Monday, May 01, 2006

My initial take on articles 1-17

To open a copy of the warrant in a new window, right-click here, and choose "Open in New Window."

I can’t know for sure until hearing the discussions around each article, but these are my instincts regarding most of the first half of the warrant. As always, your comments and feedback are welcomed.

Article 1 – 5 are housekeeping articles, and on the consent calendar (except #2, which I believe will be dismissed.) These are simple yes votes.

Article 6 – Reducing the interest rate on deferred property taxes for qualifying seniors. Definitely. A good way to help keep more seniors in their homes.

Article 7 – Increasing the number of votes needed to remove items from the consent calendar from one to five. Yes. This seems most practical.

Article 8 – Changing the penalty for failure to shovel snowy sidewalks in order to be in compliance with state law. Duh. Yes. I wonder why this isn’t on the consent calendar.

Article 9 – Changing an Open Container violation from an arrestable offense to a ticketable offense. This petition was brought by students who think the arrest penalty is too harsh, and they point out that the fines from tickets can help raise revenue. Sounds good, but taking away the ability to arrest from the police is huge in a situation that can get out of control quickly. Also, Chief Scherpa points out that the police can’t force someone to show identification in this kind of situation, so enforcement by ticketing would be untenable. The chief also says that “…the procedure at the District Court has always been to modify the Open Container offense to a civil complaint if the defendant agrees at the time of arraignment to plead “responsible” to the civil claim and pay a fine. With this civil disposition, those arrested can rightfully claim that they have “no criminal record” …” Sorry kids. Gotta oppose this article.

Article 10 – I understand that this isn’t ready yet and will be dismissed.

Article 11 – Tax Incentive Financing for Cushman Market. My inclination is to oppose this, but I could be persuaded otherwise. My reasons for opposition are 1) my general Darwinian outlook on business; 2) a concern that this, while not precedent-setting per se, as TIFs have been used before, will encourage more “Oh yeah, well why not help me?” appeals to the town; 3) while the proposal suggests that such help now results in higher tax collection potential in the future, the fact is that countless new businesses never make it to “the future” so the town may never realize those gains; 4) it does not appear that the business owner’s plans are contingent on this TIF, so it doesn’t really seem necessary. I’ll be interested to see what the Finance Committee’s recommendation is on this, as well as hearing the petitioner speak to the article. And as this is a business-related article, let me state in the interest of full disclosure – my father is John Coull, director of the Chamber of Commerce.

Article 12 – Reinstating Special Municipal Employee Status for members of town boards and committees. Nothing that I have read in the papers, seen on the Select Board meetings, or have heard described by Select Board members has persuaded me that rescinding this status was necessary or beneficial. I strongly support this article.

Article 13 – Resolution to improve town committees, boards and commissions. This seeks to reinstate the Special Municipal Employee Status for six months, and create a task force to study other ways of improving committees. I don’t know enough about this article yet. I don’t know why it restores SME status just for 6 months – perhaps to allow for the task force recommendations. The idea of a committee to study committees is a little off-putting to me. If this doesn’t come up for a vote tonight, then I shall contact the article’s sponsor Alan Root for more information. If it does come up for vote tonight, then I will have to make up my mind based on the presentation and discussion.

Article 14 – Supporting Universal Health Care. This article has given me the most headaches so far, which is funny, since I still haven’t determined if there is an actual practical outcome from these “advisory” articles. But I have labored over it nonetheless. There are SO MANY reasons why I fear and doubt a single-payer government-based health care system that I would run out of space detailing them all. And yet the current health care situation is such an expensive and elaborate mess, and no other alternatives seem viable or practical, or themselves suffer from similar or worse problems, such that this may really be our best hope. I will have to support this.

Articles 15 – 17 – These articles request various legislation and a moratorium related to Genetically Engineered Foods. Unlike Article 14, I have not labored over this. I cannot possibly expect to educate myself sufficiently on the complexities of food science to the degree that I would be qualified to offer an informed opinion on this topic. I expect to oppose all of them because I think they are inappropriate questions to be dealt with in this venue.


Gavin Andresen said...

I'm glad I voted for you.

Stephanie O'Keeffe said...

Thank you! I really appreciate that.