Monday, June 28, 2010

Illegal immigration is a matter of demand

Why they come
Immigrants come to the United States because of opportunity and, in some cases, because of political oppression and persecution which creates their need to seek asylum. Millions of legal immigrants have emigrated from all over the world, carving out their place in society, living productive lives, and through it all, appreciating the personal liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.

No one I know has a problem with legal immigration.

For the most part, illegal immigrants arrive here for the same reasons. It just doesn’t make sense for them to stand in the long lines at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when the alternative is so attractive for two reasons:

1) It’s easy to get into the United States. Illegal immigrants from many countries obtain valid visas or travel here on vacation and simply don’t leave when they’re supposed to. Another option of trekking across the desert wastelands of Sonora, Chihuahua and other abutting Mexican states is a lot more challenging, but certainly exploited as well. I’m sure there’s some migration across the Canadian border, but mostly by geese.

The whole thing reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the posse stops for a toll booth in the middle of the desert. Why bother to stop and pay the toll when the border is wide open for thousands of miles?

(Don’t watch this video if you don’t want to hear the “a” word and the “s” word.)



2) Once here, there are jobs available. This is actually where the problem lies and is often left out of the conversation which is dominated by “seal the borders” and “build a fence.”

On the border
As a matter of background, I grew up on the border of Texas and Mexico in the City of El Paso. The Border Patrol agents were always busy, picking up illegal aliens and dropping them back at the Santa Fe Bridge.

One time, Mary and I were watching one of our kids compete in a track meet at Bowie High School when we spotted a helicopter hovering over the stadium and soon noticed a group of undocumented tracksters sprinting through the school grounds with Border Patrol agents in hot pursuit.

The reason these people crossed the Rio Grande was for work. And there was plenty of it available. Yes, some border jumpers were drug runners and coyotes (smugglers of people), but the vast majority of them were day workers who could make as much as a week’s worth of Mexican minimum wage in a day in the United States.

Enforcement in the workplace
If we are ever going to get a handle on this problem, we must enforce our immigration policies in the workplace. The flow of undocumented workers will cease when there’s no work to be had without proper paperwork.

The two amendments voted on in the Massachusetts legislature this year that dealt with eliminating public benefits for illegal immigrants (one by Jeff Perry in the House, and the other by Bob Hedlund in the Senate) each had a key component that would help us solve the larger issue of undocumented workers, namely the E-Verify System.

I took the training for E-Verify and became certified for its use three years ago when it appeared that it would be a requirement for all businesses over a certain size. In a nutshell, it gives a green or red light to hire someone. The system works well, provides answers swiftly, and allows for investigating rejections created by errors in the database.

George Bush (43) put the brakes on the mandated use of E-Verify and it has been relegated to the sidelines. That was a mistake, one that has turned everyone’s attention to replicating the Great Wall of China from Brownsville, Texas to San Ysidro, California.

We need to revive E-Verify to choke off the demand for illegal immigrants, but that’s not the ultimate solution to the problem.

The need for more workers
It is a fact that millions of undocumented workers would be forced to leave the country, not being able to satisfy the requirements of E-Verify. The problem is that certain industries, agriculture and hospitality to name two, would be crippled.

In this recessionary time, many of these jobs would be backfilled by existing unemployed workers; however, when the economy comes around, a vacuum will occur in low skill jobs.

I worked in Midland, Texas, from 1981 to 1985, a time when oil was booming and we used to kid that a secretary was someone who could identify a typewriter. Hotels and restaurants lacked for help because anyone could get a job as an oilfield roughneck or support person.

We see that same problem on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket—less so now but definitely when the economy was better. Too few people to fill the low skill jobs. A vibrant economy needs people with all levels of skills and abilities.

The solution
A sweeping amnesty is the wrong answer. People who are breaking the law should not be rewarded for it. It’s bad policy. If we used this approach raising our kids, we would have ended up with six hooligans.

The ultimate solution is to clamp down in the workplace to eliminate illegal workers while setting immigration quotas at the proper level to satisfy businesses’ needs for skilled and unskilled labor. Then the USCIS must meet the challenge by streamlining the process for documenting enough workers to meet demand.

The road to citizenship, by the way, does not need to be fast tracked. That’s really a separate and distinct issue that can be debated on its own merits and modified if it makes sense.

Disconnecting work visa policies from naturalization policies would remove the “third rail effect” when dealing with immigration. That is, immigration reform would not then be all about adding people to the voter rolls. Rather, it would be about filling legitimate needs, getting people out of the shadows, and making our economy and country stronger.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You’re out of mulligans, Mr. President

Guest editorial by Jim Killion

In November of 2008, the American people elected Barack Obama to lead the nation in the hope that he could provide a brighter future. It was a roll of the dice of sorts, since we really didn’t know much about this short-term Illinois U.S. senator with a resume that is thinner than Kate Moss. But he gave a good speech, so despite the fact that the only experience he had in this world was that of Community Organizer, he was elected to lead the greatest nation in the world. Unfortunately, in eighteen short months “Hope and Change” has been reduced to “Dupe and Blame.”

I’d like to say that I am surprised and disappointed with the Duffer-in-Chief’s job performance, but then I’d be lying. Call me a skeptic, but I actually didn’t fall for the line about him lowering the ocean levels and cooling the planet. And it appears that I’m not alone in my opinion either as the so-called independent voters have abandoned the President in droves. The sad truth is while these middle-America moderates believed that they were voting for Mr. Cool, the wound up electing Mr. Magoo.

You have to admit that Obama’s pathetic leadership record is a target rich environment for criticism, but let’s focus on the ever growing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Think about it; we sent men to the moon and back in eight days but it took Obama nearly two months to get off the golf course and call the CEO of BP. And what was his excuse? Obama felt that Tony Haywood was just “going to tell me what I wanted to hear.” Funny, isn’t that essentially what Nancy Pelosi recently said about Obama’s campaign promises?

When the music finally stopped and Obama got around to putting this disaster on his radar screen, his response was as frightening as it was predictable. In a dire situation that required the best engineers and geologists the world has to offer, the president sent his top ambulance chaser, Eric Holder. That’s right. While millions of barrels of oil were spewing into the gulf, A.G. Holder shows up on the scene to announce that the scales of justice had arrived to put a boot to someone’s throat. It may not have been the equivalent to giving a drowning man a glass of water but it was by no means throwing him a life ring either.

But thankfully, we finally learned last week that Obama has as plan to stop the leak and clean up the gulf: higher taxes and windmills. Shucks, why didn’t I think of that?

Jim Killion
Sandwich, MA

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sandwich school committee contract deliberation

I thought it would be useful for everyone to see the school committee’s superintendent contract deliberation and votes from the June 16th meeting. The public forum portions of the meeting (before and after the votes) are also worth watching.

You can see the entire meeting and skip to the parts you want to view at http://www.sandwichtv.org. Click on the Streaming Video button, then Business Meetings, then look for the June 16th meeting in three parts.

If you don’t watch anything else, take a look at Mary Ellen’s questions to Shari and Nancy at 50 minutes into Part 3 of the video on the Sandwich TV website. Then come back to this blog and tell me why the committee should not try to salvage this situation using a roadmap similar to what I lay out below in my June 19th post.



Saturday, June 19, 2010

There is a way out of this mess

It’s time to take some deep breaths, count to ten, and lower our collective blood pressure.

There is a way out of this mess if every school committee member is willing to swallow some pride and if our battered superintendent can see her way past the hurt she must be going through and realize that there is growth and success on the horizon.

First, let me preface my comments with a few facts.

1) I have no inside information on any of the contract negotiations between the school committee and superintendent.

2) I haven’t spoken with any of the school committee members or superintendent about my ideas.

3) I have turned around a number of operations in my business career which seemed hopeless at the outset.

4) Pride and agenda sometimes get in the way of doing what’s best (in this case, what’s best for the kids).

5) My sense of the dynamics between the school committees (before and after the election) is my opinion developed from observation and experience.

6) This is an opinion piece, the point of which is to lay out a road map for the school department to move forward in a constructive way. To the extent that my observations are not 100% factual, I apologize, but keep the forest in view, not the trees.

The root of the problem

The search for Dr. Nancy Young’s successor was handled poorly. Instead of hiring a professional recruiting firm to conduct the search and specify the steps of the interview process, we formed a committee consisting of interested citizens, a few school committee members, and a student that, for the most part, lacked any experience in recruiting an executive.

The “nationwide search” produced a favored finalist from Mashpee and two others to provide cover for selecting the next superintendent. Then a really upsetting thing happened. Two of the finalists dropped out of the running. By the way, Dr. Johnson was not in this group of three, having been voted off the island in an earlier round of cuts.

Time to regroup?

No. Wait. Let’s dump the entire process and just vote Dr. Johnson into the job. And let’s do it at a meeting where the agenda doesn’t even mention this discussion will take place. What could go wrong?

Here’s what. Circumventing the process “married” the yea voters to the new superintendent. These committee members were now incapable of maintaining the appropriate separation from the superintendent, for her failure would be their failure.

I know they would disagree with me on this, but I think the evidence bears me out. School committee members’ seemingly endless defenses of her in the newspapers, in front of the finance committee, and at their own meetings convinced me that they were following their wedding vows, for better or worse.

Superintendent’s shortcomings

Based on my experience in managerial positions, I don’t think Dr. Johnson was quite ready for this big job. That doesn’t have to be a job ender, however. She is really smart, clearly thinks out of the box, and understands the value of teacher training and introducing technology into the school system.

She, like Dr. Nancy Young before her, did not appreciate how political the job of superintendent is and how important it is to spend the time to develop strong relationships with parents, teachers, other school administrators, and the town manager and his crew.

One “insider” piece of information I was privy to was the frustration municipal department managers and subordinates experienced trying to get information from the superintendent and waiting for return calls that never came. This lack of communication was fueled by a school committee member who informed the new school business manager that the town manager was someone not to be trusted. (You know who you are.)

So is all of this insurmountable?

No.

Just as Dr. Johnson understands the benefits of teacher training, she surely would appreciate the benefits of management training. I went to school for two weeks before being allowed to manage other people when I was with KPMG. We called it “charm school” and, to an extent, that was an accurate moniker.

Has Dr. Johnson ever been to a concentrated, two-week management training school? If not, it’s completely unfair for her to be thrust into the top job of a $35-plus million organization. This is a much bigger job than I had after going to charm school.

The way out

Like I said before, Dr. Johnson is a very smart and capable person. I don’t for a minute believe that she has been “Peter Principled” out. She simply needs additional training and experience and a school committee that is free to supervise her as it should (and must).

The first step to recovering from the pickle we find ourselves in is up to Dr. Johnson. Is she willing to set aside the humiliation, disrespect and ugliness she has been subject to over the past several months and adopt the view that, as bad as it was, there is a positive and career-building outcome within reach?

If she is unwilling to do this, I wouldn’t blame her. It takes a special person to want to take another shot at success in these less-than-optimal circumstances.

The second step requires the school committee members to dial back the emotions and rhetoric and refocus on the reason the committee exists: To provide the best possible education for our children in a safe and learning-conducive environment.

Step three is another school committee meeting before the month is out (some of it in executive session under the contract negotiations exception) where the following course of action should be approved:

1) Extend the superintendent’s contract for six months (through December 31, 2011).

2) Send her to a high-level manager training school, preferably one of the two-week concentrated sessions offered by a premier school’s graduate program. (Costs money, but is a lot cheaper than a professionally-managed search.)

3) Set specific, measurable goals that she can reasonably attain, or show significant progress towards, by December 31, 2010.

4) Set a December date for another evaluation and vote to extend, or not to extend, her contract.

5) Start, in earnest, a search to hire a curriculum director and permanent special education director. (Hint: Dr. Johnson is drowning trying to keep all these balls in the air.)

This approach accomplishes a number of important objectives:

1) School committee members who are currently dissatisfied with the superintendent’s performance would give her a fair and reasonable shot at achieving goals they would want any superintendent to accomplish. So, unless these committee members simply dislike this superintendent, which may be irreparable, they should be satisfied with demonstrable improvement.

2) Continuity of management, particularly since we are missing a number of people in key positions, is hugely important in the fiscally trying times we’re in and expect to be in for the next several years. A lame duck superintendent is bad for everyone, especially the kids. (Keep the focus on the kids.)

3) It allows for some breathing room that we desperately need at this point. Going from where we are now straight into a new superintendent search is a recipe for disaster. Committee members are contemplating legal action against one another. How can you possibly do your job as a school committee when the infighting is on the rise?

We need a time out.

P.S. Forget the recall thing. Use your energy on something constructive.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The CLR Honey-Do list

The commercial starts in a model kitchen with a husband—whose movie star looks and 24-hour Don Johnsonesque beard sets up this 30-second fantasy—holding a perfectly printed “To Do” list.

The voiceover laments “We’ve all been there. Face-to-face with the list. The Honey-Do List.”

Just then, we see the wife swiftly crossing the scene behind hubby, glaring at him the whole way with that look that says “take that, you son of a bitch.”

Apparently, Mr. Perfect did something to get into a bit of hot water. We get an idea of how bad that “something” is by freezing the frame and reading the list:

  • Clean & rinse coffee pot 
  • Unclog shower head
  • Clean bathtub & faucet
  • Wipe down shower doors
  • Run washer w/ CLR
  • Clean dishwasher
  • Clean tools
  • Unclog drain
  • Service septic system
This is not a list you get for forgetting to pick up bread on the way home from work, or for staying out an extra hour on card night.

No, this is a “forgot her birthday/anniversary” list. A “mentioned her Body Magic purchase to everyone at a party” list. A “got too fresh with her sister” list.

Based on the look on wifey’s face, instead of cleaning his tools with it, this guy might be better off just chugging the bottle of CLR.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reconstituted school committee gives notice to super

Elections matter.

The balance of power on the school committee shifted in the May election in the Town of Sandwich. What was a 4 to 2 vote in favor of extending the superintendent’s contract at an unusual Friday night meeting on April 30th turned into a 4 to 3 vote in favor of giving Dr. Johnson her one-year notice at this week’s meeting.

April’s meeting was declared a “nullity” by Assistant District Attorney Thomas Shack because it violated the state’s Open Meeting Law on grounds of insufficient notice. That decision threw the issue back in the air and it landed like a lead balloon in the high school library tonight.

The superintendent’s contract requires a one-year notice if the school board decides not to renew it, otherwise the terms automatically renew for a year, or a payout of an equivalent amount would become due upon the contract’s expiration.

Going into a year where it’s likely that the school committee will be jockeying for an override, it seems almost suicidal to be sidelining the general during the war planning. And if there isn’t a wage concession in the offing from the teachers’ union, the odds of passing an override will be worse than winning the progressive slot jackpot at Foxwoods.

The committee must also consider the sheer time and effort involved with recruiting a new super. It’s not like we have a bench here. How does that leave time for writing a “white paper” to support an override? And what’s the likelihood that the committee will be collaborating in a way necessary to advance such a controversial request?

Not seein’ it.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Out of control? Turn it off.

What would you do if your vacuum cleaner motor started racing and the vacuum took off across the floor, smashing into the wall, bumping the floorboard over and over, and jumping up and down?

Anybody for calling 9-1-1?

Okay, I’m stretching the point just a little. Any normal person would march over to the electrical outlet and pull the plug.

So why is it that we keep hearing stories about people driving out-of-control cars calling 9-1-1? What did these people do before cell phones? Drive 140 mph until they ran out of gas?

This reminds me of one of my brothers learning to drive. I won’t name which one in order to spare Alan the grief from me telling this story.

My dad, one of my brothers, and I took the family car out into the desert on the outskirts of El Paso and my dad let my brother take the wheel. Mind you, we were off road, surrounded by sand dunes, jack rabbits, and buzzards.

My brother started the car, pressed the brake, put the transmission in drive and, similarly to the way drag racers respond to the light tree, stomped on the gas.

The rest of this story is a vague memory for me, having been only 5 or 6 at the time, and because my entire body was pressed into the back seat with such pressure that my silhouette was visible in the vinyl for a week.

I do remember that my dad calmly reached over and turned off the engine.

No calls to 9-1-1. No panicking. Just doing the obvious thing.

This morning, I watched a story about a Somerville woman’s 1998 Honda Civic racing up Route 3 in New Hampshire. With both feet on the brake pedal and two hands on the steering wheel, she managed to call 9-1-1.

Amazingly, the 9-1-1 dispatcher failed to give her the key “To-Do” before the woman opted to bail out. She released her seatbelt, opened her door, and jumped out.

Oh my.

The car careened into an overpass and was demolished.

She rolled to a complete stop.

Thank heavens she’s okay. Some scrapes and a chipped tooth, but otherwise fine.

Here’s my three-step guide to dealing with unintended acceleration in situations where my father isn’t in the car with you:

1) Press the brake.

2) Shift into neutral.

3) Turn the engine off.

I know that’s spectacularly complicated, but it’s as easy to remember as “stop, drop, and roll,” a process that the Somerville lady followed two-thirds of.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is it time to open the East Sandwich fire station?

Vivien Kellerman appeals for opening the East Sandwich fire station via a letter to the editor in today’s Cape Cod Times. See her letter here.

I would like to see the third fire station manned as well, but Vivien’s abridged account of what happened regarding the board of selectmen’s review of this issue needs to be fleshed out in order for people to understand why we are where we are.

Background
In a series of meetings, the board of selectmen listened to the fire chief and deputy fire chief present statistical, logistical and financial information addressing the need for and cost of additional coverage in East Sandwich. No selectman disagreed with their conclusion that our response times could and should be improved to that part of town.

The cost of staffing the East Sandwich fire station raised plenty of questions. To open the station with twelve firefighters, the first year tab would be about $1 million, with about $200,000 of that figure being spent on equipment and fire station improvements.

The selectmen asked for less expensive alternatives, including assigning a two-person team to man an ambulance at the station. This was to address the fact that the most critical need is medical rather than fire services. In spite of the disastrous example of a house fire on Memorial Day, serious structure fires, thanks to smoke alarms and stricter building codes, are an infrequent occurrence.

To complicate the discussion, the selectmen had to consider the effect of our less-than-nominal public safety facilities. Would it be responsible to spend money upgrading a currently uninhabitable fire station (no sleeping/living quarters) when we all know that the current fire and police buildings on Route 6A should be scrapped in favor of a better located and equipped facility?

After much deliberation, the board decided to ask town meeting for $150,000 to update and complete our public safety study (police and fire included) as a first step in a project to build a new public safety complex in a more appropriate location. Additionally, the board requested that the two-person ambulance crew be established at the East Sandwich fire station whenever the two currently operating stations had a full complement of firefighters.

Town Meeting
Prior to the October 27, 2008 special town meeting, a citizens’ petition was filed requesting $960,000 be used to hire, train and staff twelve firefighter positions to open the East Sandwich fire station and to buy a trailer for living accommodations.

This is where Vivien’s description of what happened is a bit too abridged. (To be fair, I know that you can’t submit a tome to Letters to the Editor.)

The warrant article requesting $150,000 for a public safety study would have tapped our stabilization reserve.

At town meeting, a couple of hundred people attended and voted for the study by a margin of 123 to 119. However, expenditures from the stabilization fund requires a two-thirds margin, so the article failed.

There was extensive discussion surrounding the citizens’ petition, including a motion to indefinitely postpone it, which failed. In the end, the amended motion was to spend $710,980 from “free cash” (primarily comprised of land auction proceeds) to hire and train eight firefighters and to buy a trailer for them to live in.

The citizens’ petition passed on a vote of 135 to 95. Vivien’s characterizing 135 “yea” votes as “the rest of the town” (besides herself) voting to open the East Sandwich fire station is simply inaccurate. Characterizing it as a referendum is also misleading as that implies it was a ballot question.

The Aftermath
The board of selectmen was handed a decision by 135 voters to hire eight firefighters with zero funding to keep them employed beyond June 30, 2009. If the selectmen had acted on this ill-advised, emotionally-charged decision, the eight new firefighters would not even have completed their training at the fire academy before they would have been laid off.

I started this post by saying that I agree with Vivien that we should man the East Sandwich fire station. That was the point of the selectmen’s compromise to assign an ambulance crew there providing medical services with a reduced response time.

In the several months after we requested an East Sandwich ambulance crew on days when both the Downtown and Forestdale stations were fully staffed, we actually had that ambulance crew in place on exactly two shifts.

Reread that last sentence. Over an extended period of time, the two operating stations were fully staffed at the beginning of their shifts only two times. That raises an entirely different issue that needs to be addressed, whether the reason for it is understaffing, excessive absenteeism, or some other deficiency.

Suggestions for Funding
So how do you staff the East Sandwich fire station and fund it in a sustainable way? Here are some possibilities:

- Raise taxes. An override for this purpose would provide a steady stream of revenue to sustain the operation. We did this when we took the Forestdale station from part-time to full-time. What is the likelihood of an override passing?

- Raise fees. The transfer station is subsidized to the tune of about $750,000. Roughly doubling the $110 sticker fee would cover the subsidy and free the funds to hire eight firefighters. This is what is commonly called a “backdoor” override. No vote required (except for a vote of the board of selectmen).

- Reduce the local contribution to the schools. This would be met with stiff opposition, no doubt. It pits the school department against the fire department. That’s uncomfortable, but there’s a reason to consider this option. According to the Massachusetts Department of Primary and Secondary School Education, the Town of Sandwich’s local contribution to the school department has risen from $2.2 million above the state’s minimum required local contribution in fiscal year 2006 (the year the $2.6 million override went into effect) to $6.7 million in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2010. One might wonder why this margin has grown by $4.5 million in four years and why $750,000 of this can’t be tapped for public safety. See the DPSSE’s chart here. See the DPSSE's definition of Foundation Budget here. (Foundation Budget equals the mandated local contribution plus Chapter 70 aid.)

- Restore state aid. The Town of Sandwich has lost more than $1 million in local aid from the state just this year. If we use restored state aid for this purpose, it would more than pay for the operating costs. That will require our state representative and senator to fight for raising the priority of local aid for all towns and cities.

Feel free to add your own suggestions for funding the East Sandwich fire station, or argue that it’s not necessary.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What to say to the birthday girl on the day after

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday.

Every year, first thing in the morning, I wish her a “Happy Birthday!”

Nothing unusual about that.

Today, I woke up and wished her a “Happy After Birthday!”

That’s weird.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Special privileges for the school committee?

Time to send everyone to another Open Meeting Law class.

Paul Babin, reporter with the Sandwich Broadsider, reported this week (prior to last night’s school committee meeting) that the committee would have to revote the superintendent’s contract.

See the entire story here.

The disturbing part of Babin’s article centers around the Open Meeting Law (OML) and what is public versus privileged information.

Committee member Shaun Cahill questioned why the local media knew of Shack’s decision before the school committee. He said he heard about the ruling on the radio an hour and a half before the committee was notified.

“We talk about people spreading gossip in this town—this is a classic example of people getting a little bit of information and running with it.

“I hope that doesn’t happen again whoever the guilty party is that’s out there leaking this information. This is privileged information that’s supposed to go out to school committee members,” Cahill said.

Cahill encouraged the committee to challenge Shack’s ruling. He said the Open Meeting law is designed to prevent public officials from conducting business behind closed doors and that the committee obviously wasn’t trying to do that.

“There was no notion that [the meeting] was done behind anybody’s back as everyone at the [April 28] meeting voted in favor of the recess to meet 48 hours later,” Cahill said.

Cahill’s summary of the OML’s intent is essentially correct, but in order to ensure that scheduled meetings are known by and accessible to concerned citizens, a key component of the OML is the requirement for public postings at least 48 hours before convening.

His assumption is that everyone who is interested in the activities of the school committee either attends their meetings or watches them live on cable access. That, of course, is not the case. Some people have satellite, some people have rabbit ears, and some people have other things to do on Wednesday nights.

For these people to know about a scheduled meeting, absent any other radio, television or newspaper accounts, they can rely on the meeting notice being posted at the town clerk’s office. There was no such notice posted. Even if it had been posted, it wouldn’t have met the 48-hour requirement.

What bothers me more, much more, is the notion that the Assistant District Attorney’s decision on an OML violation is “privileged” information. That is a public document, folks.

Matt Pitta, news director at WXTK, had been chasing this story since it was reported that ADA Shack was reviewing the Friday meeting for propriety. Pitta called the DA’s office every day inquiring about the status of Shack’s investigation.

When Pitta called on the day that Shack released his findings, Pitta acquired a copy of the report and wrote and aired the news story.

There was no “leak.”

There was no “gossip.”

There was no “privilege.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

TV role for a CPA?

I know this is going to shock you, but being a CPA isn’t always as exciting as you might think. Today is one of those days.

I’m an hour into a five-hour class called Accounting for Income Taxes, Including SFAS 109 & FIN 48. Here is a 45-second example of what I’m ingesting:

Click here for audio

I picked that clip because it’s one of the simpler-to-understand parts of this course.

I once pitched a TV series to CBS that would follow the life of a forensic certified public accountant (yes, that is a real job—there’s even a professional certificate for forensic accountants). I wanted to call it Magnum CPA.

Apparently, the program committee’s view of what would make good television doesn’t line up with mine. I say “apparently” because I never actually got a letter back from them, so I still hold out hope that I’ll get a thumbs up one day.

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Firefighting is a dangerous job

From time to time, we are reminded how dangerous it is to be a firefighter.

We remember Kevin Kelley, who was killed in January 2009 when the ladder truck he was riding on in Boston crashed into a building. Faulty brakes were the result of lax maintenance. It’s dangerous enough to be a firefighter without unnecessarily adding to the risks.

The worst loss of life in many years in Massachusetts was in December 1999 when two Worcester firefighters entered an abandoned warehouse, knowing that homeless people often took up residence there and built fires inside the windowless building to keep warm.

Some time later, a call of Mayday was sounding on the radios. The firefighters were running out of oxygen and were unable to exit the building. Four of their fellow firefighters entered the building in a rescue attempt. None emerged.

The fallen heroes were Paul Brotherton, Timothy Jackson, Jeremiah Lucey, James Lyons III, Joseph McGuirk, and Thomas Spencer.

But for the grace of God, we might have been the next Massachusetts town to lose firefighters in the line of duty. Yesterday’s house fire in the Ridge Club area of Sandwich was the scene of an explosion that blew Lee Burrill and Daniel Keane 30 to 40 feet from the doorway where they had been standing.

Other firefighters at the scene pulled the two out of the fall zone of a chimney that collapsed within a minute after the injured men were relocated. Dan and Lee’s injuries are significant and we pray for their full recoveries.

Memorial Day 2010

The Town of Sandwich is fortunate to have a group of dedicated veterans at the American Legion Post 188. Each Memorial Day, we are reminded of the true meaning of the day by the Legion commander and several guest speakers.

This blog post includes two 10-minute videos I shot and edited featuring highlights of the commemoration ceremony and parade as well as a series of photographs by Bill Diedering.