Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Illuminating things for you with….


Good afternoon.  If you watched last night’s council meeting, as we suggested you do, you know that the two agenda items we alerted you to didn’t provide much entertainment value.  (If you didn’t chances are that the VOD capability on Cable 3 is still OTL.)

The first, regarding a possible workshop about the MLF with NNEPRA, was rescinded.  The second, about the McClellan Building, offered a smattering of typical GBL rhetoric, but no insights into the final cost of the project, which we were told, should be available ‘next week’ or so.

But there were two items that caught our attention.

The first was a comment by Councilor Ben Tucker, who is nearing the end of his current term, and is not seeking re-election.  He began a riff on the subject of consultants, attorneys, and advocates with this lead in: “as our budgets get more and more constrained….”

Tucker cited as context his ‘six years on the council.’

Well, Side and Tucker have two very different understandings of budgetary ‘constraint.’  But this is typical linguistic license coming from council chambers, where one of the focus group tested winners over the years is ‘we’ve been cutting school budgets FOR YEARS!’, uttered with moist eyes and wringing hands.  Followed by upraised fists and knowing nods from the Mommy Mafia.

So we just took a look at the record to test Tucker’s assertion.  If we take 07-08 as his first year, we find that since then, the property tax rate has increased from $22.20 to $26.54 (~20%), and property tax revenues have increased from $27.8 million to $35.6 million (~28%).  Total spending has increased by ~$5 million in that period.

If this is ‘constrained,’ we can only wonder what he and the rest of the council would have spent if they were ‘unconstrained.’  And how much more our property taxes would have increased.

The other item that woke us up was when Councilor Protocols and Mr. Manager had a little exchange about the split of town finances between the school department, the municipal operation, and county obligations.  There was apparently some disconnect as to whether J.P. had originally asked for the expenditure split, or the property tax commitment split.

To which we suggest, will somebody please provide Councilor Protocols with a copy of town budget documents?  We thought he was around for most of the budget cycle this year, but perhaps he was busy texting, Facelooking, tweeting, or shuffling papers when the budget was briefed, documented, and approved.

Because otherwise, all he had to do was look at Page 3 of this document to get the answer to his question, in either context.

But you know what?  We can just hear him responding to our barb with “I knew the answer; I just wanted to make sure EVERYONE ELSE KNEW,’ which is a tried and true political comeback in cases like these.

So Councilor, thanks for squeezing this terribly hidden data out of the bureaucracy for us and making it public; we’ve had ever so difficult a time trying to find it.


Switching gears, remember when we raised the issue of idling trains and the explanation given?  First, the answer was that at winter temperatures below the mid 40’s or so, the engines need to idle to stop the fuel from gelling, yada yada yada.  Then we remember reading somewhere recently that they had to idle in the summer to make sure the passenger cars were kept cool and food didn’t spoil or some such.

Well yesterday, we happened to be driving down Cedar Street and noticed a train idling away right there at the Park and RIde lot.  It was cloudy, with rain on the way, and no more than the high 50’s in temperature.  So based on the empirical evidence to date, we conclude that we’ve been sold some fine Brunswick Sausage, and that the train has to idle all the time regardless of the temperature.

That’s all we have left on our plate for right now.  But we’ll be back as soon as we find another piece of cake to share.


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