Tuesday, May 26, 2009


City Councilor Kevin Starr has done something that I didn't think anyone on the City Council had the balls to do; he has proposed a Prop 2 1/2 override for Fitchburg.
Ward 4 Councilor Kevin Starr said he'd like to see an override question be put on November's ballot to avert deep cuts in public-safety departments.

"So many people have strong opinions and their voices need to be heard," Starr said. "The choices shouldn't be left up to 11 people on the council. They should be decided by an entire city."
Makes sense to me.

The city needs money, and a way to get it is through a Proposition 2 1/2 override. It certainly seems like the sort of thing that's at least worth exploring. If the voters go for it, then it can help fix a lot of problems. If they don't, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Councilor Jody Joseph sounds like he's on-board with at least having a vote.
Ward 6 Councilor Jody Joseph said he doesn't see many places in the budget to cut.

"I've been through the budget and to me, to cut any more would be taking something that's already bleeding to death and cut it even more," Joseph said.

Joseph said his priorities are not only in the public safety departments, but the human service departments, too.

Joseph said the only option besides cutting is adding new revenues.
Joseph's quotes here address what will most likely be the biggest complaint about an override (besides "I don't want to pay taxes, waaah!"); the idea that it's a lazy way to get around cutting junk from the city budget. There's only so much junk in the budget in the first place, so cutting only works to a degree. After that, you need revenue.

Of course, not everybody is going to be so accepting of the idea.
Ward 2 Councilor Norman Boisvert said he would not support an override.

"Once you add taxes they never come off," Boisvert said.

Boisvert said the city's fiscal problems will not go away next year, or the year after.

"Are we going to have an override every year?" Boisvert said. "Maybe we should just learn to live within our means."
Or, you know, we could understand that Prop 2 1/2 is inherently flawed and counterproductive and look for ways to work around it?

There have been nearly 4,500 attempts (about 1,800 successful) to override Prop 2 1/2 it since it first became possible to do so in 1983. Does that sound like a law that's benefiting communities, or one that's standing in their way?

City Councilor Solomito also weighed in with a bit of stupidity:
Ward 5 Councilor Joseph Solomito said he wouldn't support an override either.

"I think the people have already spoken," Solomito said.
Attention Fitchburg: All future elections are hereby suspended, because Joseph Solomito thinks that you've "already spoken" about everything, and your decision is whatever Solomito says it is. Solomito will be declared councilor-for-life, because if he was able to get elected one time, that must mean he'll get elected every time he runs in the future. Representative democracy is for wussies.

Incidentally, the public perception is arguably that an override can't pass. I don't exactly know why this is the public perception, but it probably has something to do with the loud and incessant whining of the anti-tax brigades.

Luckily, we're not dependent on public perception for our facts here, and can just look at these statistics on overrides from the Mass. Department of Revenue.

Fitchburg has only had one override vote on this list. It was for fiscal '92, seeking $200,000 for ambulance services. It lost almost 2:1. But that was nearly 20 years ago. During the 90's, overrides didn't fare well in general, with 1,843 attempts being defeated and only 931 attempts passing.

Now times are different, so let's focus on the years just from 2000-2009. Things have changed pretty dramatically. From 2000-2009 there have been 1185 override attempts. Of those, 580 were defeated and 605 won.

You could perhaps argue that the dramatically lower number of total override attempts explains the wins. Maybe people are less likely to propose overrides after the drubbings of the 90's, and only propose ones they think they can get support for.

Maybe so, but it's already been proposed. I don't know what Starr's thought process is, but I doubt he would have proposed it if he thought it was doomed to go down in flames. So we're already past the first step, and overrides clearly don't carry the same "no way will that happen!" stigma they had for many years.

So yeah, let's vote on it. Up until we do, I'm sure there will be plenty of local idiots ranting about socialism and "unconstitutional" taxes and probably abortion (because they always work it in somehow) for us to enjoy. Which will make for easy blog posts.

Thanks, Kevin!