Email alerts from the town would be easy, when you register to vote give your email. When you pay your taxes you can provide your email, you could go online and enter your email. Just about everyone these days has email, or a robo text. People get free Internet at bars, coffe joint s etc. and everyone has a cell these days to receive text alerts. It's not rocket science people. If the town pretended they were trying to collect money from its residents, then everyone would be aware of all elections. If the town wants us to believe they don't know how to get the word out to its residents, that's BS. They know how to contact all of us, and do every year for our $$$$$
The internet isn't free, either (or do you pay nothing for your connection)? If you subscribe to The Recorder, you can read the entire paper online, and I expect you could tell them to take your paper copy and donate it to a school.
As for having a lot to scan through, have you paid attention to where we're putting these posts? ;-)
A) the paper isn't free
B) It is not emailed
C) it is not broken down very well into Catagories especially the front page
D) There is a lot more you have to scan through to get to the information you want
E) E mail doesn't pile up in the recycling bin for two weeks at a time. (though if you did you could figure out the recycling schedule based on how old the bottom newspaper is)
"We also know it's poorly designed and has broken links and outdated information all over the place, so it's not really worth going to."
Can you provide examples of broken links and outdated information? I've recently volunteered to look into the town's IT infrastructure for the fin comm, and the usefulness of the web site fits right into that. Feel free to contact me privately if you like.
In the meantime, as John Hanold said, whatever its faults, there was plenty of information about the recent election on the web site, and the town clerk is always ready to answer questions. (And yes, the correct URL is http://www.montague-ma.gov, although http://www.montague.net also seems to work.)
One thing that has surprised me in this discussion is the number of people who seem to believe that this site is a good source of information about town affairs. In my experience, that has not been the case, especially in recent years. A good example is the number of people who posted here AFTER the special town meeting in March, saying they didn't know about it. If news about it had been posted here, they would have known about it, right? That plus this current discussion might be clues that if you want to find out about things BEFORE they happen, this site might not be your best choice (enjoyable as it is in every other way, of course! :-)). On the other hand, if all you want to do is complain about how "the town" hasn't lived up to your expectations, this has proven to be an excellent site, time and time again ;-).
In my opinion, if you have time to read and post on this site, you have time to read the paper, so if you don't read the paper it's not from lack of time. It's a choice, and we all make choices, and we can't choose everything, but I think it's important to recognize that it's us making the choices, and in many cases we are perfectly free to make other ones if we really want to. So don't make choices that have certain consequences and then complain about the fact that nobody else rearranged the world so that your choices would work out better than they did. That's not me lecturing -- that's common sense. Isn't it?
I did not notice anyone saying anything that warrants an apology to the town clerk. Nobody said the town or the town clerk did anything wrong. What I saw was suggestions that would make elections more noticeable to a very busy population.
Maybe to get an election board more actively advertise open positions and dates of elections would be nice.
I was not aware until I tried doing research that papers are not required to post election notices (but if they don't then I think people should write the papers to request they do so).
Town Hall and the post office are not the popular hang out places like in the olden days when election notice laws were orginially written.
"Even those of us who are too dumb to vote know that the town web site is montague.net. We also know it's poorly designed and has broken links and outdated information all over the place, so it's not really worth going to."
Even those of us who are too dumb to vote know that the town web site is montague.net. We also know it's poorly designed and has broken links and outdated information all over the place, so it's not really worth going to.
This seems to be a very popular thread, and I hope this discussion results in more Corkboard "posters" voting in the future. Here is what a phone call to Town Hall and a brief website look-up yielded:
* Municipal elections are always on the third Monday in May. Every year. Per the bylaws.
* The town website is www.montague-ma.org. To get to the election warrant you use the Elections link at the foot of the Home page -- where the election results will be posted when the Clerk has gotten acceptance from write-in candidates for open seats.
* Higher on the Home page is the notice about many Town Meeting seats being vacant -- it's been there a long time.
* The Town Calendar link on the Home page takes you to the highlighted election posting for 20 May. The NEWS menu on the right has had an election note for some time.
* Notices about this election were first posted in January, and stayed up till the day after the election.
* News articles and postings about absentee ballots and candidates have appeared all spring.
* Lawn signs are the candidate's choice.
As the highly-regarded Mike Naughten would say, here comes the rant.
The above information is provided for the benefit of those who are "very busy," don't drive past their polling places, don't go to Town Hall, don't read the REPORTER or RECORDER, don't watch public TV, don't talk to their neighbors, and so forth. In my opinion, the drumbeat of what _town staff_ should do to mentor and guide possible voters sounds like an embarrassed kid deflecting responsibility from himself to "anyone else." The turn-out problem (and scarcity of contested elections) is not the fault (or responsibility) of town staff -- it begins with voter/resident apathy, and cynicism about government is compounded by incomplete information broadly shared and regularly repeated. An apology to the Clerk's office might be in order?
Now, GO MARK 25 JUNE ON YOUR CALENDARS! It's a TUESDAY, we are electing both a Selectman and a U.S. Senator, and the polling places are the same as always. Pay attention to news articles (if you don't normally read newspapers, arrange for a friend [some may have to fall back instead on a neighbor] to clip articles for you). Watch for a likely Candidate Forum featuring Selectman candidates, and ask questions.
If the town were to come into the 21 st century I'm sure they could find better ways to get the word out. Otherwise 9% voter turnout will be the norm. Maybe the town doesn't want too many people voting. in this electronic age better ways are there
Chapter 63 Section 51. In towns using official ballots the town clerk, at least four days before an election therein, shall cause to be posted in one or more public places the names, residences and designations of all candidates duly nominated to be voted for in the town, substantially in the form of the official ballot.
I did not find anything in the state law about how notices for town elections need to be posted. (not to say isn't there, I am not an expert at searching laws). There was one requirement that cities had to send copies to their local newspapers but it specifically said that there was no requirement for the newspaer to print it.
I am sure the town did everything legally required. Saying it is up to the individual to stay informed by constantly having to spend their time to look to see if an election is coming up seems a very high bar in today's world when we don't have time to even read the papers any more. If I had lived for a long time in this town I may finially see a pattern to the voting but I have moved around a bit and everywhere (including towns in MA) have their own schedule and not easy to keep track.
If you don't want uninformed people voting maybe you should request the town not put up signs identifying polling places so that only the select few who stay informed can vote. This is why so many of us served in the military so just the elite could vote.
patrick - I was ranting, and I may have exaggerated a bit, but basically, yes, I'd prefer that people who don't know what they're voting for not vote. I don't know that I "complained" about low turnout; if anything, I think I "lamented" it, but that's different. I do think it's too bad that so few people consider it their duty to find out what's going on in local government and participate when possible, but that doesn't mean I want to lower the bar very much (if at all). It's like lamenting poor math or reading skills -- the answer isn't to make the tests easier.
Maybe there are ways "the town" could get the word out better, but there are cost/benefit questions for all of them. And look at this thread -- as you say, there are "several people [who] have now stated that they had no clue there was an election", and all of them have called for "someone else" to make more effective efforts to keep them informed. None of them that I saw seemed to consider the possibility that they, themselves, might also make more effective efforts to _be_ informed. Why is it always someone else's job to make sure you know what's going on?
Like many organizations, this town is run by people who know when to show up and then show up. If you want to be one of those people, the bar is pretty low -- but you do still have to show up. If you think there's an election coming up, the town web site has a calendar, and if that doesn't have the information a phone call or email to the town clerk will give the answer.
But just knowing about an election doesn't tell you about the issues, and don't expect "the town" to fill you in. For obvious reasons, the town is officially neutral on all ballot issues, so beyond providing the basic facts you're on your own. That's where other sources come in -- the newspapers, MCTV, this corkboard, whatever. You don't need cable to watch MCTV -- you can watch it on Vimeo (I just learned that tonight, though it may be old news to some :-)).
Signs are costly? the way the town pisses money away over the years I'm sure a few signs won't break the bank. Just don't put a lawn sign on the old Monty center school, the grass is getting too high to see it. Looking like a slum lord owns the joint
Signs work, but they're costly, you have to pay people to put them up and take them down, and they get vandalized or stolen. I'd be satisfied with posts on this site (far more trivial things than elections get posted here regularly) and an opt-in email or robo-call system, both of which would be inexpensive, environmentally friendly and efficient.
I strongly agree with the last post - and raised the issue at town hall yesterday. The town should shell out for at least 100 signs that can be put up the week before the election. Maybe this should not be necessary in the best of all possible worlds but if it increases turnout it is worth it.
As far as the second selectboard election in June, that was made necessary by Pat Allen resigning before her term was up. She resigned after the process for the May election was well under way so they really had no choice but to have another election. They piggybacked it on to the special election for U.S. Senate caused by Kerry being appointed to Sec. of State.
I think many people found out about the election from the vote here signs on election day so I think the town only needs to put up a preelection sign a week early. I do not think it is the town's responsiblity to post it at stores or gas stations. I don't know the legal reguirement but I vaguely require having to post in the local paper and posting at the town hall is the minimum that a town has to do.
If people are informed in advanced then they can get informed as to what/who is on the ballot.
"As long as those idiots still keep paying taxes to the town, it all works out"
I would never call Mike an idiot, far from it. Which is why this reaction surprises me.
I don't think the civic duty to vote necessarily includes scouring the newspaper to find out when the next election is, when said election has not been mentioned on this site, and was not mentioned, that I recall, at the recent Town Meeting. I can't get cable and we stopped getting the paper because, honestly, we never read it. I buy it when there is something I want to read, and I would have done so if I'd heard a single peep about the election. All I heard was that someone I know is running for Selectboard, and I heard no mention of when. I do agree that the town seems to have little trouble letting us know when we owe them money, and I hold that it is their responsibility to let the voters know when to go to the polls. Again, especially when one's polling place has been moved to a remote spot that few people in the Precinct go by regularly.
"Seriously? Even though several people have now stated they had no clue there was an election, you'd rather see none of us vote because we're all uninformed idiots who put random Xes on the ballot? But you also want to complain about low turnout. Am I missing anything?"
Typical thinking. As long as those idiots still keep paying taxes to the town, it all works out
"I wonder how much the cost would be to post a sign a week before at the local stores, gas stations , watering holes , package stores and the 3 post offices. That would kind of cover almost all of the folks. Just an non Montagueite offering a suggestion.. ED"
Not much I'm sure, but the town could always pay for a study to find out . The town seems to have no problem letting people know when it's time to pay them.
"I don't care if people read newspapers or not, and I'd prefer that people who need to see signs on their way to work end up not voting because they didn't see a sign -- I'd rather have that than have to count the votes of a bunch of people who randomly marked "X"es on ballots while thinking they were doing the rest of us a favor. Don't kid yourselves -- you're not doing anyone a favor. If your lives are too full of other things to pay attention to how the town in which you live is governed, then fine -- you'll get no criticism from me. Just don't complain when those of us who do try to pay attention don't bend over backwards to keep you informed. We're busy, too."
Seriously? Even though several people have now stated they had no clue there was an election, you'd rather see none of us vote because we're all uninformed idiots who put random Xes on the ballot? But you also want to complain about low turnout. Am I missing anything?
I wonder how much the cost would be to post a sign a week before at the local stores, gas stations , watering holes , package stores and the 3 post offices. That would kind of cover almost all of the folks. Just an non Montagueite offering a suggestion.. ED
having signs up on the day of the voting seems to be how several people on this site found out about the election, so there for signs work. There is legitimate concern about people voting who have no clue about the candidates. The easiest solution would be a different color sign put up a week ahead of time that there is going to be an election which would give time to people who care to research what and who is on the ballot.
I think the lack of effort of candidates to get the word out about themselves seemed fairly evident. If the candidates appear apathtic then why shouldn't the voters be too?
If turn out was only 9% , either people did not know or did not care. I'm quite sure a little more effort could have been made to notify town residents. Not all of us are sitting around all day watching the weather channel and local access.
Just to be clear, I didn't mean to chastise anybody for not reading the newspaper; I just pointed out to people who were complaining about not knowing about yesterday's election that if they _did_ read the newspaper they might have known about it, since it was in the newspaper. I also wondered how they would learn about the different candidates if they don't read newspapers, since in my experience newspapers have been the best source for that information.
People around the world are bleeding and dying for the chance to have a voice in their government. To them, I think, this whole thread would seem nuts, if not obscene. We are lucky enough to live in a place where government "by the people" is a given -- at least at the local level -- and "the people" respond by saying, "Whut? How come nobody told me? Next time, put a sign up on my way to work, or post something on my Facebook page, or send me a tweet, and maybe I'll do you the favor of showing up to vote in your -- what is this election about, again?" How ridiculous must that look to someone who doesn't share that sense of complacency and self-entitlement?
I don't care if people read newspapers or not, and I'd prefer that people who need to see signs on their way to work end up not voting because they didn't see a sign -- I'd rather have that than have to count the votes of a bunch of people who randomly marked "X"es on ballots while thinking they were doing the rest of us a favor. Don't kid yourselves -- you're not doing anyone a favor. If your lives are too full of other things to pay attention to how the town in which you live is governed, then fine -- you'll get no criticism from me. Just don't complain when those of us who do try to pay attention don't bend over backwards to keep you informed. We're busy, too.
according to WHAI the voter turnout was just above 9% and all the incumbents won.
There are laws on the books about towns being required to give notice that in today's world may seem a bit out of date with today's technology.
For state and federal elections the biggest notice to voters is the paid politic ads that are designed to be everywhere.
I do not recall seeing any yard signs for candidates for this election so the question is it the fault of the town (since there were no ballot issues) and more the fault of the candidates (most were unopposed)?
And how many would REMEMBER if they got a notice a day or so ahead. Hell some of you folks can't even figure out the recycle schedule. Stop crabbing and be accountable for yourself and stop asking to have some one take you by the hand. I'm sure even if they did that there would be crying they didn't call first. Seems that (according to my old dude) there were at least 75 folks in Millers paying attention. Still a pee poor turnout out of 900 voters......... Up here on the mountain we sure as hell vote and pay attention to OUR town... Stay safe with the storms coming ED.
Mr. N. Maybe if the town PICKED them up and took them to the polls they would be more likely to vote.( Sarcasim)...Sounds like the old it ain't my fault syndrome so prevelant on this website.IE town meeting attendance. When my old dude came out from voting he said the talk inside was more about the next selectmans race..Sorry if the spelling sucks. Haven't had my second cup of coffee yet .Does any one know the outcome??
I stopped buying newspapers when I became unemployed and couldn't afford it. (job classifieds were online).
Usually this forum is pretty good about mentioning things like local elections. But this election nobody mentioned it on this forum though I noticed one normal contributer had a letter to the editor in the recorder but did not post here.
May is a very busy time of year and I think our town should look for an opt in for email announcement with a two week notice (with sample ballot) and a notice the Friday before the election so people have time to research candidates and issues.
Robocalling is not a good idea because it doesn't give time for enough information.
Maybe the town could invest in some reusable signs to post before elections that have date of elections before hand so it is not a surprise to see the orange Vote Today signs.
The only reason I voted today was because I saw the signs on the way to work.
It's pretty arrogant to chastise people for not knowing about an election because they no longer "read the paper." Fewer and fewer people do. It's pretty much like complaining people don't hand-write letters anymore. Lost cause. Between candidates who don't bother to campaign and the evolution toward digital media, it's not surprising that people literally stumbled across this election.
If my kid's school can send me robo-calls about meetings that have absolutely nothing to do with her, then any town in MA can do the same about elections. Or they can create an email list for voters to opt in to and send out a reminder the day before an election. The cost would be negligible, and this conversation would become moot.
As for turnout, well, that's another story. You can lead a horse to the voting booth but you can't make him make an X. Because horses doesn't have fingers. And they would always vote neigh.
"if you're saying that you're not going to pay any attention unless and until you see a sign somewhere convenient to you on the day of the election, why would I want you to vote?"
Because I'd be sure to flip a coin ahead of time so I didn't go in unprepared ;-)
Seriously, because if I knew the election was this week / month I would have gotten informed. Town meeting is not an issue because there are seldom more people then seats. I know one of the selectboard candidates personally and would most likely support them, though I would be sure to find out about the others. I will admit to not knowing as much about the School Committee as I have in the past but, again, I would have tried to find information.
I'm not advocating that the town let people know there is an election the day it happens. I'm advocating that they let people know a week or two beforehand. Maybe I've been too busy for my own good, but other than being told by the selectboard candidate that they were running, I had not heard a single mention of the election until Mik posted about turnout this afternoon. Sorry to be remiss in my civic duty, either way.
I think those are good suggestions, and I agree that there are a lot of ways to get the word out.
But don't you think there's a role here, too, for personal responsibility? I mean, if there's a contested race, do you really want a lot of people showing up to vote only because they saw a sign while driving by their polling place, or they saw an announcement here or on Facebook that "there's an election today"?
If you're not going to read the newspapers, how do you expect to find out about the candidates? Don't expect "the town" to tell you, because "the town" can't do that -- that's the job of newspapers and other independent information sources.
Right now, I know there will be another election on June 25, to elect a US Senator to replace John Kerry, and to elect a selectman to replace Pat Allen. I also know who the candidates are, and I've already started thinking about which ones I prefer, and I've already started trying to pay attention to learning more about them before the election. No offense, but if you're saying that you're not going to pay any attention unless and until you see a sign somewhere convenient to you on the day of the election, why would I want you to vote?
Maybe the day and week are common knowledge but they aren't to me, and I almost never drive by my polling place. If the town had posted something on this corkboard, or if they had a Facebook page and they'd posted it there, great. If it's in the paper, either the Reporter or the Recorder, I'm probably not going to see it. It's pretty easy to inform people in the 21st century, but you have to use 21st century means to do it.
I didn't realize that the election was today until I got home and saw posts in this forum. I had to get my son to baseball in the opposite direction so I never found time to vote.
I saw no signs in Montague Center over the weekend. The fact that we know vote on what may be the least traveled road in the whole town doesn't help. I feel bad that I was unable to perform my civic duty, but I didn't know. Since when are elections on Monday, anyway?
Montague holds town elections every year in May -- for all I know, it's every year on the third Monday (which is what it was this year). There's always a selectboard seat open, there are always three school committee seats open (technically, it's GMRSD's election, but it's always combined with the town's), there are always 7 town meeting seats open in each precinct, and there are other boards that always have seats open and other positions that rotate through a multi-year cycle. Once you've lived here for a little while, if you care, you learn that there's going to be an election in May, and if if you read the papers it's usually not that hard to find out when it is.
In Millers, someone showed up to vote just after the polls closed - he'd noticed the signs earlier and made an effort to come back, but he had no idea what the election was about. I had mixed feelings as I saw him leave -- should I be sad that a potential voter hadn't had the chance, or should I be glad that someone who had no clue didn't get the opportunity to put an X randomly on a contested race?
Precinct 2 (which votes at the Highland Apartments in Millers Falls) had a total of 75 voters.
In this election, there were races for selectman, housing authority, and school committee (and in Precinct 1, I believe, town meeting). The Recorder has had features about the selectman race and the school committee race, on different days last week (I didn't see anything about the housing authority -- maybe I missed it). I actually think they did a reasonable job -- there's a lot going on all around the county, and only so much print space, and besides those two articles they've also covered Pat Allen's resignation and the upcoming election for her replacement on June 25.
The Montague Reporter had nothing in its last issue (other than three letters to the editor, two of which mentioned the date of the election), which I find disappointing, since its founding mission was to provide information on, um, Montague.
I don't know my precint number, I just know I have to go over towards Millers Falls to vote (which is out of my way) around 1:45, 60 ballots divided by 2 means 30 voters.
I assume most of the frequent posters on this board actually voted. The large percentage of voters I don't think know about this website and I didn't really see anything stand out in the recorder in the weekend edition to say there was voting today.
When I left Pct. 5 around 2:00 we were up to 28! Not even close to Pct. 1 and an embarrassment overall. Considering this had a contested BOS race and a lot of open Town Meeting seats -- in a year when people on this board have expressed impatience with town government -- a low turnout is a disappointment.
The head of the IRS was fired by Obama but Obama failed to mention that he was quitting in a couple of weeks. If Obama wanted to find out the truth he would call for a special prosecutor. So much for having an open administration.
Just in case anyone is interested in a little truth while the Republican attack machine and the lazy media go nuts over Benghazi and the IRS scandal, here is an interesting article about the tax-exempt status the Tea Party was applying for. It turns out they - or more likely Tea Party front organizations were applying for a tax exemption on the basis that they were "social welfare" organizations and primarily doing "educational" work on issues like... the Constitution, patriotism and so forth. What a joke.
Now if this article is correct the IRS has every reason to investigate the Tea Party phonies if they want a tax exemption and want to hide the names of their contributors under the guise that they are social welfare organizations. Of course the IRS should apply the same standards to "liberal" groups who do the same thing. If not, that would be the real scandal.
But it is interesting that in scanning the massive numbers of media reports on this over the past few days, I have not yet seen any mention of a rather important issue.... do these political groups in fact deserve to be tax exempt? And of course if you are going to investigate their political activities - which you should if they are applying for tax exempt status as primarily non-political organizations - you will be checking out their front groups which have words like "patriot," "tea party" and "constitution" in them
But of course ignoring fundamental details - whether liberals or conservatives do it - is all part of the lazy media scandal machine.
The school committee may not be"looking for help" with the GMRSD budget (I suspect if the issue is framed that way you will get a negative reaction). But let's just say a standard /consistent set of documents at the various meetings with an agreed upon way of analyzing them would improve the situation.
No I do not think the town boards should replace the school committee in terms of its oversight budget role. I have never said that and I absolutely do not think that. But I have never understood this rather arbitrary distinction you make between the role of the finance committee and the role of the school committee. It is not clear what the basis of this is or what its practical value is.
The reality is, whatever your philosophy or theory, the school committee has hearings and goes before town boards and town meetings. They present data and information to make their case for their budget. Board members and town meeting members ask questions about that data and all sorts of other issues. Doesn't it make sense to have the right data so we can have that discussion? Doesn't it make sense to solve what is obviously a problem rather than get into a philosophical discussion about the roles of committees?
Also as a practical matter, the fin coms tend to be better at budget analysis (it is what they do) so they can in fact help the school committee which has a tremendous amount on its plate and whose members tend not to specialize in budget analysis. I am not talking about replacing the SC oversight role but simply helping to improve the situation, which really is not good.
Sitting back and saying "that's not our role" may be somewhat true but does not solve the problem. And in fact is contradicted by what actually happens at these hearings/town meeting etc.
I should add that I personally do not think that the ideal situation is that the town boards get a lot of detailed information from the school district that they can spend time analyzing. I think that the ideal situation is that the school committee does the analyzing, and that the town boards simply confirm that they are doing it, along with having discussions about trends in the town assessments, educational health of the school system, etc.
I get the impression (maybe I'm wrong) that you've written the school committee off in this process, leaving the town boards as the only check on a district that is careering like a driverless bus. If that's the case, I think it's a problem that will not be solved by the town boards taking over the process -- it will be solved by the school committee stepping up to the plate and taking its proper role in the budget development, analysis, and presentation.
Yes, a meeting early in the process for FY15 sounds like a good idea.
Beyond that, I think you and I have a communication problem. You refer to "a budget hearing with no budget" -- what are you talking about? GMRSD had a budget hearing on 2/12 at which they presented a budget (not much detail -- or explanation -- but it was a budget; in fact, it was the only handout they'd prepared for the hearing). The hearing on 3/6 was technically about the _assessment_, not the budget, although we had asked for "T1-T2 like" information (i.e. somewhat detailed budget). We didn't get it, and so we asked again in the follow-up email -- how does that translate to "no one on the finance committee says, 'hey where's your budget?'"?
Maybe we could have been more aggressive during the meeting in asking for the information -- I think that's a judgment call, and I'm not going to say we clearly did the right thing. But there were a number of factors at play; one was our desire to get good information; another was the district's obvious reluctance share more than they felt they had to, based on their concern (for whatever reason) that town boards were trying to meddle in their budget process; and a third (and I think important) one was that their budget was changing rapidly -- on 3/6 it was over $200,000 lower than it was on 2/12, and by 3/29 it had dropped another $25,000, only to drop another $25,000 by 4/2 (the day of the fin comm's final vote). Joyce Phillips said during that period that providing updated budget information every time there was a change would be "confusing" -- arguably, she has a point, and how to provide useful information that isn't confusing should be one of the topics of the meeting mentioned above. I think it's pretty clear that the district did not feel up to the task this time around.
Finally, I think you are completely wrong in suggesting that I consider "even the mildest criticism of the finance committee" to be off-base. What I consider to be off-base are statements about the finance committee that are simply not true, especially when you accuse us of not knowing how to do things that we definitely do know how to do. Dealing with grants data isn't that hard -- they're just another revenue source, although one with (usually) some restrictions on what they can be spent on. We deal with these every year for the town budget, and GMRSD is the same idea. First, you separate out the grants for those things that exist because of the grant and will end if and when the grand ends. Those are interesting, but unless you have reason to believe the grants will go on forever you consider them to be add-ons to your basic mission. Then you have the grants that fund things that will need to be funded whether the grants are there or not. Those are much more interesting, in that the trends in grant funding may end up affecting trends in your overall budget (examples on the town side are the COPS grants in the past, and Chapter 90 monies). The information we got this year did not make a distinction between the two types of grants (yes, we did ask), so it wasn't useful for understanding how grants affect the core budget, but it was more than we've gotten in the past, and I hope we can do better next year.
So the bottom line is that rather than go back and forth over email for months next year the boards should meet early in the process and hopefully agree to a common set of documents for the various presentations, including a good list o budget assumptions. I would add that a) try to avoid different sets of docs with different formats every time there is a hearing. and b) maybe even have some discussion of how to analyze this material.
And yes I think it is a very serious communication problem when you have a budget hearing with no budget and no one on the finance committee says, "hey where's your budget?" The communication problem is caused by going back and forth over email rather than sitting down and trying to come to an agreement. Also as far as I can tell the members of the school committee were never involved in the discussion and I am not sure the finance board members were either.
I really do not think the various points about state law etc. are relevant if they were used as an excuse not to share information. State law does not specify what information regional school districts should share with member towns and yet all districts I have seen share a certain amount of information because of course they want support for budgets. The problem is the quality is very low. To use state law as an excuse for that, if that happened, is a smokescreen.
But I think the other bottom line here is that we can take pot shots at the school committee all the time but even the mildest criticism of the finance committee (as in my comment that members were not sure what to do with the grant data they asked for*) is a "slur" and you take this very personally. Just so I know what the rules are around here.
*BTW I am not sure what to do with the grant data either so I guess I am insulting myself. Just to make you feel better.
I don't think it's a communication problem -- I think the town boards were very clear about what we hoped to receive. I think the district (meaning the superintendent and the school committee chair, as well as others) didn't want to share any more information with the towns than they had to until they had everything buttoned up.
Would I have preferred that they share more than they did? Yes, I would have. Were they required to do more? I don't think they were. The chair made a point at more than one meeting of enumerating the district's responsibilities under state law, the district agreement, and their budget process, and I think they met their obligations.
As for being "defensive", I felt a need to respond to your claim (5/6) that "[t]he key oversight committees, particularly the school committee but also the finance committees do not seem to understand why [budget assumptions are] important for proper budget analysis" by pointing out that the finance committee did consider them important, and in fact asked for them several times.
You followed that up with the claim, on 5/9, that "did not seem that anyone was quite sure what to do with [grant information provided on 3/6], or how to analyze it." Jeff, I think you have to recognize that when you made that statement you were talking about me, among others, as I am on the finance committee and I received that information, and so I take that charge personally (just as I take the charge that we didn't understand why budget assumptions are important personally).
In my opinion, the information we were provided about grants was useful in that it was more than we have seen in the past, but it was insufficient to provide a real understanding of how grants figure in to the ongoing GMRSD budget. I think it would be useful to understand that, but right now I don't think we have enough information; if you disagree, perhaps you can explain to me why I'm wrong.
But I really find myself wondering why we're even having this conversation. You've noted that information flow and communication were not ideal during this past budget process, and I've agreeed. You've suggested some improvements for next year, and I've agreed they would be helpful. Is there a reason why we need to keep talking about this?
MJ, I watched some of the meeting last night down in the village. I also was quite surprised with the Montague School Apartment vote.( Any one that thinks the change was not made just for the anticipated deal should get their heads out of their butts). All the talk on here and at the committee meetings it is quite obvious folks that care about the village are not town meeting members. As I said the old dude I help was one of the 13 against. There was a case for an OPEN town meeting as I've ever seen. Any one have a count on attendance by preceinct (sp.)? Mainly #1 and #2.Folks in Millers lost Highland so more of them should have been more supportive. My dude says the gent in front of him didn't vote on it either way. Oh well. Happy Mothers Day to all the MOMS .....Ed
I don't have my notes right on hand, nor is the warrant readily available, so I am recalling from memory a $8200? approval to update Town Hall technology, right?
I know it's been said here before, but this town does have a shockingly behind-the-times and scarce means of updated information for the public. Every department has a limited website and seems to ignore the importance of broadband and it's capabilities. (How amazing would it be if Wendy at a Selectboard meeting or Deb at a Town Meeting had an open chat feature, available to those at home, watching MCTV? If all related documents to the agenda were posted in one easy section? )
I appreciate both Jeff and Mike's attention to detail in both posting here and when speaking at Town Meetings. I just wish there was more of an detailed blog/site for the Selectboard, the School Board, etc. Updated minutes, next to video of the meetings, etc. Surely there's intern opportunities to embrace the internet?
As for this meeting, to ask us to ignore all tag sales, weekend chores and beautiful weather was a lesson in Yankee politics for me. Months of online discussion and demanded meetings on several articles, then several 30+ minutes of debate, then a generally unanimous vote? Huh? Say WHHHHAAAAT?
Well maybe I should not have made the last comment. about rocket science but a simple list of documents should not really be all that hard to get. After months of back and forth over email between the fin com and school committee the school district presented a budget to the fin com with NO BUDGET and no budget assumptions. I mean really don't you think there is a communication problem here?
This is why people get frustrated with local government and say the hell with it.
You seem to be getting a bit defensive, especially as someone who has been a frequent sharp critic of the school committee on this corkboard.
I agree with you that the process can be improved, and that a meeting early in the budget cycle next year to clarify and establish expectations on all sides would be a good idea.
As you know, though, we don't always agree on the extent to which town boards should be involved in the district's budget process, and I don't see how your gratuitous slurs of those boards serve any useful purpose.
You've been on the school committee, and on the finance committee before that, and the GMRSD budget process has been an ongoing interest (obsession? ;-)) of yours. If all this "really is not rocket science", why didn't you just set it all straight when you had the chance?
Well the bottom line is that this crucial document was requested repeatedly. We got it at the beginning of the process but then it disappeared.
At the finance committee hearings on the GMRSD BUDGET in early March (the March 6 meeting Mike refers to) there were NO budget assumptions and in fact no line item budget of any kind. That is, a budget hearing with no budget. At that point someone should have realized there was a serious communication problem and encouraged the boards to resolve it.
After constant badgering by me we got something called "budget assumptions" at town meeting but it was in a completely different format from the original and did not contain the basic numbers, only percentages. It was essentially useless. At a certain point one wonders if the goal is to drive me nuts. Probably not but if so, this strategy is succeeding.
Meanwhile Finance Committee members had focused on the issue of grants and in fact did get a list of grants at the March 6 meeting. But it did not seem that anyone was quite sure what to do with this list, or how to analyze it.
I think the Finance Committees, Selectboards and School Committee should meet next December and decide what documents should be part of the budget process (and perhaps how to analyze them). This really is not rocket science.
Just to set the record straight on one point: budget assumptions were asked for (by Jeff) at the public hearing on the GMRSD budget on 2/12. I was present, and I would have asked for them if Jeff hadn't.
In preparation for the meeting on 3/6 between the selectboards and finance committees of both towns and GMRSD to discuss their budget, I emailed the interim superintendent and school committee reminding them of the questions that had been asked so far, so that they could be prepared to answer them at that meeting. Budget assumptions were on the list.
At the 3/6 meeting, some questions were answered ,but others weren't, and new questions arose, and as a follow-up to that meeting I sent another email to the district listing the what we were still looking for. Budget assumptions were on that list.
Three weeks later, and four days before Montague's absolutely final deadline for making any more budget decisions, the district provided some of the items we had asked for. Budget assumptions were not among them, and in any case there was not much time to consider them, and no time to seek clarifications or further information. The only budget assumptions we actually received were those provided to us along with town meeting members last Saturday.
I don't think it's accurate to say that the town boards did not understand the importance of this information: we thought it was important, we asked for it, and we didn't get it. There were also other things we thought were important; we got some of them, we didn't get others.
Although GMRSD's final assessment request was one that I felt comfortable supporting, I have a much poorer understanding of the process by which it was developed than I have in past years. I hope this can change next year, and I think a meeting early in the process to confirm what information will be provided, and when, is a good first step.
Congratulations to Jhanold and SusanSanSoucie for being the closest in the "When Will it End?" poll. They chose 3:30 from the list and Town Meeting actually ended at 3:18.
Next up, MikeNaughton and Clegg chose 4:00; Newbie and JohnTobey chose 4:30; Lithium, GGarrison and I chose 5:00; AbtFace chose 1:30; three other poll takers chose 6:00, 6:30 and 7:00.
The question of whether Article 7 (Town budget) will take more than an hour was chosen by me, MikeNaughton, MichaelNelson, Newbie, clegg, JohnTobey, Dominique and SusanSanSoucie, and we were WRONG. I don't have my notes in front of me, but I believe that only took about 35 minutes.
The question of whether Article 27 (the Zoning by-law change) would take more than two hours was chosen by me, MichaelNelson, Newbie, SusanSanSoucie, Rob and AbtFace, and we were also WRONG, as it took exactly one hour.
Fun stuff. Thanks for participating. We should do this more often.
Well I think there is a very serious problem with transparency and oversight re the school budget. The bottom line was very good and the budget passed unanimously for the third year in a row. Hopefully this will help us get out or level 4 (which in my opinion we should never have been in in the first place!). But there is a real question as to whether the budget was propped up by one time revenues.
A crucial document called "budget assumptions" handed out at the beginning of the process showed that the budget in fact increased by over $900,000, which is around twice available revenue increases for the district. The budget was brought into balance by reducing a line item by $379,000 apparently using grants and revolving fund surpluses. Also assessments were reduced by what appears to be a one-time $130,000 increase in medicaid reimbursements. The total of these revenues, which may not last, reduces the budget and assessments by over $500,000 and makes them affordable.
But will this last? Maybe, maybe not but no one but me seems to be asking the question. Part of the problem is that the school district leadership despite repeated requests has been unwilling to hand out an updated version of "budget assumptions" similar to the one we got in January.. After numerous requests prior to town meeting we got a very inadequate, stripped down version with no numbers that really does not tell you much.
The key oversight committees, particularly the school committee but also the finance committees do not seem to understand why this information is important for proper budget analysis. So it has now become a weird obsession that Jeff Singleton brings up at every meeting. This really is not fair. We have frequently gotten budget assumptions in the past for a reason but it seems to come and go for no apparent reason.
Mike Naughton also raised the issue of an "all funds" line item budget
(which shows specific uses of grants etc) that is consistent with the budget on the assessment sheet. I have some technical questions about this (his proposal might not leave room on the spreadsheet for previous years) but it is a fair point - we essentially now have documents handed out that show two different ways of calculating the budget. Mike's legitimate request was simply ignored by the school committee.
The school committee and finance committee should meet at the beginning of next year's budget process and commit to a consistent set of budget documents that tell the whole story. This really should not be so hard.
Being a Town Meeting Member from Prec. 2, I understand the discouragement, many others from other precincts left as well. Very disheartening when there are many complaints on what is going on in town. Maybe town elections should be before the Annual Town Meeting so that the ones that are opting out on re-election don't pass on the meeting.
Down in the village taking my old dude to Food City. He wasn't too happy with the prec. 2 folks that split before town meeting was over. Also a few no shows. Also VERY upset over the zoning change vote. He and a dozen others were the only ones against it. Very weird with all the folks that went to the hearings. I feel bad for the folks by the school if the plans for all those apts. come to pass. Sure as heck wouldn't want it next to me. Oh well. Happy May 5th all. Ed
I know information for other town meetings has been posted ahead of time in the Town Meetings section. Once I called when I didn't see it, and it was up the same day. I think if people were to start checking, and calling the town clerk if they don't see it within a reasonable time after the warrant has been finalized, it would start being posted regularly. My guess is that it's just a new habit that needs to be developed ....
If anyone is watching this at home and also has access to a computer, could you post here when we're on Article 22? There are people who want to speak to Article 27 but can't spend the whole day at the meeting. Thanks.
Btw, I would do it but I don't get cell service in the building.
Kind of late for comment. I lived in a Montague Center duplex (there are a bunch of the same vintage around town) for about 5 years. The area was just over 600 sq. ft. I had 2 regular size bedrooms and a small one that was perfect for a home office, an open plan living room kitchen and 2 bathrooms. It was quite comfortable except for a poorly constructed floor which was very cold due to no vapor barrier. I now own my own home, a small farm house with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath all in about 900 sq.ft. It is plenty of room for 2-3 people to live in comfortably. Somewhat energy efficient.
What is the square footage of your home? If I could build a home from scratch I would want to down size and build green. I would rather not build a home just to accommodate a lot of stuff, especially now that I am getting older.
Wage info is available on the Town website, however entire contracts should be available for information regarding the current fringe benefit package and also future liabilities which may be incurred as a result of the contracts.
This article on the annual town meeting warrant would change the current zoning bylaw which establishes a minimum of 700 square feet for dwelling units. The proposal would change this to a minimum of 500 square feet for multifamily units, with size below this threshold allowed by special permit.
This change is obviously a response to the Montague School Building controversy, where a variance was given to the developer to allow for potentially ten units below the current 700 square foot minimum.
I happen to think the proposed Montague Center School project is a good one, although perhaps too big. I also think the 700 square foot minimum needs to be changed for some of the reasons the planning board has cited. We should allow smaller apartments and few towns have zoning laws like this. For example I talked to the Franklin County COG building inspector today who said none of the towns they serve (at least a dozen) have any minimum at all. They handle potential problems via building codes, not the zoning laws. Greenfield, for example, has no minimum.
But I have extreme problems with the proposed bylaw change and will probably vote against it. It is not at all clear why the 500 square foot minimum was chosen and what the criteria will be for special permits below that amount.
The explanation for the bylaw change being handed to town meeting members admits that the town has treated variances relating to this issue as special permits. Not only does this essentially throw in the towel in the court case against the town, but it is an admission that the town has violated 75 years of regulations and case law. I am honestly not attacking anyone but I think it is a huge mistake in this context to give the town the right to issue special permits below 500 square feet. If they can not get the criteria right on variances, what on earth will be the criteria for special permits below 500 feet?
The 700 foot bylaw needs to be changed but this proposal does not appear to have a strong rationale. This is planning on the fly.
My take is that the school committee should analyze (and understand) the budget; the selectboards and fin comms should ask questions to make sure things are on the right track; and town meeting should follow up with the school committee on any further questions.
I think it's important to remember that GMRSD is a separate entity, much like FRCOG and FCTS. In Montague, the fin comm does not analyze their budgets in any great detail -- instead, we look at what we're being assessed and ask, "does this seem reasonable?". In the case of FCTS, they come before us every year with their superintendent, their business manager, and one of Montague's representatives on the school committee, and the Montague rep answers as many questions as the others. I'm talking about Rich Kuklewicz here -- he clearly knows the school and the budget and he can hold his own in any discussion. That's the sort of thing that inspires confidence (at least in me) that a district is well-managed.
Your descriptions of the difficulties of overseeing the GMRSD budget sound like process problems within GMRSD. (It's ironic to me that, in my experience, GMRSD school committee meetings spend more time talking about "process" than all other boards and committees combined, and yet they one of the most ineffective committees [IMHO] for actually getting things done [time spend/actions taken]. Is there a connection here? ;-)).
I do agree with you that a standard set of documents would be helpful, but the trick is a) getting everyone to agree on what that set of documents should be, and b) developing the habit of providing them on a regular basis. We're still working on that.
Well i would agree that the school committee should be doing a better job monitoring and explaining changes in their own budget. They are the main oversight board for the school budget. But that does not mean that the finance committees should not also be on top of what is going on, for example whether the budget is viable in the long run. I do think that is what town meeting is looking for. To do that you need a standard set of documents and an agreed-upon way to analyze them. I really do not see why this should be so hard to achieve.
I also think the reality is that school committees in general tend not to be the best organizations in terms of budget analysis. They have a great deal on their plate, get these huge packets in the mail before each meeting with an enormous variety of policy stuff in them. The school budget is often buried within Superintendent evaluations, MCAS scores, policies for specific schools, collective bargaining issues and on and on. School committee members are generally on the committee for reasons other than finance.
Having served on both the finance committee and the school committee I can tell you they are very different organizations. Fin Coms have a much more focused mission and agenda... the budget! They tend to be composed of people who are interested in analyzing budgets and are good at it. It is what they do. That is the reality of the situation.
So when the school budge goes down by $200,000, and town assessments drop by $150,000 (your example), the tendency on the SC is to smile and say "great that will make the towns happy" and move on to other stuff. There is also great pressure on the committee for "good publicity" so raising picky questions about a budget that seems to be affordable or constantly demanding "budget assumptions" is not considered good form. I do not think this is a good situation but for it to change the town committees need to encourage better documentation and better analysis.
But again I think the problem is solvable with a standard set of documents and a standard method of evaluating them. That is not happening now and it should.
I share your concerns. As a finance committe member, I am disappointed that we do not have more information going in to town meeting. But I'd like to be clear -- I wasn't looking for that information so that I could analyze the district budget; I was looking for it in order to be convinced that the school committee had analyzed the budget. I'm afraid that up to now I have not been convinced.
You mentioned budget assumptions -- I agree that they're important, and the only ones I know about were given to the school committee back in January, in support of a budget that is now long out of date. Yes, it would be nice if the selectboards and fin comms had been given updated versions, but even nicer would have been for the school committee to have been given updated versions and to have discussed them in public meetings.
One simple example: between the school committee meeting on 2/26 and their meeting with the selectboards and fin comms of Gill and Montague on 3/6, the so-called "all funds budget" went from $19,329,290 to $19,122,495, causing a reduction in the assessments of roughly $150,000. The reduced assessments were welcome news, but I'm not aware that the school committee ever discussed the greater that $200,000 drop in the overall budget (they certainly didn't do so between those two dates -- they didn't meet).
As a finance committee member, I am very aware that the GMRSD budget assessment is the biggest item we consider, but there are a lot of other items that are very important to maintaining an adequate, appropriate, and affordable budget that I have to think about. Since the school committee is charged with overseeing the school district, I'd like to be able to trust them to do that, so that I can focus on things that I have more control over. Right now, I'm afraid I haven't seen much evidence that that has happened during the current budget cycle.
I'd love to be proven wrong, though. I know some school committee members monitor this site -- have I missed something?
The school district assessment is, of course, one of the biggest dollar items on the town meeting agenda and one of the biggest expenditures in the budget. This year's assessment appears to be affordable for the town. This is at least the third year in a row of affordable assessments after approximately a decade of sharp debates and divisions over assessments that were generally not affordable. Thus progress is being made and hopefully it will continue. Hopefully the district should get out of "level 4" (which IMHO it should never have been in the first place).
That does not, however, mean that there are no issues to be resolved. There are legitimate questions as to whether this budget is viable. I am not saying it is not viable but there are legitimate questions that need to be asked. The current budget has an increase of approximately $900,000 (again my analysis and that can perhaps be debated). That is clearly not affordable if you look at the basic revenue increases. The budget and assessments are lowered to affordability by lowering the out of district sped line item by approx. $375,000 and by what appears to be a one time medicaid reimbursement increase of approx $130,000 which totals a $500,000 reduction. Is that viable in the long term? Someone needs to ask and of course I plan to.
One of the reason this question as not been asked is that we have not gotten a consistent set of documents on the budget. The key is a document called "budget assumptions" sometimes called "budget drivers". IMHO you can not analyze the budget without it. You can not get the numbers I just cited without it. We have gotten this document in the past but it has been very inconsistent. It is not been consistently provided to either the school committee, the fin come or town meeting. Not malicious, just not well organized with good communication between the boards.
It sounds picky but it is not. You can not evaluate the budget without the right docs. Town meeting was very critical of both the school district leadership and the finance committee last year year for not providing proper documentation. There has been some rather ragged communication between the finance committee and the school district leadership on this but I am not convinced we are there yet in terms of what you need to understand this budget.
Again this is one of the biggest expenditures and perennially one of the biggest issues on town meeting. I see similar assessment cost and documentation problems in other towns and districts as well. Sorry for the long post.
- Article 5 of the STM should cause debate since they just asked for $24.5k back in Feb.
- but they've requested that stipends be increased by $500/year. That I'd wager a dollar that will have at least one amendment offered. Also, #29 should cause a stir given how much debate there was over the no-cost-to-the-town stipend increase for the retirement board.
- And, lest we not forget, there will be the obligatory discussion / rant on the Colle.
Not sure what the purpose of this town meeting poll is, but I have been on TM for about 13 years and nearly all of the ATMs have ended somewhere between 3:30 and 5:00. Could be wrong but that is my recollection. Not to ruin anyone's fun.
So just to remind everyone, there will be a Precinct 1 pre-town meeting tomorrow night (Thursday, 4-25) at 7:00 at the fire station on Old Sunderland Road. The zoning bylaw change which will impact the Montague Center School project, among other things, will be on the agenda.
Montague Center School: 22+ downtown apartments plan meeting, Tues 3/12
On Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 pm, there is a Planning Board meeting at Town Hall to consider removing a long standing zoning bylaw that requires any new apartments in town be at least 700 sq. ft. Without the bylaw, newly defined apartments could be as small as 350 sq ft for a 2 bedroom unit.
Most immediately, and admittedly the motivation behind the proposed change, the removal of the bylaw would allow the proposed developer of The Montague Center School to carve the building into at least 22 apartments, with many of them being below that minimum size. Currently, he has proposed 8 of the 22 apartments below legal size. If the Planning Board recommends getting rid of the bylaw and it passes Town Meeting, he could potentially add even more/ even smaller apartments to the school project.
And similarly, across all 5 villages, developers could reduce apartment size to maximize profits by increasing the human density of the neighborhoods.
If you care about the size, scope & implications of the new apartment complex proposed for Montague Center or if you care about the density of your neighborhood anywhere in town, please come to this meeting.
The plan to convert the Montague Center school to a 33 bedroom (or more) apartment building is rushing quickly through the town approval process. There are few opportunities left to weigh in on this.This is a rare chance to share your concerns.
Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 pm: Planning Board meeting at Town Hall
I watched some of that side show today. These cities are "gun free" zones are the same cities with all the gang, drug shootings etc. these weapons were never obtained legally and never will be they are criminals. So the logic is lets prevent good honest people from owning them so that all the inner city crime will stop. How many of the past shootings were done by a licensed gun owner. The kid in CT stole his mothers gun and killed her with it. Weapons should all be stored in a locked gun cabinet, gun case, vault etc. I'm for background checks to help prevent those people who should not have agin from getting one. But once you obtain your license to carry permit, that should be it. And let's not keep confusing semi auto with automatic weapons. The liberal media has their heads up their asses with facts. One so called liberal anti gun nut did not the know the difference between a magazine or a clip. Because a rifle has a pistol grip its evil. BS. Focus more on Hollywood when they produce movies like "bullet to the head" and these violent video games that kids play for hours on end. And doctors and drug companies that have kids and adults all hopped up on drugs that cause people to commit suiced and acts of violence.
Well it is a snowy, snuggley day. A great time to kick back with a nice Irish coffee and consider the "public option" again. It turns out the public option, which was eliminated from Obamacare early in the debate, is back on the table, at least in the sense that some liberal Democrats in the House have figured out a smart and nifty way to raise it again. Take a look at this..
It turns out the concept will save the government billions of dollars over the next decade. Of course most Republicans and some Democrats hate it because it looks like European style national health care. Scary, even though essentially it is the same as Medicare.
Not familiar with the public option? Well it is/was essentially a proposal to offer all Americans a publicly financed health care option like Medicare to compete with the insurance-based plans in the new universal health care law. It is a smart idea politically and fiscally. It would save billions compared to most current insurance-based systems because it would eliminate or reduce the wasteful insurance industry. Cost controls would be much easier, as they are now in traditional Medicare. It would compete with private plans so those who claim to support market competition should not oppose it. (Of course they do but it puts conservatives in a rather awkward position which is fun).
There are problems. The biggest one is that it might actually work in terms of providing health care for millions at a lower cost. As a result many businesses who now have insurance-based plans would "dump" employees into the system, leading to something that looked like Canadian single payer. How terrible! The second problem is that it has no support among Republicans, most of whom are in an ideological box, and many Democrats who shake in their boots when anyone mentions "government controlled health care." Third, there is the very real issue that it takes the biggest fiscal problem the government has now - how to finance health care - and makes it much much bigger. But the subsidies in Obamacare have a similar problem and, quite frankly, so will Paul Ryan's voucher (errr "premium support*) plan for Medicare. The estimates seem to suggest that the public option will be cheaper for the federal government, depending of course on your assumptions re how big the program will get.
It is going nowhere but raising it now in the context of deficit reduction is smart. So relax, put a log on the fire and consider the public option.
*It is my impression that Ryan's proposal, which would give elderly Americans who retire in 2022 a fixed amount to buy health insurance or traditional Medicare so it is claimed, was originally called a "voucher." But Republican political consultants pointed out that surveys show that for some reason Americans don't like the word "voucher." Not clear why. Maybe because it reminds us of those ugly green bags small businesses sometimes use to make deposits. Anyway, Ryan and his consultants came up with the phrase "income support," not exactly a household name but more innocuous. Liberals of course continue to insist it is really a terrible "voucher."
Oooh, MikeNaughton! You have earned my respect. (Disclaimer: I do not use any drug other than occasionally caffeine, but my cynicism about public drug policy knows no bound.) Ever watch Run from the Cure?
It's great that people are thinking, communicating and trying to figure out how to adjust our actions to better suit our needs. At the same time, I'm not sure legalizing and taxing heroin is a good idea in the long-term. And I'm pretty sure that allowing government representatives or LEOs to enter our dwellings for spot weapons inspections isn't going to make anyone feel safer or less vulnerable.