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.