue) and had to be paid for with money out of services. Services for the entire town, not just North Amherst and Cushman. This is called "no fiduciary" duty, where people only care about themselves. In 30 years, when we see the result, they will all be gone. Why should they care? So will I. Why should I care what I leave my grandchildren?

Anonymous said...

I'm fairly sure these voting devices could be replaced for very cheap using smartphones and an app like surveymonkey. If Town Meeting members don't have smartphones, they could be provided for around 30 dollars a piece (check out Blu Dash Jr phones). Turn to UMass Computer Science to both save resources and create research opportunities for a CS student.

Anonymous said...

It looks like a Jitterbug phone. Should be manageable for most TM members. But I still can't hear the dang dial tone. Is this thing on?

Anonymous said...

A) change the govt. The open town meeting is NOT representative of the town anymore.
B) The fact that 50 abstained from voting for the Patriots proved A

Anonymous said...

Go Eagles!