Friday, January 29, 2010

Sandwich Community School must pull its weight

To my readers: Not having participated in the detailed discussions about the Sandwich Community School that took place during last year's school budget preparation cycle, I will not opine on Bob Guerin's guest editorial. I do, however, feel that providing this venue for Bob's opinions and comments by my readers is appropriate. Remember that comments are moderated, so do not expect that they will appear instantaneously after you post them. -- Randy Hunt


Guest editorial by Bob Guerin

In the current economic environment towns and schools have asked themselves hard questions like: “What is our primary mission?” and “What is a core service?” In Sandwich, budget pressures have resulted in increased scrutiny of the operation and funding of the Sandwich Community School.

The Community School is a loose confederation of unrelated businesses that includes operating a pool, offering adult education courses, providing pre-kindergarten child services, and managing a drivers’ education program.

While the Community School plays an important role in the lives, and quality of life, of our citizens, no one can seriously argue that the Community School provides a core service to taxpayers. It’s not educating our students, providing for public safety, and it does not maintain our roads and public buildings or protect the public health.

We now know that for years moneys, probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, have been diverted from the town’s school budget to subsidize the operation of the Community School. For example, the Community School pool operation did not pay the heat and electric bills it incurs (roughly $80,000/year or more). The adult education program, which utilizes school equipment, classrooms and utilities, did not pay to rent the space it occupies (something almost every other group using school property does today).

In addition, the Community School used to collect and keep all fees or rental income non-school groups using school property would pay. So, while the town’s school budget paid to maintain school equipment, classrooms, gymnasiums and auditoriums, the Community School pocketed any and all rental income. That’s a good business to be in!

We also know that claims of significant “in-kind” financial contributions from the Community School back to the school system were overstated and overvalued.

In addition to receiving large subsidies from the schools to manage its budget, the Community School inflated the price of two popular programs: drivers’ education and pre-K child services. The Community School would divert the “profits” from these programs to offset chronic pool operating deficits and fund administrative office expenses.

Administrative office expenses of the Community School exceed those of the Sandwich Public Schools central office. According to the numbers, it costs less to have a central office run our entire K-12 school system, managing staff, buildings, equipment, and transportation than it does to run the central office of the Community School.

Without subsidies, the Community School is not and has never been profitable. It’s unlikely that without some form of subsidy the Community School as we know it today can survive.

Budgets are about choices. The questions the School Committee and our town need to ask and answer are these: Is it right and is it the best use of taxpayer moneys to continue to cut school programs and teachers and other school budget line items so that a select few can swim laps or a Barnstable mom can learn to paint with water colors? Is it right that the parents of drivers’ education students and the working families enrolling their children in pre-K programs must overpay to subsidize pool and office expenses?

In the dreaded private sector, businesses that can’t generate enough revenues to cover expenses either cut costs, increase revenue, or fail.

Isn’t time to fix the Community School problem permanently? Isn’t time to make each Community School business individually either cover their expenses or close?

Bob Guerin
Former School Committee Chairman
Sandwich, MA

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scott Brown: Sweeping change or no change at all?

It’s been entertaining to watch the pundits, pollsters and politicians (the three P’s) analyze what happened last Tuesday with the election in Massachusetts of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate.

Does it mark a sweeping change in the political landscape, as suggested by a number of the three P’s?

I would argue against that assessment. Yes, the technical game changed in a big way when Scott Brown became the 41st Republican senator, barring the “jam it down your throat” approach that Harry Reid has been enjoying for a year. But, other than that, has anything really changed?

For months, pollsters have consistently shown that the health care reform proposals lack favor among voters; that Congress’ negatives exceed their positives; that the president’s favorability is evaporating.

Were any of these indicators significantly different a week ago? A month ago? Last August?

Not at all.

This health care reform legislation was moving forward, not because the American people wanted it, but because our elitist legislators could get away with it. They were saying things like ‘once the people understand how it benefits them, they will embrace it like they embraced Social Security and Medicare.’

In a horrid example of “the ends justify the means,” backroom deals were made that would result in bribery convictions if any of us had pulled the same stunts out here in the real world. But in Washington, that’s how the sausage is made.

Nebraskans, to their credit, screamed foul at Ben Nelson’s bald-faced vote trading in spite of the deal benefiting their state. Louisianans, not so much. And the unions… Well, what do you expect?

On the question of last Tuesday’s election, I posit that nothing has changed. The American people did not shift their position on the national agenda as a result of Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. We simply could not get the attention of our legislators through polling, holding tea parties, writing letters and emails, and attending the August recess “town hall meetings.”

An armed robber feels pretty empowered until the store owner wrestles the gun away from him.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To-Do list for January 19, 2010

1) Elect Scott Brown (R), U.S. Senator from Massachusetts: Done

2) See number 1.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Life's first major milestone: Potty training

There are few things you accomplish in life that thrill your parents more than conquering the potty. It’s a right of passage. It lets you put away the diapers for 60 or 70 years, if you’re lucky.

One of our grandsons has met this challenge recently and is not at all embarrassed to let us know how proud he is of himself and how proud his mom and dad are to be affiliated with him.

To honor his accomplishment and to motivate future grandsons who will be following in his footsteps, I wrote a song called “Potty Boy.” It’s kind of a guy thing to sing about one’s bathroom prowess, so I’ll spare our granddaughters from this brazen tastelessness.

Click here to listen to “Potty Boy.”

Potty Boy

You’re such a big boy
Goin’ in the potty
You’ll grow to love it
Have your own party


You’re such a big boy
Standin’ up to tinkle
Do it like the bears do
Rocky and Bullwinkle


Number 1
Number 2
Gimme a “Pee” [Pee]
Gimme a “Poo” [Poo]


You’re such a big boy
(Teetee, weewee, peepee)
Goin’ in the potty
(Caca, doodoo, poopoo)
Never wear a diaper
(Teetee, weewee, peepee)
Underwear so spotty
(Caca, doodoo, poopoo) [And tracky]

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Breaking news: Curt Schilling still not a Yankees fan

On WBZ radio yesterday, Martha Coakley brought along a spade to dig herself in even deeper. When asked about Curt Schilling’s support for Scott Brown, she dismissed Schilling as “another Yankee fan.”

This has to be her stupidest comment yet.

After an awkward silence, the interviewer asked:

“Schilling?”

“Yes,” Coakley confirmed.

“Curt Schilling? A Yankee fan?”

The amazement of Dan Rea, veteran television and radio journalist and native Bostonian, was obvious from his incredulous tone.

“No. All right. I’m wrong on my… I’m wrong.”

“The Red Sox great pitcher of the bloody sock?”

“Well, he’s not there any more.”

If I were texting this to you, my next tweet would be “WTF?????????”

Then “OMG!!!!!!!!!”

I was so shocked at this exchange that I thought Martha had lost all her marbles. Today I’m wondering if she had any marbles to start with.

Holy smokes.

What planet was she on in 2004?

Today I received this voice message from Curt Schilling, who confirmed that he was never a Yankees fan, not even a closet one.

Whew!

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brown is the New Blue for Massachusetts

Guest editorial by Jim Killion

Is it me or does every election appear more important than the last? Whatever your take on the 2008 Presidential election, the national importance of next week’s U.S. Senate race cannot be overstated. In what is shaping up to be a close race with a small turnout, a handful of voters right here in our little town have the potential to change the course of history.

Who could have predicted that a special election to fill the entitlement seat vacated by Ted Kennedy after nearly five decades could impact the national political agenda for the foreseeable future? Yet with so much at stake, never before has the decision of who to elect been so simple to figure out.

If you like the idea of having your healthcare system run by the same incompetent federal bureaucracy that brought us the Big Dig, then vote for Martha Coakley.

If you believe that people who enter this country illegally should not be entitled to free room, free board, free college tuition, and free healthcare courtesy of the taxpayers, then vote for Scott Brown.

If you don’t have a problem with Secretary of State Bill Galvin and the U.S. Senate delaying certification of the election for 30 days so that a Senator who was not duly elected by the people of Massachusetts can cast the 60th vote to nationalize the healthcare industry, then vote for Martha Coakley.

If you believe that the person who earned the paycheck is more qualified than the politicians in D.C. to determine how it’s spent, then vote for Scott Brown.

If you believe that a person who commits or attempts to commit an act of terrorism against citizens of the United States should be treated no differently by our criminal justice system than some crooked state senator, then vote for Martha Coakley.

If you believe that oil and natural gas reserves located within and offshore of the continental United States should be accessed by American companies for American consumption, then vote for Scott Brown.

If you believe that the federal government should impose sky high taxes on energy in a ludicrous attempt to control the earth’s climate, then vote for Martha Coakley.

If you want to slow the reckless ultra left wing agenda that is jeopardizing our children’s future with out-of-control spending, then please vote for Scott Brown.

The year 2010 has the potential to be a happy new year indeed because come 8:01 p.m. on January 19th the possibility of a new era of politics could dawn on Massachusetts and the nation. Hopefully the message we send to Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill is that our government must serve its people first, because it is you the voter that should set the agenda in Washington.

It is not simply the way that one man thinks it should be, but what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they drew up the blueprint for a successful democracy.

Jim Killion
Sandwich, MA

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coakley takes a big dig at Teddy

I watched Martha Coakley’s campaign commercial at least 40 times over the weekend, during which I learned several things:

She should have shot a second or third commercial to help spice it up some. Watching the same spot over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the idea) again is mind numbing.

She has a big budget. This ad is on every channel I frequent, and frequently. I can’t blame her for turning it on, now that Scott Brown has emerged as a real threat to Coakley’s inheritance of her Kennedy-given senate seat.

I love how she says “Toozday.” It’s very cute in her nasally voice, although I think she should consider using Breathe Right Nasal Strips.

After last week’s surprise endorsement by Vicki Kennedy, I was a little taken aback by the anti-Kennedy tone of the ad. Why does she take a big dig at Teddy by starting the commercial with “Isn’t it about time to bring back real accountability to Wall Street and Washington?” Those are pretty caustic words towards our beloved nine-term senator coming from someone who has essentially accomplished nothing and who would enter the senate as its most junior member and stay that way for the next ten months.

Then to add insult to injury, Coakley’s tag line for her campaign is “a different kind of leader.” Another slap at Ted Kennedy’s leadership in the U.S. Senate and his representation of Massachusetts over these last 46 years. I don’t know anyone, Democrat or Republican, who thinks that Senator Kennedy was an ineffective leader in the Senate or a poor representative for Massachusetts.

The only other interpretation I can see for “a different kind of leader” is Coakley’s admission that she’s no Ted Kennedy. “Hey electorate, don’t expect me to be able to get anything done ala Senator Kennedy. He was powerful, influential, driven, true to his liberal agenda, and brought home the bacon to Massachusetts. I’m a different kind of leader.”

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The week's dumbest question

On Meet The Press this morning, David Gregory asked California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “And for the country, as well, when you think, not just about California, but the country and economic recovery, what do you think is the biggest threat to that recovery? Is it unemployment?”


At first, I considered making the above paragraph my entire post for the week, giving it the title “The Week’s Dumbest Question.” Then I thought: Maybe there are a lot of people out there who don’t get that high unemployment is the result of a failing economy—“The Great Recession” as some in the press are eagerly coining it—and not the cause of it.

So I’ve decided.

See you next week.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Would you like some pornography with your $50 coin?

I saw this interesting ad on TV for a $50 buffalo tribute proof coin. I remember the U.S. Mint creating a $50 gold bullion coin in 2006 that sold for between $800 and $900 back then and I’ve seen it offered on Home Shopping Network and all over the Internet for double and nearly triple that.

The word “tribute” means the same thing in the world of collectors’ coins as it does in the world of 1960s and 1970s rock bands. When you go see Creedence Clearwater Revisited, don’t expect to get John Fogerty’s signature on your program. And don’t expect to see an equivalent concert.

Here is a portion of the narrative that makes you want to start spilling your credit card information to a perfect stranger on the phone. The key words to focus on are “copy” and “clad.”

“Look closely at history in the making. This $50 buffalo gold piece is the purest gold coin ever struck by the U.S. government. It’s the first U.S. coin ever struck using point 9-9-9-9, that’s four nines, pure 24-carat gold. Its design is based on the famous buffalo nickel of 1913 to ’38.

“Now you can reserve your own copy of the $50 gold buffalo, clad in 31 milligrams of pure gold. National Collector’s Mint’s private, non-monetary minting, recreates James Earl Fraser’s American Buffalo, against a mirror-like background on one side and his iconic Native American Indian head stands out in stunning relief on the other.”

See the entire come-on here, but don’t make a phone call until you read the rest of this blog post.

There are several points of interest in this television commercial and a major behind-the-scenes story that you will appreciate knowing.

The first portion of the ad features video of the real gold bullion coin complete with an accurate description of that $1000-plus investment. That, of course, is not what’s being sold here.

What is being sold is a tribute copy of the U.S. Mint’s coin, clad in 31 milligrams of 24-carat pure gold. And you’d better hurry, because the price of $19.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling can only be guaranteed for seven days due to the spiraling cost of gold.

Which begs the question: Just what’s the value of 31 milligrams of gold? Using the Google weight conversion tool, I converted 31 milligrams to 0.000996673144 troy ounces. That rounds conveniently to 1/1000 of a troy ounce, the standard measure for gold, silver and other precious metals.

Then I checked the price of a troy ounce of gold on the Wall Street Journal website and, as of 5:14 p.m. EST on December 31, 2009, it was $1,097.80. That also rounds conveniently to $1,000, making the value of the gold on this coin about a buck. (For you accuracy buffs, it comes out to exactly $1.09.)

Okay. I’m buying a gold coin for $25 that has $1.09 of gold content. Yes, now I see why the urgency. If the price of gold doubles over the next week, I’ll get a whopping $2 of gold for a mere $25.

I’m guessing that the entire cost of production, packaging and shipping must be less than $5. Why? Because there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. You pay to ship it back to National Collector’s Mint and they’ll refund your $19.95. Shipping and handling (and profit) of $4.95 is not refundable.

I’ve probably not told you anything that you wouldn’t have figured out for yourself if you spent a few minutes thinking about it. But here’s something that will go unnoticed by almost everyone: the certificate of authenticity.

Yes, it certifies the size, total weight, and gold content of the coin and looks really official, but look who signed it. Barry M. Goldwater, Jr. Wait a second. That’s an uber-famous name.

People my age and older remember his dad running for president in 1964 and getting his clock cleaned by LBJ. He won the 52 electoral votes of Arizona and the southern states from Louisiana to South Carolina, except for Florida. Johnson won the rest (486).

Junior was an Arizona congressman from 1969 to 1983, opened his own consulting firm after that in Beverly Hills, and served as a member of the New York Stock Exchange. In his biography at http://www.barrymgoldwaterjr.com/BMGBiography.htm, there is no mention of his participation in a company pushing tribute coins. However, at www.nationalcollectorsmint.com/meetbarry.jsp, you can see the smiling face of Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., director and numismatist.

And who owns National Collector’s Mint? Well, none other than Avram Freedberg, the owner of Dirty Dick’s Dynamite Discount Den, a company in Stamford, Connecticut, that was raided in 1988 for selling pornography. After agreeing to close the business and paying a $600,000 fine, Freedberg avoided jail time and moved on to this new venture.

In 2004, his company marketed Freedom Tower Silver Dollars (coincidentally, also sold for $19.95) which were purportedly made from silver bars recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center collapse. See what a New Times opinion piece and article had to say about Freedberg's attempt to capitalize on the September 11, 2001 event.

Freedberg followed up with a presidential coin featuring Barack Obama on one side and Abraham Lincoln on the other. That minting was even more premature than the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision last year, although both share a common element: naked opportunism.

Still tempted to cash in on this excellent deal for investors and collectors?

I didn’t think so.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt