Monday, May 1, 2017

Some of us just never learn; and we aren’t very good at teaching either

We suppose it’s ironic that after something like 10 weeks of absence from our duties here at Other Side, we come to you with a classic retelling of the woes of a head-banger.  For reasons we can’t explain, and no-one else can either, we decided to speak before the town council at their regular meeting tonight (Monday, 1 May 2017).

The results, as we should have expected, were decidely Einsteinian.  Yes, that famous line of his about insanity.  On the other hand, we console ourselves at the moment with another of his best:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Long story short, we showed up at a pretty sparsely attended meeting, with virtually no controversial items (e.g.: bugets) on the agenda.  Accordingly, we hoped that we would not be cut short in our statement, but you guessed it; Einstein’s principle won out.

We showed up with a statement of virtually the same length as every one we’ve given in the past, but with what we believed was a totally different point of view.  No matter; Chair Harris cut us short, even though there was no cue of others looking to waste councilor’s time as we were.

So, pompous ass that we are, with a very flat forehead, we post for you here the entirety of our planned statement, annotated to indicate where we were summarily dismissed because of time limits.

Statement to Town Council May 1, 2017

  • Good evening; I'm Mr. Schaeffer from Crestview Lane. Known as “Mister Grumpy” by some, you might know that I've been publishing a blog for years, though I haven't been very prolific lately.

  • Once I decided to speak tonight, I considered announcing my plans on the blog, but in today's social warfare climate, I decided against it. Who knows how many masked, unruly anarchists might show up to shout me down in the name of free speech? So here I am, unannounced, confident that Brunswick's finest can ably protect us, even while public authorities shrink from their duties elsewhere.

  • My main point tonight is that staff and the council are irresponsibly proposing to spend excessive amounts on road paving, trash collection, and other activities that do nothing to enhance the reputation of Brunswick. What we really need is more visionary central planning; no-one moves to Brunswick because of our streets, our dump, or our police.

  • While there are potholes here and there, none have reached sink-hole status capable of swallowing a vehicle, though Smart Cars should be cautious.

  • Police staffing? Hell, there's no crime in Brunswick, is there?

  • A new dump? We don't need a new dump. If cities and states can defy federal law to make themselves sanctuaries, we can defy it to keep using the same dump. Just rename it 'The Graham Road Garbage Sanctuary.'

  • No; clearly our top priorities must be starry-eyed commitment to idealistic undertakings that elevate our stature among the richest and best little towns in America. Instead of paving roads, we need to pave our path to a glorious future with collective good intentions.

  • Municipal aquatic centers, municipal ice rinks, and multiple new schools are barely a start to a prideful future. By the way, if you believe the aquatic center and ice rink won't cost taxpayers a penny, you probably believe the Downeaster is a break even enterprise. No matter; let's embrace 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' as our new motto.

  • There are other ways we can more visibly spend town resources, or OPM, on becoming the best we can be. Here are some ideas:

    • How about an East Brunswick Library Branch; the vacant Bookland slot in Cook's Corner would be a poetic choice, and $3 million or so ought to be enough to open the doors.

    • The wide open spaces at Brunswick Landing cry out for a grand Community Center featuring indoor and outdoor running tracks; card rooms; workout areas; dog socialization activities; classrooms for cooking and sewing instruction; 24/7 town funded babysitting; and anything else “residents demand,” to borrow an oft heard term during budget season. I'd love a town funded car wash to be part of the mix; imagine how impressed visitors would be as they enter a town full of squeaky clean vehicles, emblematic of community pride. Safe spaces for one and all, including Mr. Grumpy, should be mandatory. Everyone needs to take refuge from time to time, and I see no reason the town shouldn't provide it.

    • A Human Rights Center for advanced research in town-gown relations seems apropos. It's time that we admit that Brunswick is a feature of the Bowdoin Campus, rather than the other way around. This center would affirm our belief that no aspect of our daily lives is immune from government involvement, and ease our realignment to emerging social and cultural standards issuing from academia.

    • Brunswick is noticeably short of museums; a new Task Force could be appointed to suggest one that might raise property values even higher, and increase our attraction to home shoppers.

    • As would a motocross track on the old base property to provide additional recreational opportunities, and a drag-racing facility to make good use of the runways.

    • We could be a leader in social trends by creating a Municipal Medicinal Marijuana Growing area, designed to keep our population mellow and well. Dude!; imagine what we could do with that new revenue stream!

Approximate point at which the Chair declared I had 15 seconds of allocated speech time left.  At which point I counted backwards from 15 to 0 and departed council chambers.

  • There's one more really exciting opportunity for our town to invest in. I've heard that some young entrepreneurs, having noticed how Brunswick residents have cultivated a taste for baloney, are planning to create a new company called Baloney Hogwash. They'll be crafting artisan small batch Baloney in a wide variety of flavors, inspired by local tastes. They're banking on a forgivable loan of $1 million from town coffers to get them started on their can't miss plan.

    • Early flavor ideas include “Brunswick has the best schools;” “back-in parking;” and “Downeaster economic benefits.”

  • You get the idea; instead of dealing with the same-old, same-old spending lines, like roads, trash, and public safety, it's time to think outside the McLellan box. Go for the brass rings, councilors! You know it's what you and the school board really want to do. The hell with tough choices; denial provides no satisfaction!  So stop torturing yourselves. (last sentence added post facto.)

  • Speaking of baloney, have you ever noticed that almost no-one argues that spending more on schools makes them better? Instead they argue increased spending drives up property values.

  • It occurs to me that high property values only accrue when you sell your property and leave town. To those thinking they might want to move here, elevated property values can be a barrier to entry, especially when accompanied by elevated property taxes.

  • Recently I read that Topsham's proposed budget could up their property tax mil rate to $18.49. A home valued at $200,000 would see it's taxes increase to about $3,700. Brunswick's rate at the moment is $29.35, nearly 60% higher.

  • If you believe that property values in Brunswick are higher because we have better schools, and other distinguishing factors, that same house in Brunswick should be worth $250,000, or even more. At our current mil rate, before this year's budget increase, that would yield a tax bill of almost $7,400, or virtually twice the taxes levied by our next door neighbor.

  • In this example, the $50,000 gain in property value would be consumed by higher property taxes in 14 years; please explain how that benefits a local homeowner.

  • And why, if we're paying twice the effective property taxes as the town across the bridge, we still have roads that are an embarrassment, and a school department never held accountable for letting its physical assets fall apart year by year to force eventual replacement.

  • Don't use differential in valuation ratios as the explanation, and how we're fixing that. Sorry: the name of the game is the dollars owed on the tax bill, not the tax rate.

Thanks for allotting me this time.

As you might guess, we never got to voice that expression of gratitude to our betters.

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