Punch Drunk from Local Politics

I just got home from Tiverton’s financial town meeting and a lunch decompression session. I’ll attempt a more thorough report for the TCC Web site once my disorientation dissipates. I’ll say this, for now: I really did not imagine how far — how dirty — the Democratic Town Committee/union coalition was going to be willing to go. Their strategy, as it emerged, was to scare parents into showing up, delay away half the allowable meeting time, rearrange the order of the meeting in completely convoluted ways. distort the meaning of adopted rules to erase all distinctions between amendments and motions so as to pass their preferred budget, get in one talking point about all the horrible things that will happen if they lose, shut off debate on the expenditure of $25 million — by far the greatest expense of the town — so that their newly frightened contingent (parents) wouldn’t have a chance to hear contrary arguments, and vote for more money for themselves and their pet causes.
If you’ve been to a heated school committee meeting during negotiation season, this was that on steroids. As it happened, we didn’t actually get to a single budgetary vote. But that’s more of a summary than I intended, for now. My intention was to mention an anecdote from the end that will likely amuse Anchor Rising readers:
Not wanting to fight the traffic on the way out, I was hanging around the gymnasium while the crowd dissipated, and I couldn’t believe the amount of trash that people just left lying around. So, I grabbed a garbage bag that was hanging next to a barrel and began walking the bleachers policing the area, as we used to call it in Boy Scouts.
This is so predictable that I wouldn’t dare make it up: An older guy (clearly with family under the town’s employ) berated me, in front of a janitor, for doing his work for him. I remarked how selfish the people who took their garbage with them must have been, at which point, a woman in the same group let loose the common riffs: if you hate the town, leave it, etc. She suggested that I send my children to private school, to which I agreed, if she’d vote for a voucher system.
On Anchor Rising, we talk a lot about the high perspective manifestation of this mentality, and we debate the folks in ties and the organizers, but it’s really something to physically step into a world in which it is actually poor etiquette to get off your butt and pick up trash in the school gymnasium. Not surprisingly, that’s the same world in which opposing people who threaten to cut every program in the district unless they get money to float around to the unions is evidence of hating the town.
I have to say though, that I had it easy, even as one of the most vocal folks on my side. The town moderator and budget committee chairman actually needed uniformed protection as the meeting dissipated.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s quite a face for the people who “love this town” to put forward. And now we have to do it all again next Saturday.

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Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

>>”… at which point, a woman in the same group let loose the common riffs: if you hate the town, leave it.”
With each passing year many taxpayers are taking her up on her offer — not only leaving town, but leaving the state.
They are only buying time, and in doing so locking-in fiscal collapse. There’s a cosmic justice, and they’re going to get theirs in the form of permanent layoffs / reductions in force, pension cutbacks (if not defaults) and their children, no longer being able to attach themselves to a public sector job for life (as among other things the unions will eventually agree to major concessions applying only to “new hires”) being economically exiled to better-run states as they’ll be forced to make their way in the private sector, just like the rest of us … no doubt leading to some interesting and awkward conversations around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Who would deny that thanks to the union-Democrat hegemony, Rhode Island’s future resembles Detroit?

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

” if you hate the town, leave it, etc.”
… um, ma’am, if Justin and his ilk leave the town, who will pay the wages of your family member or friend who is employed by the town?

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Government employee unionists and Democrats are fascists. There is no other explanation for this story.

Joan
Joan
11 years ago

Unfortunately, a lot of folks are upside down on their mortgages, haven’t gotten any increase in their paycheck/SS check, have to pay their own health benefits, have trouble paying their bills and can’t afford to move out of this town.
The amount of disrespect shown to the Moderator and Budget committee members was an absolute disgrace. I was disgusted by the wave around the gym by the “red” shirts. How childish can you get? What kind of example are you to your children on conducting yourself in a civilized manner? This is how you carry on at a serious meeting that affects the people of this town.
I’ll be there next week. I will work hard all week to get other serious minded, fiscally responsible people to attend next Saturday.

democrat
democrat
11 years ago

I think it is very important for Justin to really understand. You turn off a lot of potential allies with your extreme partisian talk. I am a democrat\independant. My whole family, & some friends, all democrats, went today to vote for no more increase in the budget. It is not the time. I believe consessions need to be made by all departments.
Justin your could be much more effective if you were not so hateful & just plain wrong. It is all parties who want a releif from this economic time. I GUARETEE YOU, you would be wildly ore successful if you weren’t so close minded. I am a parent who truelly believes it is overdue that these local union protectd jobs need a major overhall. I mean an ending.
Justin, you need to encompass all people. You do a disservice to your own cause & party, as well as others who also have benn searching for ways to meake a change.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Speaking of disservice, if “democrat” was educated in the Tiverton public schools, he/she should go back and punch the English teacher squarely in the face.

trip
trip
11 years ago

Justin, many people here in Tiverton find that the TCC is not really interested in transparency as much as they are in getting things done the way that they want things done. Look at the whole budget committee presentation. Not really allowing questions to be asked and having a budget created by one person who refuses to speak to the press seems a bit shady to me. The same could be said for last years budget vote which stank of inside dealing by the TCC members. Then we have a town moderator who foolishly states that he will need to consult with TCC member Rob Coulter about the meeting and the agenda. Like it or not the group has become very polarizing, TCC member Caron did praise people for having “the courage” to talk about closing a school and then you guys say that could never happen. Finally Justin, you must realize that your own presence as the TCC webmaster has caused people to stay away from the group. You can call your website non-partisan and non-aligned with any party but I think you can see how silly that is. Maybe some of us “townies” (your term Justin) are a little more clear headed than you give us credit for. We are not all unionist and democrats but just people who care about the town and don’t enjoy being talked to and scolded by the heads of the TCC as if we are to stupid to know whats is best for us.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

democrat:
It was literally the Democratic Town Committee that cooked up and implemented the scheme that we witnessed at the FTM. I should have been clearer about that, and I’ll modify the post.
Regarding my supposed hatefulness, I’ll need you to be more specific. I don’t hate even the architects of this scheme, and I’m eager to be cordial, even friendly, with them whenever we interact.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Trip,
For clarification: I used the term “townie” to describe Mike Carreiro, a man who states his name and address, as required, at town meetings and then his year of graduation from Tiverton high school. Two out of three times I’ve heard him speak at public meetings, he’s referred to the retirees in the gated communities as “a cancer on this town.” If the term “townie” does not apply to that guy — whose wife is a teacher, by the way, so he’s got a direct financial stake in sucking revenue out of the town’s accounts — then I don’t know when it would. If you’re not like that, then the term does not apply to you.
As for the rest of your comment, well, look, we’re not a horde. We’re not a disciplined military insurgency. We’re just a bunch of folks who’ve never done anything like this, for the most part. Yeah, we’ve got a range of backgrounds, tempers, and motivations. That’s to be expected in a grassroots organization.
As for whether I, personally, turn people off, I do my best to be affable, but I believe what I believe, and I say so. I’m certainly not partisan, just straightforward.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

And by the way, the Budget Committee’s actions were never discussed at any TCC meetings, and I, for one, knew nothing about them. My understanding, though, is that Cynthia Nebergall undertook to find cuts that would get the budget below the tax cap, presented those cuts to the committee, they were discussed, and then the committee voted. I don’t see anything at all shady in that.

trip
trip
11 years ago

Justin, I would not say that it is you personally who turn people off but your politics at time are divisive. I find it hard to fathom that you do not think yourself to be partisan. I do not know you personally but what I have seen at meetings and read here and heard on the radio do show you to be straightforward but also partisan. I would say that you seem to be an honest, caring person, beyond what I know of your public persona I would not try to form a judgement on you. Things are getting ugly here in Tiverton, with both sides using talking points and name calling to paint the other as evil. You call people who oppose you, Unionists and others with TCC ties go far beyond that. Just look back to the now defunct comments section from the East Bay papers if you want to see ugly.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

I’m ideological, not partisan. That’s why I not-infrequently wind up with Republicans and TCC members who won’t talk to me…
And I only call people who oppose me “unionists” when they’re, well, unionists. I think the gang of red shirts (literally!) at the FTM suggests the appropriateness of using an aggregate term for the bunch.
As for the Eastbay comments section, I saw that coming. It’s why I stopped participating in discussions, there, some months ago and advised everybody else to do the same. (Not that everybody listens.)
In fact, I’d put forward the stark difference of Anchor Rising’s comment sections as evidence of the inaccuracy of painting me as an irrational partisan.

trip
trip
11 years ago

Justin the other budget members clearly say in the article and letters that they have written that no discussion of the budget was allowed. Nebergrall stated that she does not talk to the press but if you are in the public eye and presenting a budget,especially one this important, I think you owe it to the people to answer some questions from the press. The people who voted for the budget were all TCC members. Those who voted against are not. It seems that the TCC members of our town government have more of a concern about the TCC agenda than the will of the people of the entire town. You believe that those against you are in conspiracy with the unions and so on and so forth, but the TCC motives and actions are above reproach. OPerhaps your motives and actions are but I don’t think some members of your group are as honest and upstanding as you would hope. I however would like to thank you for cleaning the gym, I would never have given you any crap for doing the public a service like that.

trip
trip
11 years ago

I would not call you irrational but partisan I will stick with. Don’t forget last years yellow cards at the meeting, same deal as the read shirts. Why is alright for one side to organize but not another?

Justin Katz
11 years ago

I think the comments from other Budget Committee members have expanded beyond accuracy. My understanding of their complaint is that previous committees have taken every line item up, engaged in on-the-spot discussion, and come up with a number (surely, folks sometimes had secret lists in mind as they argued and voted). This time, one member presented a complete list for discussion. The committee moved quickly because the votes were in favor, but I don’t believe discussion was prevented or stopped. (One of those votes, by the way, was by a non-TCC member who voted with the other side last year.)
I don’t know how you can glean from my statements, above, that I believe everything everybody in TCC does to be beyond reproach.
And I didn’t say that the red shirts weren’t “alright.” I said that it’s not reasonable to object to a collective term for people who show their unity by wearing red shirts to a town meeting.

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

Trip and Democrat:
Can we return to substance here? In Rhode Island, teacher pay is in the top 20%, property taxes are among the highest in the country and student achievement is in the bottom 20% nationally. Are you advocating for a continued exacerbation of these unacceptable conditions in Tiverton?
If yes, why? If yes, who do you envision will pay for all of this spending if the town drives people away or into fiscal instability with yet another year of property tax hikes (and a potentially astronomical one at that)?

trip
trip
11 years ago

Monique, you can and do have that disscusion in many places This discussion, that you are trying to control is about the incivility of the town meeting. I think that Justin and I were having an important conversation about the TCC and its opponents.Many people in Tiverton do not feel the same way that the group does, as evidenced by the turn out and rancor of the meeting. Many people including myself find their claim of transparency and non-partisanship to be somewhat dubious given the website and the attacks made by members of the group using the TCC name in the press and blogs(not this one). Not to mention some of the tactic and actions they have used since inception.If you want to talk about school reform and changes to education go right ahead, but please don’t try to tell others what is of substance and worthy of being talked about.

Stephen Miller
Stephen Miller
11 years ago

Tiverton’s FTM was a shameful exercise in the democratic process! The total lack of civility and mutual respect is yet another indication of the slow demise of democracy in this country!

trip
trip
11 years ago

While I was unable to attend the meeting, I have heard that the mean spiritedness and bad behavior came from both sides. I am smart enough to realize that bad behavior and rudeness take place on both side of the aisle. As I said before one only need to have red the Eastbay comments section to see nasty small minded words from all sides of this argument. I have been trying very hard to rise above that sort of stuff but sometimes anger gets the better of us.

TheTruth
TheTruth
11 years ago

Justin: while this is a small point, it may be indicitive of a bigger issue of how people percieve you as a hypocrite. You make reference to the red shirts and allude to some kind of point that isn’t worth really getting into, BUT, why don’t you mention that the TCC members were wearing their very nice logo’d shirts (yellow), and were asked to bring their postcard (yellow) with them to the meeting. What was the point of bringing the card?? Was it to raise it during the votes?? A sea of yellow was the vision I guess. Also, someone mentioned that this post/blog is TCC free, it is not. And Monique, your “sirs” and “ma’ams” are rather condensending. And finally, thanks for cleaning up Justin. The comment you recieved IS sadly union mentality, but this story isn’t about that per se. Just be honest Justin and stop the silly TCC spin. I do believe that groups like the TCC have value, but when you only state part of the story, are one-sided, and either lie, or truly don’t know the facts, the credibility and value is washed away.

TheTruth
TheTruth
11 years ago

And, just so you know Justin, the man who wanted to skip ahead is not part of the machine. He shows up EVERY YEAR and makes a motion for a vote right after the resolutions. The problem here was that the resolutions was eating up so much time (from both sides), that he just wanted to get the budget done. Since you’ve only been to 2 or 3 meetings, you wouldn’t realize that he has been doing that for 20+ years. Another assumption you’ve made to build your conspiracy case.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Trip,
As objectively as I can assess the situation (and I’m sure belief will fall along predictable lines), from where I sat the undue hostility (as opposed to expected tempers from the microphones in the heat of debate) was almost entirely one sided. Certainly not anywhere near parity.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

TheTruth,
Again, you’re misconstruing my mention of the red shirts. You’re also misrepresenting the yellow shirts. Only a few core TCC people wore them, mostly Dave Nelson, with the intention that they’d be visible to anybody who wanted to vote with them. The cards were the same idea (although I’ve always shied from the “hold the card up” idea).
The motion to move ahead and move the budget may have been made by somebody outside of “the machine,” but the machine certainly didn’t shy away from the move. And it was entirely a machine move to stop debate on the largest expenditure in the budget, which was the single most objectionable thing to happen during the meeting.

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

Justin, ever hear the old saying “you can’t fight city hall”?
Well, guess what? It’s true! I can make a very educated prediction – because not only did my family try to do the same thing, but I know at least a dozen others who burned themselves out doing it….
The Prediction is this: You will never accomplish your goals, and you will get burned out in the attempt, probably harming the mental and/or physical health of yourself and your family.
But here is the good (or slightly better) news…..
Much of the change you seek will happen anyway – with or without you – simply forced by economic times and by less partisan (read: more reasonable) people.
Change always happens slower that most of us predict. As you can see from the comment above, many staunch democrats and independents want to save money and balance budgets just as much or more than you do. But the “system” has a mind of it’s own and will crunch you up and spit you out.
Still, I under the pull of trying. We did it ourselves for years….I ran the “anti” blog in our mid-sized town of GOP-high spending stalwarts, and ended up helping elect a couple Dems so the council was at least 3-2. The Dems voted against some big bonds which needed a super majority, and therefore “saved” the taxpayers money…..but just a year or two later, when the GOP retained one of the other seats, they not only spent what they had missed, but about 4X that!
So keep on seeking fame and fortune as long as you enjoy it for sport and it is healthy for you. But the chances of you changing anything that is not changing anyway is about nil. Take it from one who knows.

Michelle
Michelle
11 years ago

I’m have many issues to address with you and the TCC. First your comment about ” so that their newly frightened contingent (parents) wouldn’t have a chance to hear contrary arguments, and vote for more money for themselves and their pet causes.” the parents of this are intellegent enough to see what is going on and come and support their children and school and yes we wore red as a matter for fact I believe it was a parent who started with the wearing of red. You should be applauding the parents for being their to ensure their children are heard and represented. Funny that TCC acts as the know all and berates all the stand what they believe and assume we are uninformed. Where was the TCC when the new schools were being moved into and needed help? I was there as well as many parents and students helping during vacation time getting the school ready. I watched TCC members come in and walk the schools and critcize and never once opened a box help a teacher or pick up a book. Good for you Justing for finally helping by picking up trash of course you had people watching so had to make it look good. I have lived in this town for 8 years and have volunteered my time and gave back because I have 4 children and want them to know they have to give to get. I wore red on Saturday and will be there this coming Saturday in red again and hoping that all my friends show up with red to support their town and schools and YES my children are proud of me what embarrasses them are groups like yours that don’t relay both sides and takes away from their future. Funny both this… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
11 years ago

I’m have many issues to address with you and the TCC. First your comment about ” so that their newly frightened contingent (parents) wouldn’t have a chance to hear contrary arguments, and vote for more money for themselves and their pet causes.” the parents of this are intellegent enough to see what is going on and come and support their children and school and yes we wore red as a matter for fact I believe it was a parent who started with the wearing of red. You should be applauding the parents for being their to ensure their children are heard and represented. Funny that TCC acts as the know all and berates all the stand what they believe and assume we are uninformed. Where was the TCC when the new schools were being moved into and needed help? I was there as well as many parents and students helping during vacation time getting the school ready. I watched TCC members come in and walk the schools and critcize and never once opened a box help a teacher or pick up a book. Good for you Justing for finally helping by picking up trash of course you had people watching so had to make it look good. I have lived in this town for 8 years and have volunteered my time and gave back because I have 4 children and want them to know they have to give to get. I wore red on Saturday and will be there this coming Saturday in red again and hoping that all my friends show up with red to support their town and schools and YES my children are proud of me what embarrasses them are groups like yours that don’t relay both sides and takes away from their future. Funny both this… Read more »

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“Monique, you can and do have that disscusion in many places This discussion, that you are trying to control is about the incivility of the town meeting”
You ascribe to me a great deal of power that I do not possess, Trip. I am not trying to control the discussion. I’m pointing out that, as the topic of your conversation thread with Justin will not be the subject of the vote at the reconvened FTM Saturday nor will it impact the financial future of Tiverton taxpayers (and, therefore, of the town of Tiverton), it is a secondary matter. Possibly interesting and certainly not to be silenced but definitely secondary to the larger matter at hand.

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

Michelle:
In Rhode Island, teacher pay is in the top 20%, property taxes are among the highest in the country and student achievement is in the bottom 20% nationally. Are you advocating for a continued exacerbation of these unacceptable conditions in Tiverton?
If yes, why? If yes, who do you envision will pay for all of this spending if the town drives people away or into fiscal instability with yet another year of property tax hikes (and a potentially astronomical one at that)?
Thank you in advance for any comment on these matters that you make.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Michelle, I don’t mean this with any malice: I’ve gone to just about every school committee meeting for the past, I don’t know, two years, and the audience has often consisted of me and the reporter from the Newport Daily News. Sometimes union heads stop by. Sometimes a member or two from the Democratic Town Committee. The teachers mostly come when they want to pressure the school committee for more money. One can safely say that most parents in town, while surely intelligent, are not as well informed as you insist. I don’t fault them for that. They really shouldn’t have to pay as close attention as I do. That should be what we have elections and representatives are for. The budget process of public schools in Rhode Island is so complicated, with so many deliberate distractions — I’d say, illusions or tricks — that it takes hours of listening, reading, researching, and laying out of spreadsheets to get a handle on where the numbers are coming from. The parents of Tiverton are being played. Did you notice that the school committee and union failed to reach agreement before the FTM? You know that $440,000 in supposed concessions that the school committee has budgeted as part of its money-saving plan? Not only is that not ensured in the least, but it’s only a little more than half of the increased expenses that the school committee has budgeted for salaries and benefits. And don’t forget that the union weaseled out of a larger copay last year, costing the district $120,000 for which it had budgeted. Think about this: if there were really a treat that an entire school’s worth of teachers would be laid off, don’t you think the union would be anxious to agree to the 5 or 6% decrease… Read more »

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

>>>student achievement is in the bottom 20% nationally.
Are you sure you are not picking and choosing the stats you want, and then using that as a Straw Man?
As a for instance, the Smartest State Rankings – 2007 – at:
http://www.morganquitno.com/edrank.htm
shows RI at #14 and with quite a high numerical rating. Many other surveys of this type rate RI either in the middle of the pack or above.
Yet you, Monique, seem to think you can convince people in a “smart state” that their kids are stupid and they are too!
Well, we are not! There are problems everywhere, but don’t put RI in the same league with Alabama, Mississippi and Arizona, those states you so desire to make it like!
Come up with a reasonable argument based on ALL the facts, not some cherry picking, and people may start to listen.

trip
trip
11 years ago

Monique, the subject of my post and Justin’s blog is not about teacher pay. It is about the meeting on Saturday and the acrimony that was palpable there. Teacher pay and everything you mentioned are important discussions but they are not the topic of this section. What we are all talking about is the way a meeting could turn so ugly.Your talking points don’t really fit the topic in this case. The town is divided and as I said before many people distrust the TCC and have good reason to do so in my opinion.
You say that our topic of conversation will not be voted on or have impact, which could not be farther from the truth. I think many more people might be inclined to listen to the TCC if they were less divisive.The groups claims at transparency are just that, transparent. Many people can see right through that claim due to the groups actions and words.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

I am one of the red shirts that were present at the FTM. I have lived in this town for 14 years and I have two kids: one is in the school system, the other will be entering next year. When I bought my house in 1996, my wife and I didn’t have any kids, but because I was making a long-term investment in the town, I checked out the school systems thoroughly, to the point where I called the superintendent and asked several questions. I also stood proudly with the majority of the taxpayers in this town to approve the bond issue to prepare our schools and our students for the future, fully understanding the long-term financial commitment. I view these acts as “contracts” that I made with the town. I pay my taxes, you educate my kids (and perform other usual public services, but most of all, educate my kids!)
I don’t know if the threats to close the schools are merely scare tactics any more than you do; regardless, if the school system is effectively level-funded for the second year in a row, I consider those contracts to be broken. Now, many of your supporters may have a different view of their “contract” with the town, and I won’t quibble with their right to cherish a belief any more than you should quibble with mine.
This is just so you know where I’m coming from, and where other red shirt parents are coming from. Call me “scared” if you want. In my opinion, my desire to cherish my children and to protect their public education trumps your desire to save a few dollars a week on your taxes. Just saying.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

Now that you know where I am coming from, I disavow any and all sympathy for the idiot who wasted an hour of my time with his ridiculous motion regarding the resignation of Mr. Smith. I’m sure that you are just as eager to disassociate yourself from members of “your side” who shouted down or interrupted speakers, or who mocked speakers from their position of authority at the “leadership table.”
This was an extremely emotional meeting, with tempers high on each “side,” and each side bears responsibility for Saturday’s travesty. Mr. Katz, I compliment you for your calm and rational manner at the meeting. Sadly, you were in the minority, and I submit my own actions following the meeting as worthy of personal shame. To Mr. Smith, I apologize for joining the rabble surrounding you at the table following the meeting. My actions will be more controlled next week, and I hope that the meeting will proceed without the childish behavior that occurred on Saturday.

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

I think the following comment sums up very well the idealism which Justin so claims he represents:
“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
——————–
I certainly could not say it myself in better words. There is nothing wrong with being frugal….but there IS A LOT WRONG with being selfish, and there is a difference between the two. Those who cannot tell the difference might call themselves, like Justin does, Ideologues.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

Finally, before I go to bed (school night and all), I ask you to consider the following. Three dollars per week will buy you:
Coffee and a doughnut at DD
Ten cigarettes
A gallon of gas…
You get my point, and I get yours: where does it stop? For me, it doesn’t stop at coffee and a doughnut, because three dollars will buy me, and the other red shirts, a continued quality education for our children.
You have made the claim that Tiverton schools offer a poor quality education, and in doing so you imply that this is something that concerns you. Will level-funding the schools for a second consecutive year improve their performance? I will be there on Saturday, but I won’t be voting for a 20% increase in the school budget. I’ll be voting for an average 10% increase over the last two years.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

J.:
It would be one thing if that were the bargain being struck. But it’s not.
Taxes have doubled in ten years. Teacher pay and benefits are way out of balance with the private sector, to the point that they’re squeezing out programs and services. It just can’t continue, not the least because there’s no incentive for change that has nothing to do with money.
Let these tactics continue, and in ten years, you’ll be paying more for even less.
And I’m not going to let the $3 per week thing slide. That’s on a $200,000 house. The average house in Tiverton is $307,000. If you make the town’s median income for a man ($41,000) and own an average house ($307,000), the school committee’s request results in about a 1% reduction in your salary. That’s assuming we get every penny of state and federal aid. The way the school committee has phrased its request, that same resident will be liable for over a 2% reduction in his income.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

J.
I’ve taken a 14% reduction in pay in the past two years. My wife’s place of employment closed, and she’s earning significantly less, with greater costs, this year.
The school committee just approved a contract for administrators that holds their salaries level but gives them two more weeks of vacation. (That’s about 5% less work on the year.) It shaves 15 minutes off their work days. It increases their co-payment from 15% to 18%, but moves them to a “high deductible” plan, probably evening things out. Wanna know what a high deductible means to school employees? $250.
J: The money is not going to your children.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

Mr. Katz, I understand and agree to those financial terms to secure the education of my children in this town. You do not. Let’s agree to disagree, but I believe in personal responsibility and I will never hide my beliefs and concerns behind a cloud of partisan disingenuous arguments. Let’s agree to agree on that. Just saying.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Not good enough, J. It is, in fact, a disingenuous cloud to make such allegations without justifying them. Explain to me what is partisan and what is disingenuous in what I’ve said.
Look, I’ve been on these numbers for months… years, now. I’m laying it out as accurately and clearly as I can. I’m not hiding anything that I consider to be inconvenient.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

I will submit to you that the stop sign on your particular idealogical road will be an exodus of wage earning, tax paying families from this town, the broad middle class that pays the vast majority of the taxes. If you think you see a lot of for sale signs now…
Reduced home values and a shrinking tax base will lead to a) reduced services or b) higher taxes.
I’m sorry to hear about your job situation. I have been lucky in that my wife and I have only had to accept salary freezes and longer hours. For the record, I’m all for putting the brakes on the deferred benefits packages that have crushed so many municipalities. But that is neither here nor there. You are fighting an ideological war, and my kids are not pawns.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

No, no, no. You said I was being disingenuous. Tell me how, or admit that you believe that because people with a direct financial interest in having you vote their way have asserted it to be the case.
I am fighting an ideological war, but it’s one with the practical goal of improving education and opportunity. (You don’t think the unions are ideological?)
J., that’s another set of numbers that I’ve been looking at for years: The working and middle classes have been fleeing Rhode Island for much of this decade, and it was most definitely not because people like me are gaining ground standing up to public sector unions. It’s because there’s no opportunity here. The game is rigged.
I don’t want your kids as pawns. The opposite is true. I want your kids to stop being pawns for people who retire in their late ’40s with pensions above the median salary for the state and then run for seats on school committees and in the General Assembly in order to keep the scheme going.
You can’t buy your way out of this spiral. We’ve got to arrest it from the bottom up. If we start now, your kids will graduate from a much better school system into a state with much greater opportunity for the upwardly mobile.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Side note: It’s such a strange aspect of this debate that well-intentioned and clearly intelligent people will assume that folks like me are being deceitful for the sake of self interest and a few hundred dollars, while folks with tens of thousands of dollars in pay and perks on the line are being entirely forthright. That folks like me with strong beliefs and an independent streak are irrationally ideological while folks like School Committee member Carol Herrmann’s husband, Nick Tsiongas — who literally advocates for socialized healthcare — are objective advocates for other people’s children.
Strange.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

The partisan part is easy. You have stated your case in opposition of the proposed school committee budget clearly. You are in favor of holding the line on taxes, and the majority of your beliefs align with those of the TCC. I didn’t think I needed to state the obvious.
You are disingenuous because you have yet to lay any of the blame for Saturday’s fiasco at the feet of those who agree with your partisan position. You criticize Deb Palasch (sp) for her sloppy command of the facts, but you have not made one mention of Mr. Smith’s utterly inept and borderline biased “command” of the meeting. Nor have you criticized any other TCC partisan who behaved poorly. I said earlier that I believe in personal responsibility. That should include the willingness to critique and even rebuke people when they fail or behave badly–even when they happen to agree with your position.
I think I have taken your measure. Now prove me right.

J.Onomous
J.Onomous
11 years ago

Side note: I agree with your fight against the unions. The FTM and the future of the town’s educational system is the wrong battlefield.

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

> It is, in fact, a disingenuous cloud to make such allegations without justifying them
Then perhaps, Justin, instead of quoting the salary figure that ONE MAN earns on average, you should tell us the average household income – since it is a household that pays taxes, not a man.
Family Median income is approx 60K and will probably be higher once the 2010 census comes out.
Also, property taxes are deductible, so you don’t lose the net amount.
Can you do the honest calculations, Justin?
I can only think that you are either deliberately trying to mislead the readers….OR….that you don’t know yourself about household family income.
Which is it?

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

To the above, Justin, let me add that very obvious – that folks with the more expensive houses tend to MAKE MORE MONEY and therefore “lose” an even smaller percentage of their income to that tax increase.
If your made-up “man” who had a family and makes only 40K, but lives in a 300+K house, was real….the tax increase would be the least of his financial problems!
I know – that seems obvious – but maybe not to you.

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

>I’ve taken a 14% reduction in pay in the past two years
Justin, if you put 1/4 the time you are putting into this…into real work that would make money for you and your family….you’d see a heck of a lot more than than 14 percent made up!
Take my word for it – I did it, and it worked.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Frankly, I’ve been skeptical of Smith from the beginning. Unfortunately, so few people are willing to step forward for this sort of abuse that he emerged and won the position before anybody’d had a chance to know who he was. All most of us knew was that his opposition (Mike Burk) was among the most heated and vitriolic opponents of TCC. The behind the scenes fact of the matter is that Smith gave a bizarre interview with the Sakonnet Times (with all of the Rob Coulter references), but after that, Town Solicitor Andy Teitz warned him that he wouldn’t defend him against lawsuits if he didn’t follow his advice. As far as I know, TCC has had very little communication with Smith since then. Sure he bobbled a lot of language on Saturday, but for goodness sake, look at the environment. Within minutes, he had folks calling for his resignation. He never had a chance to get that meeting under control, and he never claimed to be an old hand at mob management. Under the circumstances, I think he did reasonably well, considering that even Teitz looked frazzled. Hopefully this Saturday, Smith will read every movement verbatim. Stick to the Yeas and Nays script. And simply manage the meeting. Objectively speaking, though, Smith is not nearly on my side to the extent that Pallasch is on the other side. I’d be very surprised if he made any rulings in contradiction of Teitz, and I’d put Teitz firmly on the other side. Regarding TCC misbehavior at the meeting, I guess you’ll have to be more specific. Jay Lambert got a little heated, but your side was just about to shut down all discussion of the single largest issue facing the town in any given year. Think of that: shut down debate!… Read more »

Justin Katz
11 years ago

The median household income in Tiverton is closer to $50,000. But as usual, Stuart, your smug arguments are logically in-apropos. The parallel that I was drawing was to a 5% reduction in a teacher’s salary. It makes no sense to count the income of one spouse when speaking of reducing the labor line of the school budget but to count the income of both spouses when speaking of the effect on a voter.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Yeah, right, Stuart. It’s completely inappropriate of me to imagine the person with a median income living in an average house. You want it both ways: imagining two incomes to calculate the percentage of income represented by a tax increase, but only one income to afford the house.
If one spouse loses a percentage income because the schools decrease pay, that cost is borne over two incomes; if one spouse loses a percentage income because of increased taxes; that cost is borne over two incomes. In either case, two incomes can contribute to the mortgage.
But the fact that I find myself trying to conduct a conversation with you is evidence that I should shut down the computer and go to bed. Goodnight.

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