Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hunting for fish

The words hunting and fishing go together like salt and pepper, love and marriage, yueng and ling.

A person who participates in the activity of hunting is called a hunter.

A person who participates in the activity of fishing is called a fisherman.

Why the difference?

There was a push back in the late fifties and early sixties—among the cap donning, pipe smoking, bongo slapping beatnik crowd—to switch to fishercat, but that didn’t go for the ride, Big Daddy-O.

I think it’s about time to eliminate the inconsistency and gender confusion by going with fisher.

“What does she do for a living?”

“She’s a commercial fisher.”

“She fishes for commercials?”

“No. She hunts for fish as a commerce kind of thing. That’s not right…”

“Oh. You mean she’s a fisherman.”


“Shoulda just said so.”

Copyright 2010 Randy Hunt

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What are the odds of expanded gaming in MA?

We’ve been running a poll on expanded gaming in Massachusetts for about a week now. Interestingly, the results to this point are split right down the middle.

Yes, casinos plus slots at the four race tracks (House version): 34%
Yes, only casinos (Senate & Governor’s version): 16%
No, we should not expand gaming in Massachusetts: 50%

Participate in the poll by clicking here.

It would be interesting to hear some of the reasons for supporting or opposing casinos and slots. Weigh in by leaving your comment below.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Debt exclusion on November 2nd ballot

The Sandwich board of selectmen voted to put a debt exclusion on the general election ballot in November, to be preceded by a town meeting in late October.

The basics
A quick primer for those not familiar with the various overrides available for municipal financing is in order. To provide perspective in the Town of Sandwich, the average homeowner pays about $100 a year for a $1 million operating override or capital exclusion.

Debt exclusions are financed over an extended number of years, therefore, the annual effect on taxpayers is less. Specifically, the proposed debt exclusion would cost an average taxpayer (one whose property is valued at $388,000) about $50 to $55 in the first year of the bond term, coming down to $30 to $35 in the last year.

Any increase in property taxes exceeding 2½% requires the approval of town meeting and a successful vote at the ballot box. The order of the two doesn’t matter. If the override is the only article on the town meeting warrant, it makes sense to go to the polls first and to cancel the town meeting if the question fails.

Capital exclusion – A one-time, one-year assessment on property tax payers to pay for a capital project, such as re-roofing a building. From a practical standpoint, this approach is best for financing up to about $1 million worth of projects.

Debt exclusion – An override financed via a borrowing over a fixed number of years. Larger capital projects are usually handled this way, minimizing the impact in any given year on taxpayers. When the debt is paid off, the assessment on property tax bills goes away.

Operating override – An override for a fixed dollar amount that increments the property tax assessment and becomes part of the base for calculating subsequent years’ taxes. In other words, it never goes away. This is appropriate for covering new operating expenses (opening a fire station, for example) or to fund existing expenses that have grown faster than 2½% per year.

The proposal
The Town of Sandwich, just like any property manager, needs to maintain its capital assets. A committee has studied the issue of town-owned buildings maintenance and has recommended spending $5 to $6 million to make critical repairs to a number of buildings. See the details at Taking care of our buildings.

According to the committee’s study, more than $25 million is necessary to make all of the identified repairs to shore up the town’s buildings. By the way, the study did not look at the town’s largest capital asset: roads. The topic of a road bond is floating over the current discussions like a dirigible.

The problem
Voting to put a debt exclusion on the November 2nd ballot is a big step; unfortunately a misstep.

This November’s election is a referendum on the White House, Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill. It comes in the midst of nine-plus percent unemployment and the worst economic recession in most people’s memory.

That’s quite a backdrop for asking voters for more money. “Let the people decide,” it was said during the discussion at last Thursday’s board of selectmen meeting. They will do that, for sure. You betcha.

To her credit, Linell Grundman pointed out the bad timing during the deliberations before she voted against putting the debt exclusion on the ballot. She recognizes that asking for more money during a recession is likely to fall on deaf ears.

What do you think would have happened if the state legislature asked for public input before increasing sales and meals taxes by 25%? That’s why they didn’t ask.

In my opinion, the bigger problem is for the proponents of an operating override slated for next May. (For the record, I do not count myself in that group. More about that in a future post.)

If the debt exclusion passes, then the May voters will be saying that they just passed an override back in November.

If the debt exclusion fails, it sets up a very negative dynamic for getting anything passed next May. And that would leave us without funding for the building repairs that I believe is a necessary and wise investment in our town’s infrastructure.

The solution
Prior to the October town meeting, the board of selectmen should present a plan to eliminate the need for an operational override for municipal services in the spring. That would give the debt exclusion a shot of passing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July online issues survey: Preliminary results

With over a hundred people weighing in on our online survey, the ranking of issues from most (1) to least (5) important is:

1) Job creation (1.3)
2) Stopping public benefits for illegal immigrants (1.4)
3) Lowering taxes (1.5)
4) Balancing the power in the legislature (1.6)
5) Lowering the cost of homeowners’ insurance (2.0)
6) Dealing with waste water solutions for Cape Cod (2.2)
7) Eliminating state pensions for elected officials (2.3)
8) Imposing term limits on elected officials (2.3)

You can still participate in the survey by clicking here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A vote for the state’s budget was a vote against your town

The $27.6 billion fiscal year 2011 state budget is 1.3% less than the year before. That seemed like good news to me... Until I looked a little closer at the numbers.

Before I forget, the commonwealth will actually spend more than $50 billion next year, including all those outside of GAA (general appropriations authorization) expenditures, like MassPort, MBTA, etc.

But for my purposes here, we’ll stick to the GAA.

If the total budget was slashed (well, that’s probably too strong a term), make that trimmed by 1.3%, you’d understand if state aid to our towns would also be trimmed by the same percentage. Wouldn’t you? I mean, everybody has to have skin in the game, right?

So what happened to local aid in the latest budget?

Sit down.

Take a deep breath.

Okay. Ready?

For the four towns in the 5th Barnstable state representative district—Barnstable, Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich—state aid is scheduled to drop 9.7%.

That’s more than just skin in the game. That’s skin, muscle and bones.

What state representative would vote for a budget that punishes the towns he represents 7.5 times more than the overall rate of reduction? (9.7% divided by 1.3%)

Should such a “representative” be rewarded for the absolute disregard of his district with a win at the polls on November 2nd?

You decide.

A “Yea” vote is a vote to slash local aid to Barnstable, Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich. Here they are:

Demetrius Atsalis – Yea
Susan Gifford – Nay
Matt Patrick – Yea
Jeff Perry – Nay
Cleon Turner – Yea

Just another example of the legislature turning towns and cities into their whipping post. Stop using local aid to sop up the red ink created by unbridled overspending.

Click here for the entire House of Representatives’ roll call.

The numbers are there for everyone to see. Click here to see for yourself.

I downloaded the FY2011 and FY2010 Cherry Sheets. Those are the Department of Revenue’s lists of local aid items (payments by the state to cities and towns) and assessments (payments by the cities and towns to the state, county or other towns).

When local aid goes down and assessments go up, it’s a double whammy. And that’s what’s happening to the 5th Barnstable towns this coming year.

The net Cherry Sheet amounts (local aid less assessments) follow:

FY2010: $5,058,276
FY2011: $4,460,770
Reduction: $597,506 | 12%

FY2010: $5,270,583
FY2011: $4,689,706
Reduction: $580,877 | 11%

FY2010: $4,795,686
FY2011: $4,169,623
Reduction: $626,063 | 13%

FY2010: $7,291,638
FY2011: $6,931,633
Reduction: $360,005 | 5%

Total for the four towns
FY2010: $22,416,183
FY2011: $20,251,732
Reduction: $2,164,451 | 9.7%

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Parents: Time to be heard

Parents, what is the last thing you have on your mind in the middle of a Cape Cod summer?


On the other hand, you may be at the point where you wish that Labor Day was next Monday.

But there is unfinished business on the part of the school committee that will affect your kids.

If you believe that the new programs in reading, literacy and math are worthwhile; if you believe that new technology in the classrooms is useful; if you believe that the virtual high school class offerings are out-of-the-box thinking; then you might want to speak up.

The school committee is either going to reconcile with our superintendent (see my plan for doing this by clicking here) or start a search for a new superintendent.

Why do I imply that these new programs are potentially in jeopardy if the school committee doesn’t make some level-headed decisions soon?

They’re hobbling into a budget season where an override is likely going to take center stage. Having already shot themselves in one foot by not asking the teachers’ union to forgo raises in FY2010, they are about to pull the trigger on the other foot by entering an all out fracas created by dismissing a superintendent at the worst possible time.

This should seal the fate on any possibility for passing an override and usher in the inevitable slashing of every possible program in order to honor the terms of yet another unaffordable union contract.

The committee meets next Wednesday, July 21st. Show up and let them know what, as a parent, you want them to do.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Issues survey - July 2010

The Committee to Elect Randy Hunt has been calling voters in the 5th Barnstable State Representative District for a couple of weeks getting their ratings of how important the following issues are to them:

- Job creation
- Lowering taxes
- Public benefits for illegal immigrants
- Pensions for elected officials

So far, we’ve called over 2,000 households. Our surveying will be complete by the end of July, at which time we’ll post the results.

In the meantime, we created an online survey that adds the following issues to the ones above:

- Dealing with waste water solutions for Cape Cod
- Balancing the power in the legislature (currently 179 Democrats and 21 Republicans)
- Imposing term limits on elected officials
- Lowering the cost of homeowners’ insurance

Click here to take the online survey.

Click here to see the current results.

Some of the comments we’ve received from survey participants follow. Feel free to add your comments to this blog post.

First, something your survey doesn't mention at all: education/local aid. This should be of utmost importance to my legislative representative. I want my kids' schools to be superb - not just fine, not just great by Cape Cod standards, but superb.

Job creation is very important to me as I look to re-enter the paid work force after a hiatus. I have a graduate degree, and common sense, and work hard, but there just aren't enough well-paying jobs on the Cape.

Waste water solutions are very important to me; I would prefer higher taxes to having this issue not dealt with. However, banning use of most fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides on Cape Cod would help a lot in the meantime. With our fragile estuaries and sole source aquifer, why do we even allow the use of these things here?

The pension system is off the rails. In principle, I don't begrudge people their earned pensions, but there needs to be a cap on publicly funded ones. Public service ought not be a path to riches.

* * * * *

There are so many residents having a difficult time finding affordable health insurance that doctors on the Cape will participate with. Many of the primary physicians on the Cape will not take affordable health care such as Commonwealth Care, Commonwealth Choice, Neighborhood or MassHealth. We should be able to have affordable health insurance BEFORE illegal immigrants receive so many benefits. Doesn't seem fair.

* * * * *

The benefits to the children of illegal immigrant should not be lost. Many of these children are US citizens. This includes education and other benifits.

* * * * *

Adequately fund public education and fully fund all mandated programs.

Allow municipalities to adjust insurance premiums, copays and offered plans without union approval.

* * * * *

2 issues that bug me as I work daily in the court system:

1. Court appointed lawyers for ILLEGALS. Ridiculous. Most Brazilians are working under the table and sending cash home, yet they just report to the Court that they make nothing or under the poverty line so, they are handed a public defender for breaking the laws of a country they are (most likely) in illegally! The Court does NOT check this information. They just believe what you tell them about your income.

2. The DA's office employees (on the Cape) who get paid vacation days for their birthdays and most of them have blackberry devices with internet access paid for by the state!! Talk about waste!!

* * * * *

The 800 pound gorilla on Cape Cod's sandy shores is waste water treatment; how to maintain high quality water from the sole source aquifer. Bourne, like many of the Cape towns has spent tens of thousands of tax payer dollars studying and coming up with proposals to address our issues. We are not unlike most towns on the Cape and in the state unable to pay for taking the first steps to address the issues.

* * * * *

All of those issues are very important to me, but some other issues that are very important to me include:

-Free-market energy policy

-Eliminating the budget deficit

-Enacting pro-growth, fundamental tax reform (something like the FairTax)

* * * * *

I am concerned about the mandated health insurance requirement. It should not be mandatory with fine for not having it. If it is mandated it should be affordable. My selfemployed son and family cannot afford it. I'm paying for it. Repeal mandatory health insurance or subsidize it. This was well intentioned but has too many unintended consequences.

Repeal the tax on products sold in liquor stores.

Increase meals/hotel tax instead.

* * * * *

I am strongly opposed to the funding of Planned Parenthood of $35 million annually plus other monies they receive from the Departments of Public Health and education. This is a private, multi million dollar corporation which should NOT be getting tax dollars.

Further, the Mass Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) Commission is a totally autonomous organization with absolutely no state oversight. They have been receiving millions in recent years to promote graphic homosexual education in public schools. In this year's budget they will receive $100,000 from MEDICAID funds (when and if the Feds approve that budget item). They will also have access to millions more - no cap - through the Depts. of Public Health and Education - Budget items 0950-0500; 4590-0250 and 7010-0005. Here is a link to a sample of what they distribute in schools. of which most parents are oblivious:

* * * * *

I consider the above issues to be relevant as ongoing objectives for those elected to govern. Unfortunately, these issues are the standard hot button promises that are repeatedly spoon fed to public each election cycle; the result being sweet fanny Annie being done.

You're a very capable person, if elected, and I hope you are, you'll spend most of your term planning for reelection and raising money. Imagine the state of our society if all other profession had to spend equal amounts of time raising money to continue their respective professions as engineers, electricians, doctors, CPA etc.

THE POINT!! Consider spending 95% of your time, if elected, carrying our the NEEDS of the public via a list of things to do for each district and in return establish fund raising committees for each precinct with specific goals relevant to specific accomplishments.

Eliminate the words "I fought" and replace with "I did/supported". Amount of funds raised will be the measure of constituent satisfaction.

* * * * *

These are inter-related items in many ways. Eliminating state pensions for elected officials, stopping public benefits for illegal immigrants, and job creation will all generate more cash flow which should help reduce taxes. Changing the balance of power is a long-term process that starts now.

As for homeowner's insurance, it's insurance. If they don't get you one way they will get you another. Oh wait!.....that's the Commonwealth's plan!!!

Thanks for asking for my opinion. Usually I have to express it without request.

* * * * *

I am not completely comfortable with the labeling of all these issues. For example, I don't want my elected officials to even think they can "create jobs" because that probably leads to increased government jobs. Out of control increases in government jobs is a big problem.

My preference is for a representative who says that existing government jobs will be reduced. I would prefer to see your first issue titled reduction of government jobs. Hopefully this would lead to a general reduction in government. Whichever comes first, you get the idea.

Balancing of "power" in the legistature is not the way I would frame the issue. (unless, of course, that might lead to a government that is at a stalemate for a few years. I'd like that.)

Seriously, it's time for the balance of power (assuming this means our intellectual approach to government)to shift rather than equalize.

* * * * *

I'm very pro-life.

Corruption in government and Wall Street, which is destroying our country, is only part of the bigger picture of loss of integrity, honesty and morality everywhere.

We need to get back to not only fiscal responsibility, but social responsibility also.

We've got to stop the legalized killing of unborn babies.

As a nation we've lost out moral compass.

* * * * *

I agree with the concept of term limits -- BUT the voters always have that ability -- don't vote for them.

I agree with the idea of eliminating elected pensions -- ideally you would want the benefits to attract qualified people -- BUT I would rather be represented by people who have had a real job and earned their own benefits.

Not sure how you could balance legslature if you can't get qualified Republicans to run.

* * * * *

I also believe that personal property rights are key and that anyone trying to dillute these rights should be ignored!

* * * * *

I think your top 3 items are all tied together. Stopping public benefits for illegal immigrants would reduce a drain and waste of Government $ WHICH would mean it's "easier" to Lower taxes.
That in turn would help WE THE PEOPLE have "some" added $ which would only help consumer spending and thus COULD mean Job creation!

Eliminating state pensions for elected officials as well as other things like hack expense accounts would be a step to Beacon Hill putting it's $ where it's mouth is.

* * * * *

On job creation - it's not the state's job to create business...It's the commonwealth's job to lower taxes and paperwork and then get the 'heck' out of the way of the private sector.

I do not begrudge anyone a pension - I wish I had one - however "double-dipping" should be eliminated.

* * * * *

I would have to believe the social costs of casino gambling would be far greater than any monetary gains to the state. I realize the train has left the station but am horrified looking down the track in years to come.

* * * * *

Arizona's problem is America's problem. Bravo to them for taking the initiative to act where the federal government (Congress & the Executive) have done nothing except be critical. Seal the borders and stop the handouts.

* * * * *

Job creation is not the business of government. They can however destroy jobs.

* * * * *

Like most of us I support Cape Wind in spite of the multimillion dollar smear campaign run by wealthy opponents.

* * * * *

Stop the expansion of state-sponsored gambling, which is essentially a (very inefficient) tax on the most gullible and vulnerable families. God help any kid whose parent is a gambling addict!

There must be a reason the last 3 Speakers have been indicted.

* * * * *

The cost to taxpayers on the Cape for the regionalized centralized sewer systems that the county (Gottlieb and Niedzwiecki) are planning to impose on all towns is prohibitive and the most expensive way to ensure clean water.

All towns should support the National Academy of Sciences review of MEP science that Orleans is asking for. All towns should be evaluating how cluster systems and permeable barriers can be used to handle septic and other groundwater nitrogen far less expensively and environmentally better than Big City Sewer systems. All towns should resist ceding authority to the county to act on their behalf in dealing with DEP and EPA and any suit that CLF may file.

Towns can't rely on Gottlieb/Niedzwiecki. They have made it clear they support a Big City regionalized sewer system for the Cape and will "agree" to that should CLF in fact sue. Not in the interest of the towns.

* * * * *

Jeff Perry's attempt to have all aid-applicants checked for citizenship was an outstanding idea. We should continue to pursue that.

* * * * *

I feel the legislature’s budget should run the way any successful household budget is. If you do not have the money you do not spend it. Yes, tough sacrifices need to be made, but you either deal with it now or make it worse and deal with it later.

* * * * *

I think some of the most important issues for constituents are:

We are tired of the arrogance.

We are tired of being lied to.

We are tired of seeing our money being used to buy votes from people who don't earn it.

We are fed up with the government campaign to control our lives.

And it has only taken us 18 months to get angry with a liar and traitor in the White House and his partners in Congress who are clearly trying to destroy the country some of my friends and ancestors fought and died for.

* * * * *

I think the biggest issue not explicitly mentioned is budget reduction by examining each expenditure in detail and removing the pork and nonsensical entitlements and by streamlining and consolidating where appropriate. If jobs are created and budgets are without waste then you could consider reducing taxes because you would have more tax income and spending would be under control. I don't think taxes can be lowered without jobs and proper budget scrutiny.

I also think that the illegal immigrant issue is so complex, emotional and polarizing that it could take years to come up with something reasonable. Like everything now, bigger government always seems to be the answer to everything.

Is the Cape Wind project a more important issue to Cape Codders than the waste water issue?

* * * * *

Increase competition for insurance companies to level the playing field and to give homeowners better choices.

Help for business owners making it easier to do business on the Cape.

* * * * *

I think one of the biggest issues for us as a family living here on Cape Cod is the jobs issue. The Cape needs to focus on bringing a higher level of professional positions to this area. Outside of maybe 2 large companies here on the company, if my husband and I want to maintain our standard of living, we both are going to have to continue our 1+ hour commutes off the Cape towards the Boston area. As young professionals the commute wasn't a problem, but now that we have young children, we probably won't be able to stay here for long and continue this.

* * * * *

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Guest editorials welcome

Once in a while someone asks about the guest editorials that appear in my blog and why these people get special treatment.

Actually, they do not get special treatment. Those who have had their editorials published here represent 100% of the people who have ever asked me to do this. I have never turned anyone down.

Not to say that I will accept anything for publishing, but I am pretty open to the idea of guest editorials.

This is a place where people can share positions on issues affecting our town and our country. So please accept my invitation to write a piece for the blog. There is no limit on number of words, but keep in mind that you want people to actually read what you write and, until you attain the level of a Tolstoy, briefer is better.