How would you like it
if you were Mother Earth and someone wanted to replace your hair
with AstroTurf? What if you were a little secret garden and someone
wanted to "out" you to hordes of noisy tourists?
Taxpayers often contact
me about proposed Proposition 2½ overrides in their communities,
asking for advice on defeating them. I respond with news about the
latest Marblehead overrides or debt exclusions that I have no idea
how to prevent, and tell them if they come up with a plan to let me
Marblehead is having
another special election on June 15, this one for ten Prop.
2½ debt exclusion overrides that, if they all pass, are estimated to
increase annual property taxes by $500 on a median value home. Thank
heavens I don't have one of those median value homes.
But whatever my share
of the total $40 million is, I didn't get a pay raise to cover it.
Neither did a lot of other taxpayers. Some are unemployed. And
seniors aren't getting a cost of living allowance this year from the
seriously underfunded Social Security system.
But who cares about
them? People who can afford to pay more are happy to make the rest
of us pay more too. Hey, it's 2010 — let's do 10 tax hikes! Next
year we can do 11, for 2011! Can't wait for 2050 ... as our founding
fisherman fathers keep turning over in their graves.
Heaven forbid that
anyone should make the effort to set priorities. Construct a new
transfer station, "out" the library garden — who in town government,
including the selectmen who put the issues on the ballot, is
qualified to decide that one is more important than the other?
If they and Town
Meeting can't tell the difference in importance, then neither can I,
so I'll treat all 10 with the same urgency that I feel toward the
garden: I'm voting "no," times 10.
Some of the Marblehead
debt exclusions are for basic town services like the town dump and
sidewalk repair — which you'd think the existing property taxes,
with their annual Prop. 2½-allowed increases, should cover. One is
for yet another new school; hurry and replace the old ones while the
state is still covering part of the cost, never mind its fiscal
My gosh, opponents cry,
that school was built in 1917! Well, my house is even older yet,
over the decades, owners — including me — have maintained and fixed
it when necessary, even without paid janitorial staff. I notice that
other town departments manage to do maintenance and repair without
Under "library repairs"
(debt exclusion No. 7), I've heard this vote is essential to create
better access to a tiny "secret library garden."
It would be cheaper to
buy a few more copies of "The
Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett so more readers can
appreciate a hidden flower place.
They can also
walk around town for free and see all the lovely gardens on
which homeowners have spent their own money.
Debt exclusion No. 8
would replace the grass of the high school playing field with
AstroTurf. There's a "Save the Earth, Vote Yes for Turf" sign at the
corner of my street, where signs for liberal candidates cluster
during other elections on a large manicured lawn. Why not replace
all Marblehead grass lawns with AstroTurf, and save the earth from
water sprinklers, gas-powered lawn mowers and pesticides?
There's another debt
exclusion to "fix" the main road into town where it passes the
middle school, so it's less dangerous for students who jaywalk while
distracted by their cellphones and iPods, heedless of cars driven by
people who are distracted by their own cellphones and iPods.
Giving credit where
it's due, Town Meeting did something right when it voted to outlaw
texting while driving, though some people who think they should be
allowed to drive with their heads up their butts are complaining
about the decision.
A few years ago some
town busybodies wanted to force all homeowners with sidewalks to
shovel them immediately after a snowstorm so they could be used for
wheelchair travel and dog walking. Those of us who opposed this
mandate noted that even in summer many sidewalks aren't passable
because of the trees growing out of them. We won the point, but may
have lost the war, as now there's a debt exclusion to get rid of the
tree roots that are buckling the sidewalks.
If you cut the roots,
won't the trees fall down, come a major wind? Maybe we should just
replace the trees with AstroTurf.
Speaking of the
handicapped, Marblehead has been told by the state that it can no
longer use the Old Town House for voting because it's not totally
For years, town clerks
arranged for poll workers or the poll police officer to take a
ballot out to the few voters who couldn't navigate the historic
building. Apparently this is no longer good enough for certain
advocates and state bureaucrats, whose brains should be replaced
with AstroTurf too.