AllenN's blog

Why the long face?

A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender asks, "Why the long face?"

The stock market goes up, the stock market goes down. Lately, it's been
going up and up and up.

Isn't that good news? Why are Republicans always so pessimistic? What gives?

I am a naturally optimistic person but I definitely feel gloomy about our "recovery." Let me try to explain why.

Problems with full regionalization of schools

I must confess. I started out as a regionalization supporter but with a few misgivings. I've attended many of the regionalization subcommittee meetings and those misgivings have grown. I think voters should reject the current plan to fully regionalize the schools.

1. Real savings come from real efficiencies.
The way you save real money here is not by cutting four positions (which is the number of positions that are estimated to be saved through regionalization). The way you save real money is by closing a school.

Acton teachers make more in retirement than they do working

Let's go back 35 years.

Back in 1980, a teacher's starting salary was probably about $20,000 a year. If they worked 30 or 35 years, they could earn a decent living performing an important function in our society, educating our children.

Thoughts on School Custodian Wages

Wages in our school system are high. Most of us probably know that, and many Actonians support it. They attribute our student's high test scores to the caliber of the staff, which I'm sure is a factor. But when does "high" become "too high" and how high must taxes go before we decide that they are unfair to those residents without kids in school?

Budget Process Still Broken in Acton

I am working on a long article on costs and spending in Acton, but wanted to first post something about how our budget process works and why it is broken. If you have volunteered for town government committees, this will be information you already know.

Tax Freeze Fails at Town Meeting

Charlie Kadlec and I tried hard to stop the property tax increase in Acton. We made a presentation to Town Meeting to use some of our reserves instead of raising additional property-tax revenue next year. This would freeze tax rates at this year's level, saving the average homeowner $250. The measure lost.

State Tax Increase Only $500 million

Taxpayers got great news today when they learned that the legislature was going to raise state taxes by "only" $500 million. Governor Patrick had proposed about $2 billion in new taxes and he sounded very serious, so there is definitely no manipulation of expectations going on here.

Vote No on Warrant Article 35

Acton's Town Meeting Warrant Article 35 is to regulate the "collection bins" in town. These are the large boxes that are often in parking lots where people can leave their used books or clothing. This proposal should be defeated at Town Meeting, which starts Monday, April 1st. (Article 35 may not be heard until Tuesday or Wednesday night).

Kelley's Corner Development a Potential Safety Hazard

The proposed development of Kelley's Corner, as described at a public forum by Acton's 2020 committee on March 7, 2013, contains a major safety issue that the Committee has not addressed. For this reason alone, until the issue has been squarely addressed by the proponents, Town Meeting should vote against funds for further development at Kelley's Corner.

New school regionalization plan remains flawed

The School Committee's Regional Expansion subcommittee (RSDSC) has decided to recommend to the Regional School Committee (SC) that it should proceed with the Special Town Meetings in Acton and Boxborough, probably in early June, to request a full regionalization of the schools. They are now going to visit the major boards (Selectmen, Finance Committees) to get their support for the plan.

Why I cancelled my Boston Globe subscription

The Boston Globe is New England's premier newspaper. We all know that newspapers have fallen on hard times, with severe declines in print advertising and readership. I would normally subscribe just to support the endeavor. But I recently cancelled my subscription to the Globe even though I loved reading the newspaper, and the reason is that the Globe has utterly failed in its central mission to oppose government power. I can no longer financially support them.

Boondoggle Corner

The proposed renovation of Kelley's Corner (Route 27/Route 111 intersection) in Acton is the town's latest boondoggle.

Our town leaders have a new strategy for getting approval to spend taxpayer funds. They secure a small sum to get started, like $50k or $100k, which no one seems to mind because it is just to "do a study."

Then they hire a consultant, and the consultant strongly recommends going forward on the project du jour. This year's new project is a retread: fixing Kelley's Corner.

Acton to hit $10,000 Club!

Thanks to the tireless work of our town leaders (past and present), Acton can proudly claim a dubious new honor later this year (FY14): membership in the $10,000-a-year property-tax-bill club.

King Patrick

Deval Patrick has declared himself King of the Commonwealth, and the people are rejoicing.

Just prior to the Friday snowstorm, when the Acton schools were declared closed before a single flake had fallen, Governor Patrick mandated that all non-emergency vehicles stay off the road.

That is wise advice, considering the coming storm, the cold, and the wasted time trying to plow streets with cars stuck in the middle.

Get ready for the tax increases

Big taxes increases are on the way. We heard President Obama tell people that the "millionaires and billionaires" were going to have to pay more, but everyone's taxes went up on January 1st, and there is much more pain to come. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported that many union members are now beginning to realize that Obamacare is going to cost them a lot more and attempts to get additional federal subsidies are likely to be rejected.

Can we agree that capitalism is better than socialism?

Believe it or not, there are many people in Acton who honestly believe that socialism is a better, fairer, and more "just" economic system than capitalism. I'm not kidding. I base this on the overwhelming vote for President Obama. There have got to be hundreds if not thousands of people in Acton who believe moving the country further down the socialist path is a good idea.

And it's not just politics at the national level. Many of our state legislators embrace higher taxes, more regulation, more safety-net spending, more public workers, and more government interference in our daily lives.

Eldridge caps legislative career with bold new law

State Senator Jamie Eldridge has filed legislation to protect pets left behind in abandoned buildings, according to the Acton Patch website. (http://acton.patch.com/articles/death-of-abandoned-dog-spurs-legislation...)

In the press release that followed, Eldridge said that this bill represents the highlight of his career. "Think of how many abandoned buildings there are with pets trapped in them. This is why I filed this bill. I'd like to see this bill become law in all 50 states. If we can save just one pet a century, it will have been worth it," he said.

Patrick Stuns Taxpayers

Governor Patrick will stun taxpayers during his State of the State speech tonight, when he announces over 30 Billion-dollar initiatives. This follows the two Billion-dollar proposals he unveiled in the last three days, an extra Billion a year for transportation and an extra Billion a year for education.

Problems with infrastructure spending at the DOT

Governor Patrick's Dept. of Transportation (MassDOT) announced today (1/14/2013) several major new initiatives and proposed additional spending on transportation and infrastructure. These "investments" cannot be made within the existing tax revenue, so the proposal will certainly require a major tax increase or two. The proposed spending is an additional $1 billion per year over the current annual appropriation. The total state budget is around $32 billion, so this would be about a 3.3% increase in the entire budget just for transportation costs.

Is Full School Regionalization Worth It?

Acton and Boxborough have been exploring an expansion of the school regionalization agreement to include all grades K-12. Currently, the regional system is grades 7-12.

This would be a big change. In Acton, we have five elementary schools and we've spent a lot of time and money allowing each school to create its own identity, its own fundraising, etc. Would any of these efforts be at risk?

More on You Didn't Build That

I have some more thoughts on Senator Elizabeth Warren's and President Barack Obama's comments on what entrepreneurs owe society for their success. Both politicians have argued that businesses need to pay more because society helped build their businesses.

As I've said previously, no one is questioning that society provides an infrastructure that allows commerce to occur. That is one of the functions of society...why we even have one. (Safety is another reason.)

Time to Jump Off Cliff

If I hear the phrase "fiscal cliff" one more time, I think I'll have a stroke. Who came up with this cliche anyway?

Last year, as part of the deal to increase the debt ceiling, the two sides decided that if they couldn't agree on a new deal by now, then automatic spending cuts would ensue, and tax increases that were already scheduled for January 1st would be allowed to proceed.

A Million for Everyone

I'm not an economist, and if I were, I'm sure condolences would be in order. These poor people seem to have really no clue about our economy or the world economy. They all missed predicting the greatest recession in 80 years and can't agree on basic economic policy. Is our economy improving? Or are we about to collapse? Just look at the wild swings of the stock market and you might conclude that we have a perfect case of the blind leading the blind.

Acton's OPEB problem may get worse

There are two possible developments to Acton's OPEB liability. (OPEB refers to Other Post Employment Benefits, or the cost of health insurance for retirees).

SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMENDATION INADEQUATE

The Lottery Winner's Paradox

We spent part of the Thanksgiving break in New York City, dreaming of what we would do with our $325 million Powerball winning ticket.

Playing the lottery is typically a very poor bet, but people who win millions of dollars off of a $2 or $20 investment are not too concerned, and this goes to the paradox of how these games are designed, run, and promoted by states and why players are not more disturbed at how the games are run and prizes are distributed. Why do people play is the question, and should the state be promoting such a poor "investment?"