Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Respect

I had the great misfortune of accidentally stumbling into a replay of the most recent Rotterdam Town Board budget vote meeting. Overall, it was probably one of the most embarrassing public displays ever by an elected body.

Personally, I was deeply disturbed by the proposed budget by the Supervisor which would’ve resulted in a 7.4% residential tax increase, and a whopping 11.4% commercial tax increase. It is incredulous that this budget was submitted by an administration that ran for election on a platform of lowering taxes!

Now, I’m supposed to be relieved by the surprise 11th hour budget proposal, subsequently adopted in a contentious 3-2 vote, by 3 of the dissenting Town Board members that results in a 3.5% residential tax increase and a 7.4% commercial tax increase? I’m not. Seemingly, I’m supposed to be enamored of these three so-called “3 Musketeers” for being my tax relief champions. That’s equally ludicrous! All of these officials campaigned on lowering taxes. Obviously, they can’t deliver. They should be voted out.

The truly disgusting part is not only did we just get a tax increase, but we got it by way of severe dysfunction and incivility. I’m reminded of that campaign question about getting along after elected that I’ve discussed a few times since. The Rotterdam Town Board has achieved the epitome of dysfunction, evidenced by the manner of budget deliberations, or lack thereof. Apparently, the members of the Revitalize Rotterdam Team are each choosing to go their separate ways…and they don’t seem to be hesitant about expressing their displeasure with one another quite rudely. The Supervisor demands respect yet then shouts at another Town Board member to “shut their mouth” while also calling them a “liar.” The councilmember on the receiving end of the insults is outraged by the show of disrespect yet is the same member that publicly shredded a resident a few months ago in an equally harsh manner. The bickering is childish, unprofessional, and utterly disgraceful. It’s also counterproductive. The fact that it is done publicly makes it even more so.

The reporter for the Spotlight seems equally out of touch – headlining a recap of the circus with stating the budget “cuts spending, lowers taxes.” That’s just plain wrong. The budget they adopted RAISES taxes. They only cut spending and lowered taxes relative to the previous outlandish proposal which really means they didn’t do either.

There should be one realized objective driven by one critical question: 0% tax increase by asking the question, what is absolutely essential? I’ve offered my views on how to achieve this objective in the past (November 2008). Until our elected start addressing the question properly we as taxpayers will get no respect.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Call an Ambulance

The Town of Rotterdam is poised for a public referendum on a new tax district to support ambulance service. REMS will be the supposed beneficiary of those tax funds should the tax district vote succeed.

The debate on this issue has raged for far too long, in my opinion. Is the creation of a tax district for ambulance service a valid approach to provide a necessary, vital service? Absolutely, no question. A better question would be is a tax district to support ambulance service necessary? Absolutely not, no question.

The real question is, are you willing to pay higher taxes? At this exact moment, I’m not. Not because I don’t think ambulance service is important – in fact, I consider it necessary and vital. And it’s not because I can’t afford to pay the tax if it is approved because I can. I’m against it because I’m not willing to increase my tax burden further, at this point in time.

There are alternatives, however. First, it’s not a situation where people will be faced with no ambulance service at all. Mohawk Ambulance is eager to fill any void created by the disappearance of REMS. In fact, they already compliment a competent REMS with competent service of their own. There will be ambulance service. I’m not about to begin arguing which service might be better qualified because I’m not qualified nor interested in doing so. I’m arguing taxes, pure and simple, while attempting to take panic out of the decision equation.

As I said, I believe ambulance service is necessary and vital. I also said I don’t wish to pay additional tax to support it at this time. Contradictory? Not necessarily. If we assume that ambulance service is a desirable necessary and vital service, then the question is asked and answered, in my opinion, especially when I’m not willing to assume a larger tax burden. I believe ambulance service should be funded through the General Fund by using our existing tax dollars. (Current policy and practice, in fact, supports this approach.) Since budgets are tough all over these days, this desire puts an even greater demand on our elected officials to find the appropriate cuts elsewhere to pay for it. If they can’t do it when something is deemed necessary and vital, they’ll never ever be able to do it on anything. It’s time to make the hard decisions…and funding ambulance service shouldn’t be one of them. But raising taxes in arguably the most difficult environment we’ve ever seen shouldn’t be the solution.

I ran for office recently with a campaign largely based on No New Taxes. I lost, so maybe it’s me that’s out of step. We’ll find out soon enough. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2010 from 8am -8pm.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Alliance Party

Schenectady’s Sunday Gazette provided some interesting news in an editorial offered by Mr. Roger Hull, former Union College president. He, along with some others, announced the formation of the Alliance Party, a new party designed to be an inclusive, solution-minded vehicle. I absolutely love the concept he describes. My original hope for the No New Tax Party effort was similar - attract participants and candidates of as many parties as possible and shed the usual constraints that serve to impede real solutions – though we failed to accomplish that with regard to candidates, even if we attracted supporters from across the spectrum. It was an honest start anyway and I’m heartened to see others attempting to take it to the next level because I think it can work.

Not surprisingly, the effort is already the subject of scoffing from several quarters. Once again, the same people who claim to want a different approach that yields results are reluctant to embrace this initiative. The same old arguments of splitting the vote, ulterior motives, or sheer impossibility are being recycled. There even seems to be some jealously from former independent hopefuls that have offered some similar thinking on some subjects! Sorry, but in my mind, no one owns a monopoly on previously expressed ideas that get us better government.

I particularly like the self-imposed term limits the Alliance Party will rely on. Though I didn’t make it an express part of my campaign for office, I intended to do exactly that if elected. By doing so, it takes the influence of special-interest money out of the equation.
Their idea of a pay freeze is also one I support. I’ve previously fought against pay raises for elected officials. It should be all about a desire to serve, not compensation. Transparency and Quality of Life, two subjects I’ve written about in the past, also appear to be cornerstone elements.

Personally, I’m excited to see this effort unfold. I’ll be attending the forum being held at the Eastern Parkway Price Chopper tonight at
7:00 pm to learn more firsthand.