Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Does DiNatale value streetlights over firefighters?

Roughly a month ago I wrote this post, about a couple of city councilors making fun of Marcus DiNatale for being an annoying, hypocritical buffoon.

If you recall, the issue at question was the whole streetlight idiocy, and DiNatale wanting to raid the city's free cash in order to keep more streetlights on. Stephan Hay and Jody Joseph then made fun of him for being a self-ordained "fiscal conservative" while being so eager to spend the city's free cash, and also for being an oppositional dummy.

Good times...

Now it's a month later, and we have this story about the city council transferring $91,000 from free cash to pay the city's firefighters. You just know that DiNatale will have something stupid to say about it, and he delivers right off the bat!
"I'm not crazy about taking money out of free cash," said Councilor at-large Marcus DiNatale.
Huh? Where did the freewheeling, free cash-spending Marcus of late March go? That guy would have been totally on board with this plan!

Maybe he just doesn't think firefighters are as important as having some extra streetlights on? Or maybe he's hoping that the light produced by burning homes will eliminate the need for more streetlights? Who knows?

He can believe whatever he likes, but I have to disagree on this issue.

See, if my home is on fire, then I really don't care if the sidewalk near it is well-lit. My bigger concern would be getting rid of the fire, which is where the firefighters come in. It's considerably more important to me to have a home that isn't just a smoking pile of rubble than it is to not stub my toe on a dark sidewalk.

DiNatale's stated reasoning isn't along those lines, of course. Rather, it's a fine example of a dumb idea couched in reasonable-sounding language (like most politics, really).
DiNatale said three budget line items have had money left over in them at the end of the year for each of the last three years.

Those include accounts in the building, health and employee benefits categories.

"Those three accounts, I believe, can cover this overage without using free cash," DiNatale said.
Golly, that almost sounds reasonable on the surface. Well, if you ignore the fact that he's relying on a speculation that maybe there will be money left over at the end of the year.

This argument was pretty-well eviscerated by Mayor Wong.
But Mayor Lisa Wong urged councilors not to support DiNatale's plan.

Wong said the fiscal year is not over, so it is not definitive those accounts will remain where they are. Furthermore, Wong said if those accounts do under run, any money left over would go back into the free cash account.

"At this point it doesn't make sense to transfer money out of those departments," Wong said after the meeting.
Ouch. That's eminently sensible.

If they use free cash and DiNatale's three cited accounts end up with extra money, it'll go back into free cash anyway. Which means what DiNatale is suggesting is basically a stupider and more limiting way of doing the same thing Wong is proposing.

Hmm, if that's the case then why would he be opposed to it? Oh, maybe late-March Marcus is back!

Let's not forget about what Jody Joseph said back then:
Ward 6 Councilor Jody Joseph said he was "tired" of hearing DiNatale criticize Wong.

"I'm constantly hearing the same thing, 'My way is right, her way is wrong,'" Joseph said.
This leaves us with three potential explanations for DiNatale's inconsistency.
  1. He could legitimately believe that raiding free cash to turn on a few streetlights is more worthwhile than using it to pay firefighters.
  2. He could reflexively disagree with everything the mayor supports, just to be a dick.
  3. He could actually not believe anything at all, and just grandstands about any issue he thinks might appeal to local dimwits, in order to get his name in the paper and further his political career.
Whichever of those is correct (I vote for all three), I sure hope he keeps it up.

Not for the good of the city, mind you. Being obstinate doesn't really help the city, as far as I can see. No, he should keep it up because after the disappearance of Rachel, Fitchburg is in desperate need of more insanity in its politics. Because it's funny.

Alternately, he could adopt sensible positions and actually study issues instead of just being a reflexively oppositional nuisance about everything. Then he might actually be well-respected and get something worthwhile accomplished. But where's the fun in that?

Stay the course, Marcus. For the comedy!