A Full Court Press, in Local Terms

Well, it’s some sort of milestone, I suppose, to be denounced by name in a mailing to the email list of Tiverton Youth Soccer (with which my children are not currently involved):

Hi all,
It is that time of the year again…. time for me to urge each of you to attend Tiverton’s Financial Town Meeting. I know, I know, sheesh Deb we don’t like to go to those. They are long and confusing and lots of folks just get angry and yell.
You are right about all that, but here’s the thing – I can think of lots of other things I could be doing on a Sat. morning at 9am, but I do not want to wake up on Sunday morning and hear that because enough reasonable people weren’t at that meeting, a group of extreme, self-seeking residents slashed the town budget by $2 million dollars. It almost happened last year!! It would have been devastating to town services – a closed fire station, no trash pick up, etc. The schools would have had to eliminate anything not considered basic by the state – band, sports, maybe close a school. You all know the things that will go. The TCC contingent on the budget committee already tried for a $1 million dollar cut to the schools and over $250,000 to the fire department. They produced graph and charts and yelled and cut off any that would try and counter the incorrect, skewed or misleading “facts.” Luckily, more reasonable and responsible voices on the committee prevailed. But, now read the letters in the Sakonnet Times from TCC members Justin Katz, Jeff Caron and Tom Parker (available on-line) filled with anger and innuendo and rumors which will stir the pot and get their cut-cut-cut base to the FTM.
I am NOT for higher taxes, but I am for maintaining services. That is what a community does – share the costs of preserving services. The proposed municipal operating increase is .5% over last year, the school increase is 1.48% over last year. These are reasonable and prudent and all have worked hard to keep taxes down while maintaining the services we all want (or at least I want). PLEASE, PLEASE try to have at least one member from your family (or 2 or 3) at the financial town meeting so we don’t wake up on Sunday to find out that our town has been drastically changed. It is only a few hours but will impact the entire town for the rest of the year and beyond. Please call or forward this message to at least 10 others and let’s spread the word. Thanks.
Deb

Oh, yes. Deb would never use anger (unless calling people self-seeking [sic] extremists with double exclamation points counts) or rumors to rile her base audience to the FTM. Yeah, villainizing neighbors to community groups — as opposed to letters to the editor and such — might be a little aggressive, but in order to be offended, one must imagine that we right-wing agitators are merely people trying to do what we believe to be right, not only for ourselves, but for the town, as well, and that clearly cannot be the case in Deb’s aw-shucks world. Never mind that TCC’s position (which may be different than a given member’s) is to “hold the line” by approving the budget as it stands, without any surprise increases.
I do wonder, though, whether Deb’s ever taken the opportunity of a group mailing to warn that the ever-growing remuneration of public-sector unions would squeeze out those “services we all want.” If it’s the Deb whom I believe it to be, she took quite the opposite view with the recent teachers’ contract. So add that to the list of reasons for a community to exist: to provide services to the town, and to ensure disproportionate pay and benefits for union members.
Meanwhile, our old friend Richard Joslin once again appears to have hijacked (or attempted to hijack) TCC’s mailing list:

If you do not want this email, please just delete it.
Once more, the TCC is lying to you. No one is planning to increase the School Budget; we support the Budget Committee on the schools. No one is trying to steal votes at the FTM. That is a paranoid fantasy Parker, Nelson and your TCC leadership are trying to “sell” you. . I for one am sick of David Nelson’s lies, and you should be too. There has been an 8 month campaign to destroy our public school system by cynical people like Mr. Parker, who is claiming falsely this week that people will try to add $500K to the School Budget. And by Mr Coulter who has authored two legal suits- one attacking volunteer counters at the Town Meeting, and one destructive lawsuit which will accomplish nothing but spending your money on lawyers to defend the Town. Do you want you political “heroes” to attack the Town with lawsuits? All we are asking is for all voters to attend the FTM and vote for the Budget already approved by the Budget Committee, Town Council and School Committee. Please attend.
You cannot vote to reduce teacher’s salaries or benefits at the FTM, you cannot vote to change the public pension structure at the FTM. You cannot change minimum manning of the Fire and EMTs at the FTM. Just about no one wants a ladder truck we cannot afford.
But keep on believing the lies of Parker, Coulter and Nelson. The TCC is proving to be a rogue right-wing bunch of idiots. It is an embarrassment.
This is being sent to you because (twice) three weeks ago Mr. Nelson intercepted emails I sent to supporters of the budget approved by the Budget Committee and TIV Town Council and sent my it to all TCC members. He urged you all to go to a non-public meeting to be held about the budget. Only one sad person tried to come, and as it was a private meeting he was turned away. You deserve to know the nasty tactics your TCC leadership practices.
Richard Joslin

Yup. No anger, there, from the man who decries a “right-wing bunch of idiots”! No paranoia from the guy complaining about Dave’s “interception” of an email in which he (Joslin) — whom I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted attempting to spy on TCC meetings — asked all residents to attend a meeting that he hosted and encouraged recipients to forward the invitation.
Joslin never explains for whom he intends to speak with his “we,” but perhaps his extensive network of informants are the reason he’s so confident that “no one” is planning to increase any budgets at the financial town meeting. “Just about no one” wants a ladder truck, and yet enough residents petitioned for one to get it on the FTM docket.
At least Mr. Joslin realizes that unions are an issue, though. Unfortunately, in the cluelessness typical of those comfortable with the same-old governance of Rhode Island and its municipalities, he looks right past the effect that taxpayer pressure can have during negotiations. He has no concept of the importance of the leverage that officials can derive from downward pressure from voters.
And pressure is all we have. The unions may give some slack for this year, but their contracts are typically for three. Thus, at next year’s FTM, any increase given away by negotiators will be declared untouchable. The current budget provides for no increase. That means that we’re seeing a budget unaffected by the unions — and it still represents more than a three percent increase! (Unaffected, of course, except for the retroactive raise that the teachers just got and that carries through to this contract as the new baseline. In the absense of a contract, by the way, I imagine, contra Joslin, that line item is in fact available for modification.)
It’s time to change the conversation and to stop falling for the soothing tones of people who turn their smiles to snarls with a disconcerting ease, depending on whether they’re addressing the opposition or those whom they’d like to lull back to sleep while they make decisions — folks like Yer Pal Deb, Richard the Level-Headed, and Mike Burk, the FTM “moderator” who happens to have been one of the most aggressively anti-TCC partisans to emerge over the past year.

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Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Fascinating. No attempt by those who advocate for ever higher taxes to justify what has been delivered for services or what will be delivered for services or to place the current level of taxation in Tiverton in context to similar towns around the country. Just the bald statement: we need services so we need taxes.
Here’s an example. What has the trend of enrollment in Tiverton schools for the last ten years been? How have overall population levels in the town for the last ten years trended? Now, place those two graphs next to a graph for tax trends in Tiverton for the last ten years. Does the third graph match the other two?

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Would this incident come under Sen. Tassoni’s bill to crack down on misbehavior in youth sports organizations? Let Tass set these guys straight.

Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

I guess the questions I have on this are:
“I am NOT for higher taxes, but I am for maintaining services.”
Ok, me too, if those services are all necessary. But if the cost of those services go up, how do you pay for them? Don’t you have to raise taxes? So if you’re for maintaining services, then aren’t you really for higher taxes?
“the school increase is 1.48% over last year”
How is this possible in Tiverton? Every other teachers’ contract that I’ve read gives the teachers about 9-10% more money in their check every pay period. So if the salaries are going up by that much, but the overall increase is only 1.48%, there must be some heavy cuts elsewhere. What is being cut from the schools to make up that difference? Or is there really just no increase for teachers, step or otherwise?

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