Back in the Town Hall
Missing a town meeting or two reminds the active citizen how nice it is to have nights at home. Ah, well. If we’re going to have a democracy…
When I walked in (yes, a few minutes late) RI Rep. John Loughlin (R., Tiverton, Little Compton, Portsmouth) was giving the council the newly regular update of happenings at the State House. Now, Wayne [somebody] is describing the state’s stimulus-related activities. Councilor Louise Durfee asked whether the money-related decisions will be made by the General Assembly or ladled out after the session’s end. Loughlin answered, “Yes.” Both methods will play a role.
Just an observation: Councilor Jay Lambert asked Loughlin about state aid (receiving no concrete answer), and jovial comments from Durfee thereafter gave the impression that something has changed in their relationship. Since the last meeting that I attended.
On state aid and the financial town meeting, Durfee told Loughlin that the town is considering giving the legislature a bill for spending needs or demand a change in the financial town meeting’s date.
TCC member Joe Souza just asked the town council to request that Loughlin introduce a bill to end binding arbitration for police and fire. Souza: “We’ve heard the town council complain that they have no control over the budget.”
Town Administrator Jim Goncalo informed the council that the governor has offered to reinstate some of the state financial aid to the town… but only if he can use stimulus money for the general fund.
This issue seemed to be raised mainly to offer another opportunity for councilors to mention postponing the financial town meeting.
The town recreation committee is requesting permission to put up outfield banner ads for the Little League fields in order to fund capital projects. They’re estimating that 20 banners will generate $20,000-$25,000 per year. The committee sees the practice as the norm.
Louise Durfee is objecting that allowing advertising puts the town on slippery slope as other leagues come forward for similar treatment. “We’ve kept our recreation areas free of commercialism.” Council President Don Bollin is getting pretty fired up about the visibility of the signage.
Hey, here’s an idea: Let’s raise taxes! It’s almost the same thing, only the people paying the money get no advertisements in return.
Lambert suggested trying one field for a year. Councilor Ed Roderick is partial to the slippery slope argument.
Durfee moved to reject the proposal. Lambert amended to make it a one-year, one-field experiment, but received no second. All but Lambert voted to reject the proposal to place green signs with yellow letters (lettering only visible within the field) in order to build a new concession stand that isn’t rodent-infested.
Have I mentioned that the town recently approved raises for AFSCME employees? Maybe we should make them wear advertising buttons on their shirts.
If I had time, I’d prove a point by standing near the outfield fence with a handheld sign for one of the organizations with which I’m involved and see if the police come after me.
Jay Lambert and Ed Roderick are about to move to postpone the financial town meeting to allow for more information to be available.
Actually… Lambert’s making the point that all estimates are for tax increases below the 3050 cap even with the state aid listed as zero dollars. Consequently, he’s proposing to go ahead with FTM as scheduled, where town officials would lay out what will happen with any state money: half to the reserve fund and half to tax relief for the town. “A lot of people may not trust us on a continuance.”
Durfee wants to recess a meeting to “level the playing field.” At the latter point, we’ll have facts that we don’t currently have, on which list she includes labor agreements. She argues that the low tax increase currently on the table provides for no increases for any employees. Regarding negotiations: “Changes we want in contracts, we may need to give a little to get it.”
They (i.e., Durfee and her backers) just want to give more away to the unions than they should, and they don’t want the citizens to feel that they have any say in the budget.
The solicitor (not Teitz) is suggesting that the General Assembly may lack the authority to permit the town to change the date of the FTM.
Durfee interrupted to argue “that doesn’t ring accurately with me.”
Councilor Cecil Leonard just noted another instance of numbers games in the low, low budget: Revenue projections that are dramatically higher than history, such as a jump in mooring fees from $3,500 to $45,000.
He’s also arguing that postponing the FTM will result in unrest. He cited the 58% of people who rejected the proposal to let the town council decide the budget.
Chris Cotta took his regular turn at the microphone to suggest that nobody’s trying to fool the taxpayers; they’re just trying to have accurate information for the taxpayers. I’d suggest that the only information that they want to feed the taxpayers is how much they have to pay for signed union contracts.
Durfee moved to proceed in seeking legislation that would postpone the FTM until Saturday, September 12, pending a legal decision that it is legal to do so. Just curios: when do our seasonal retirees leave town?
If this passes, I think my summer may be devoted to campaigning to cut a double-digit percentage from the budget.
The council voted to have a special meeting next Monday, at which time, the solicitor will have an opinion, and they’ll take the vote on postponement then.