CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Midsummer Madness


Accusations that tax increase proponents are using schoolchildren to promote their message are on the rise.

According to Denis Kennedy, spokesman for the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, his agency is receiving more allegations of misconduct as cash-strapped communities pursue Proposition 2Ĺ overrides, which allow cities and towns to increase local taxes beyond the limits set by state law....

"They usually do what they can until someone complains," said Barbara Anderson, director of the statewide group Citizens for Limited Taxation. "It's an old expression: 'It's easier to apologize than ask permission.'" ...

Two years ago, according to town officials in Ashland, School Committee members were told by town counsel that they needed to reimburse the town after using public funds to print a pro-tax increase flier that was distributed in the local newspaper.

"People, in their zeal to do the absolute best for their children, will break the law," said John Ellsworth, a member of the Board of Selectmen. "There is no malice in it. It just happens."

"Newton is the king of all election misconduct," said Brian Camenker, vice president of the Newton Taxpayers Association, who said his children were told by teachers that they would lose their jobs if voters didn't approve the tax boost. "They basically came home thinking I was this bad guy because I was against it."

The issue has come up recently in Bridgewater, which will vote on a $2.2 million override next month. Bridgewater Selectwoman Mary Beth Lawton, who is against the tax increase, said that students are being used as "mules," and she believes information being sent home with them is worded deliberately to highlight the importance of approving the measure.

Less than a week before Winchester residents voted down a $3.75 million override this spring, John Natale said he was angry after finding a note in his fifth-grade daughter's backpack detailing the dramatic cuts that would occur if he didn't vote for it.

"They have free access to 400 free couriers to proselytize the school message to pass the override or else," Natale said.

The Boston Globe - West
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Parents complain about school politics
Educators deny using children on pro-tax issues


Hereís a pop quiz for taxpayers. 

The state budget for 2005 totals: a) $22.5 billion; b) $23.7 billion; c) $24.4 billion; d) $24.8 billion.

Donít bother guessing. Itís a trick question.

Because of the Legislatureís creative bookkeeping, any one ó or possibly none ó of the answers could be correct.

The figure announced by the legislative conference committee last week is $22.5 billion, but thatís only part of the picture....

A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Numbers game:
Off-budget billions camouflage state spending


The rollback would mean a $180 tax break for an average married couple who own a home, earn $80,000, and have two children, said the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. For a single homeowner who earns $50,000 and has no children, the tax cut translates into $134.

But the Democrat-dominated Legislature is not in the mood to reduce taxes. It considers Romney's plan a political ploy and too risky to the state's economic well-being....

Not all Republicans are immediately hopping on Romney's tax-cut bandwagon. House Minority Leader Bradley Jones of North Reading, for one, said he's not ready to support a 5 percent income tax rate as soon as January....

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer said the state could reach a balance between tax revenue and spending by next year.

"But we shouldn't be counting on the money," he said. "I don't think it's wise to reduce the revenue base of the commonwealth. We're not out of the woods yet." ...

Citizens for Limited Taxation, an anti-tax organization led by Barbara Anderson, is promising financial help for candidates who agree to make the tax rollback an issue in their campaigns.

The money would come from the group's political action committee. Anderson said the public feels it has a right to a 5 percent income tax rate and is being ignored on the issue by the Legislature.

"Voters sense lawmakers don't listen," Anderson said. "It's not just a tax cut. It's an initiative petition that people voted for."

Anderson said the Legislature might be pressured into lowering taxes if Romney successfully uses the issue to get more Republicans elected to the House and Senate. Now, the GOP is outnumbered badly.

"If he wins a few major campaigns to scare the rest, then they'll do what the voters want them to do the next time around," she said.

The Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Romney: Give voters tax cut they OK'd


The city of Boston now estimates that transportation shutdowns ordered by the Secret Service will double the costs of security for the Democratic National Convention, and bring the event's budget to $95 million -- nearly twice the estimate when Boston landed the convention in 2002.

In a letter sent Thursday to top House and Senate budget-writers, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is hosting the Republican National Convention this summer, asked for an additional $25 million each for their cities....

The addition of another $25 million in expenditures would bring the event's total cost to $95 million -- almost twice the $49.5 million budget that was forecast when Boston was awarded the convention in 2002, and nearly $1 million per hour for the four days the convention will last.

Local convention officials said they're optimistic about the prospect of receiving more cash. But if the money doesn't come through, millions of dollars in security costs could fall to taxpayers in the city of Boston and surrounding communities, many of which are bracing for thousands of additional cars on their roads when I-93 is shut down during the four nights of the convention.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Convention estimates hit $95m
Projection nearly twice original tab


The state Inspector General's office has flagged three Democratic National Convention-related expenses and is asking, with good cause, why Boston officials are leasing equipment that might otherwise be bought or even borrowed. That inquiry is prompting fiscal watchdogs in the city to ask how, when, and if Boston taxpayers will be reimbursed....

Although security matters are foremost for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, he must also remain fiscally accountable to the public. In addition to the $25 million in federal funds he now controls, the mayor last week requested an additional $25 million from Congress to address unforeseen security needs. Any signs of waste could affect that request. And Boston taxpayers are paying close attention for fear they will wind up subsidizing the convention....

The Boston Finance Commission, the city's fiscal watchdog, is examining the contracts to determine if the city may be leasing items it already owns....

Suspicions are high that the mayor's team cannot pull off the convention without tapping taxpayers.

"I can guarantee you that the day this convention is over they will be working on a supplemental appropriation," says City Councilor Maureen Feeney, who chairs the body's convention oversight committee.

A Boston Globe Editorial
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
The party's price tag


MARBLEHEAD -- Yesterday's override vote brought good news for schools, the library, the Fire Department and those who want the dump open on Monday. It also disappointed the police, advocates of a rainy day fund and the people who keep the town's vehicles and other equipment humming....

Five of eight questions passed, including two carrying big price tags -- $415,000 for a new fire truck on Question 2, and $422,000 toward keeping school programs alive on Question 4. 

"I'm very pleased with the results," said School Committee Chairman Rob Dana. "This was the entire community supporting this. ... It's a sign that people still say schools are important. And we don't take that for granted." ...

Finally, a Finance Committee request for $55,000 to establish a reserve fund got the worst beating. "They didn't understand that one," suggested Town Clerk Tom McNulty as he announced the total.

One resident, Jean Eldridge, was not unhappy to see some of the questions defeated. She cited the impact of tax increases on seniors. "How much can you take?" she asked. "The money stretches only so far."

The Salem News 
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Override vote brings mixed results


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

The Boston Globe-West edition report on children being used as "mules," "couriers" to distribute pro-Proposition 2Ĺ override literature, coming home proselytizing for overrides after being brainwashed by their teachers, was a bit weak at best. But at least it publicized the problem and what we taxpayers are up against.

Thanks to the many CLT members who responded to our request, especially John Natale -- who took the matter all the way up to the state Office of Campaign & Political Finance -- and Brian Camenker of the Newton Taxpayers Association. And thanks to Bridgewater Selectwoman Mary Beth Lawton, who called us in response to a CLT member's request and agreed to go on the record with the reporter.

John wrote us:

I called and wrote the OCPF and the local newspaper. I also went to see our Superintendent the next morning who was very distressed that the school had ignored his explicit orders on proselytizing for the override.

The next week, two days before the vote, the Winchester Star carried a 6 column headline about the violations of the law and (mis)use of children as messengers. It was a huge story.

The override lost by 156 votes. I think the school shot itself in the foot.

I wish we could say the same in Marblehead, which had a special election yesterday with eight -- count'em eight -- override questions. Five passed; three failed -- and I'm happy to report that the one which proposed raising taxes to build up a "free cash" savings account for the town (can you believe that!) was shot down in flames, last seen sinking into the harbor. Maybe all hope need not yet be abandoned here.

One of the best lines to come out of this campaign was reported by the Salem News ("Town will vote on eight overrides," by Alan Burke, June 16):

The town, meanwhile, has been advised by the Massachusetts secretary of state not to provide any material explaining the questions, lest they offend either of the sides.

"It's up to people to do their homework before they vote," (Town Clerk Tom) McNulty said.

Hoping to fill that void, the League of Women Voters is distributing an informational brochure.

The league's Kathy Leonardson said the league created the document with the help of town officials "explaining the need for the override."

Opponents of the override were not consulted, she said, because there are no opponents "except for people who are opposed to every override."

*                    *                    *

It's gratifying to see at last that the media has caught on to the Legislature's "off-budget" sleight-of-hand and is not only reporting the true cost of the state budget, but some are even going to lengths to explain it. We've been working long and hard to break through and it appears to finally have paid off. We're all talking the same honest numbers now -- despite the Legislature's best efforts to confuse and confound us with smoke and mirrors.

*                    *                    *

One of -- if not the -- biggest defining issues in the upcoming campaigns for state legislative seats is going to be which side of the voters' income tax rollback candidates are on. Gov. Romney has staked out his position and made it an issue.  CLT's political action committee, the 2Ĺ PAC, is now tabulating candidate responses to our "No New Taxes Pledge" and questionnaire, deciding which candidates deserve and will get our support.

We're not quite sure what's going on with incumbent Republican legislators like House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). Astonished at his comments, Barbara contacted his office and was told that he'd received lots of opposition to the rollback from local elected officials -- but none in support of the rollback and keeping faith with the voters of his district. The governor's people are aware of his breach and will be working to bring him back onto Team Romney.

*                    *                    *

Then there's that elephant in the middle of the parlor again, the Democrat's national convention. Again we can say "We told you so" when we warned of a taxpayer bail-out in the end. On December 11, 2002, I launched the "Anatomy of an inevitable taxpayer mugging" section on the CLT website ... and since then everything I predicted those eighteen-plus months back have come to pass, and worse. If we can make such accurate predictions with such a regularity ... why can't so many others?

Hey, all they want is another $25 million of taxpayer money for their party -- as Boston Globe reporter Rick Klein notes, "nearly $1 million per hour for the four days the convention will last."

What a party indeed -- while the rest of us are immobilized by gridlock in the dead heat of summer.

But hey, according to DNC honcho and Bill Clinton spinmeister Terry McAuliffe, "Contrary to what people think, it is not going to be a traffic gridlock."

And the meaning of "is" is ... ? Let's see just how much this Democrat promise is worth in the end.

Chip Ford


Click here to read these and many other reports in full

Anatomy of an inevitable taxpayer mugging
"It our party, you can cry if you want to"


The Boston Globe - West
Sunday, June 20, 2004

Parents complain about school politics
Educators deny using children on pro-tax issues
By Franco Ordonez, Globe Staff


Burke Anderson was incensed. His 13-year-old son had come home from school one day this spring almost hyperventilating about how he wouldn't get into college unless his parents voted for an upcoming tax increase.

The Medway seventh-grader, according to Anderson, reported that the new high school couldn't open without the additional money. And he fretted that his diploma would be useless if the old high school lost its accreditation -- a word he'd never uttered before.

"If you could have heard my kid that day when he came home," said Anderson, who believes the middle school principal was illegally promoting the tax increase to the students on school time, a charge the principal denies. "I was furious because he was totally brainwashed, in my opinion."

Medway passed the $1.9 million measure last month.

But Anderson, who opposed the tax increase, is pressing the school system to establish a more explicit policy on what's OK to say about such issues in the classroom and what's not.

His allegations bring up a sensitive question, one that arises frequently when school-related tax increases are put to voters: When does explanation cross the line and become advocacy?

Accusations that tax increase proponents are using schoolchildren to promote their message are on the rise.

According to Denis Kennedy, spokesman for the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, his agency is receiving more allegations of misconduct as cash-strapped communities pursue Proposition 2Ĺ overrides, which allow cities and towns to increase local taxes beyond the limits set by state law.

"Anytime you live in a small town, an issue like this is going to come into the schools, whether you want it to or not," said outgoing Medway Middle School principal William B. Lynch, who said he was simply answering questions from students in a social studies class. "What you can do is stick your head in the sand and forget it exists. Or, you can give an honest answer to the kids, which is what we did."

School administrators and teachers face a dilemma when students ask about tax increase issues tied to education. It's against the law to use public time or resources to campaign for a political cause. A teacher, for example, is not allowed to tell students to make sure their parents vote a certain way.

But it's OK for a teacher to discuss the merits of a tax increase and give an opinion.

The key question, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, is whether the activity is really geared toward influencing voters.

The agency investigates about a dozen complaints a year, Kennedy said. Rarely, he said, does the agency find that a local official knowingly violated the law.

But, he said, there are cases where the agency will rule that a community improperly used public resources to influence voters. The most common examples: distributing literature via a mass mailing or stuffing materials in children's backpacks.

"The prohibition applies not to the speech, not to the position being taken by officials, but in some cases by the means that information is disseminated," Kennedy said.

The penalties, however, are minimal. Activists who campaign against tax increases see that as a significant problem because, they say, officials and parents, knowing that the penalties are light, will cross legal barriers to promote their cause.

"They usually do what they can until someone complains," said Barbara Anderson, director of the statewide group Citizens for Limited Taxation. "It's an old expression: 'It's easier to apologize than ask permission.'"

Two years ago, according to town officials in Ashland, School Committee members were told by town counsel that they needed to reimburse the town after using public funds to print a pro-tax increase flier that was distributed in the local newspaper.

"People, in their zeal to do the absolute best for their children, will break the law," said John Ellsworth, a member of the Board of Selectmen. "There is no malice in it. It just happens."

Kennedy said the Office of Campaign and Political Finance investigated the city of Newton four years ago following complaints that school officials were illegally campaigning during public meetings for a additional public funding.

But the agency found no wrongdoing, stating that there was no prohibition on political speech in public buildings.

Opponents of the successful $11.5 million override in 2002 also contended that some school officials were sending home biased information with students.

"Newton is the king of all election misconduct," said Brian Camenker, vice president of the Newton Taxpayers Association, who said his children were told by teachers that they would lose their jobs if voters didn't approve the tax boost. "They basically came home thinking I was this bad guy because I was against it."

The issue has come up recently in Bridgewater, which will vote on a $2.2 million override next month. Bridgewater Selectwoman Mary Beth Lawton, who is against the tax increase, said that students are being used as "mules," and she believes information being sent home with them is worded deliberately to highlight the importance of approving the measure.

Less than a week before Winchester residents voted down a $3.75 million override this spring, John Natale said he was angry after finding a note in his fifth-grade daughter's backpack detailing the dramatic cuts that would occur if he didn't vote for it.

"They have free access to 400 free couriers to proselytize the school message to pass the override or else," Natale said.

Municipal officials, knowing how sensitive they have to be, say addressing overrides as a public official can be tricky.

"It's become a Catch-22," said Selectman David Teller of Ashland. "You want to get the information out so people can make a logical choice, but as a town official you are strapped by the channel you can use to get the information out."

Kennedy said he found that most public officials were being too careful, stating that, as long as public resources are not used, they are free to voice their opinions.

"I oftentimes find school officials who are overly cautious, saying 'I haven't told people how they should vote on an override,' " Kennedy said. "Well, I say go ahead, knock yourself out. Just don't do a mailing."

In Medway, Lynch said he gave no biased information and never raised the possibility that the high school could lose its accreditation. What he did tell students, he said, was that the tax increase was being requested because there was not enough money in the school budget.

As long as Lynch only answered questions and did not advocate a position, he did nothing wrong, Kennedy said.

Medway Superintendent Arthur Bettencourt, who met with Anderson earlier this month, said it was unclear whether there was any wrongdoing, but he apologized to Anderson anyway. Bettencourt said he would clarify what is appropriate behavior for school officials in teachers' handbooks for the fall.

Anderson said he wants to make sure it's not just swept under the rug. But he also said that he was pleased with the superintendent's response.

"I am going to be watching carefully ... it seems that they're taking action," Anderson said. "I would give it a B."

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The Telegram & Gazette
Sunday, June 20, 2004 

A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Numbers game:
Off-budget billions camouflage state spending


Hereís a pop quiz for taxpayers.

The state budget for 2005 totals: a) $22.5 billion; b) $23.7 billion; c) $24.4 billion; d) $24.8 billion.

Donít bother guessing. Itís a trick question.

Because of the Legislatureís creative bookkeeping, any one ó or possibly none ó of the answers could be correct.

The figure announced by the legislative conference committee last week is $22.5 billion, but thatís only part of the picture.

This year, pension-fund payments were taken off budget. Adding that $1.2 billion item brings spending to $23.7 billion.

Also off budget are $675 million for the MBTA, which would push the total to $24.4 billion, and $390 million for school building, for a total of $24.8 billion.

The actual answer may be none of the above. Even though tax revenues are about $500 million higher than expected, for instance, lawmakers used about $700 million in reserve funds to balance the budget.

The result is a budget that is virtually impossible for taxpayers to evaluate. The official $22.5 billion in spending appears to be $1 billion less than current spending, although it clearly is not.

The problem with low-balling the bottom line is that the state may be lulled into abandoning efforts to streamline operations and rein in hyperinflationary growth in Medicaid and other programs. Of all the consequences of the Beacon Hill numbers game, complacency about state finances may be the most damaging.

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The Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, June 20, 2004

Romney: Give voters tax cut they OK'd
By Meredith Warren, Staff Writer


Susan Hazarvartian of North Andover voted in the 2000 statewide election to gradually lower the Massachusetts income tax rate from 5.85 percent to 5 percent over three years. So did 59 percent of her fellow voters.

Then, just before the final stage of the tax cut was scheduled to take place, the economy plunged and the Legislature quickly froze the rate at 5.3 percent, or three-tenths of a percent short of the voter mandate.

The reason given at the time was fast-melting state revenue and the need to maintain essential state services. Taxpayers like Hazarvartian were angry, but there wasn't anything they could do about it.

"You're voting and you think you're making a difference, but it doesn't seem to matter," said the 41-year-old licensed dietitian. "I know it passed, and what happened? It's been four years and nothing's been done."

Now Hazarvartian is pinning her hopes for that final tax phase-down on Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, who is now pushing to fulfill the voters' wish and reduce the income tax rate to 5 percent in January.

With Massachusetts on track to accumulate $500 million more in tax revenue than expected by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, Romney says the time is right to give the people what they voted for.

The rollback would mean a $180 tax break for an average married couple who own a home, earn $80,000, and have two children, said the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. For a single homeowner who earns $50,000 and has no children, the tax cut translates into $134.

But the Democrat-dominated Legislature is not in the mood to reduce taxes. It considers Romney's plan a political ploy and too risky to the state's economic well-being.

Legislative leaders say that because Massachusetts is still taking millions of dollars out of its dwindling rainy day fund to make ends meet, the extra half-billion dollars isn't really a surplus and shouldn't be considered such.

They contend that cutting taxes in January would cost the state $225 million in the fiscal year starting July 1, and $450 million the next year. Lawmakers say the revenue losses could well force Massachusetts into another financial tailspin.

"If we do get a $500 million surplus, that's just enough to right the ship," said Rep. Theodore Speliotis, D-Danvers, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. "Romney is right on saying we should go to 5 percent, and when we have the fiscal capacity to roll back to 5 percent, we ought to do it. But it's premature at this time."

As things stand now, the right time might not happen until 2014, the year the Legislature that froze the rate at 5.3 percent talked about implementing the final phase of the rollback.

That timetable has Margaret Leber of Andover frustrated with Beacon Hill.

"It's not right to not do what the people of Massachusetts want," said Leber, 64, who voted for the tax cut in 2000. "I agree with Romney. The economy is picking up."

Some Republican legislators are coming to that same conclusion.

"By lowering taxes, you're growing the economy," said Rep. Bradford Hill of Ipswich. "You're putting money back in people's pockets to spend."

Just days earlier, Hill said, he was not ready to recommend a January tax cut. But now, he said, budget busters such as Medicaid are turning out to be less costly than lawmakers predicted.

"We were told in budget discussions that Medicaid would increase by 7 percent in Fiscal Year 2005," Hill said. "We were told today (Wednesday) that the numbers grew only by 4 percent, which allows more money to be available."

Not all Republicans are immediately hopping on Romney's tax-cut bandwagon. House Minority Leader Bradley Jones of North Reading, for one, said he's not ready to support a 5 percent income tax rate as soon as January.

"But it is legitimate to say we should go back and look at the Democrats' scheme to get a tax cut in 2014," Jones said. "We should look at getting there sooner than that."

Romney made a public push for a tax rollback in a press conference two weeks ago. He said the $500 million in extra revenue this year signals a financial recovery for Massachusetts, and proposed a supplemental budget for the new fiscal year that gives $100 million more to cities and towns.

Democratic lawmakers dismissed Romney's plan as a gimmick to win votes for the 130 Republican candidates running in the November elections.

"You see a tax cut and additional spending in the governor's proposal and it leads one to think it's an election-year tactic," said Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill.

Dempsey wants to cut taxes eventually. He said the Legislature's need to balance the $22.5 billion budget using $673 million from one-time sources like the rainy day fund shows that the Massachusetts economy still isn't stable enough for a tax cut.

Dempsey and other Democrats say the state will be ready when it stops depending on those one-time sources and starts pulling in enough tax revenue to pay its operating costs.

Eighty percent of the state's revenue comes from taxes -- about 60 percent from income tax, and 20 percent from sales tax.

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer said the state could reach a balance between tax revenue and spending by next year.

"But we shouldn't be counting on the money," he said. "I don't think it's wise to reduce the revenue base of the commonwealth. We're not out of the woods yet."

Nevertheless, the issue will be front and center in this fall's political season.

Citizens for Limited Taxation, an anti-tax organization led by Barbara Anderson, is promising financial help for candidates who agree to make the tax rollback an issue in their campaigns.

The money would come from the group's political action committee. Anderson said the public feels it has a right to a 5 percent income tax rate and is being ignored on the issue by the Legislature.

"Voters sense lawmakers don't listen," Anderson said. "It's not just a tax cut. It's an initiative petition that people voted for."

Anderson said the Legislature might be pressured into lowering taxes if Romney successfully uses the issue to get more Republicans elected to the House and Senate. Now, the GOP is outnumbered badly.

"If he wins a few major campaigns to scare the rest, then they'll do what the voters want them to do the next time around," she said.

Leo Martin of Haverhill is one Republican candidate planning to make a point of the tax issue. He is challenging Democratic Sen. Steven Baddour of Methuen.

"One of the reasons I got into the race was that it seemed like no matter what voters decide, the Legislature doesn't pay attention," said Martin, who voted for the tax cut at the polls four years ago.

Baddour sided with other Democratic lawmakers who said they want a tax cut -- just not now.

"We need to make sure we're in a sustained recovery," Baddour said. "We should not be building things into a budget until we know what the numbers are. That's how we got into a financial crisis last time, spending money when we didn't know what we'd have in the next cycle."

Finding voters who agree is not easy. But teacher Ernie DiFiore, 35, of Methuen said he is willing to wait.

"We're probably not out of the woods yet," DiFiore said. "We all need our money, but we're talking a difference between 5 to 5.3 percent. How much are we talking about that is really going back in our pockets?"

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The Boston Globe
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Boston Globe Editorial
WORKING AROUND IT
The party's price tag


(One in a series of editorials about the Democratic National Convention in Boston.)

The state Inspector General's office has flagged three Democratic National Convention-related expenses and is asking, with good cause, why Boston officials are leasing equipment that might otherwise be bought or even borrowed. That inquiry is prompting fiscal watchdogs in the city to ask how, when, and if Boston taxpayers will be reimbursed.

The Boston Police Department contracts, listed in a recent issue of the state's "Goods and Services Bulletin," include up to $500,000 for the leasing of concrete Jersey barriers for a nine-day period, up to $100,000 to lease passenger vans for an 11-day period, and up to $400,000 to rent tables, chairs, and tents for a one-year period.

Although security matters are foremost for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, he must also remain fiscally accountable to the public. In addition to the $25 million in federal funds he now controls, the mayor last week requested an additional $25 million from Congress to address unforeseen security needs. Any signs of waste could affect that request. And Boston taxpayers are paying close attention for fear they will wind up subsidizing the convention.

The Boston Finance Commission, the city's fiscal watchdog, is examining the contracts to determine if the city may be leasing items it already owns. City councilors are also analyzing the mayor's proposed operating and capital budgets to satisfy themselves that no convention-related expenses are buried within. Suspicions are high that the mayor's team cannot pull off the convention without tapping taxpayers.

"I can guarantee you that the day this convention is over they will be working on a supplemental appropriation," says City Councilor Maureen Feeney, who chairs the body's convention oversight committee. If that proves true, the Menino administration had best show up in protective garb.

Opening night

Protecting the participants and the public at next month's Democratic National Convention will require many layers of security, ranging from officers in their normal uniforms to "public order platoons" in full tactical gear, according to Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Robert O'Toole.

O'Toole, a special weapons expert, says that a strict operational plan will remain in place as long as the delegates remain in town. But the biggest police concern is probably opening night, July 26. If violent protesters are targeting the convention, says O'Toole, their aim would likely be to disrupt it quickly in the same manner used at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

In Seattle, police officers failed to conduct a proper threat analysis and were taken by surprise. In Boston, however, the police aren't likely to be caught off-guard.

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The Salem News 
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Override vote brings mixed results
By Alan Burke, Staff writer

MARBLEHEAD -- Yesterday's override vote brought good news for schools, the library, the Fire Department and those who want the dump open on Monday. It also disappointed the police, advocates of a rainy day fund and the people who keep the town's vehicles and other equipment humming.

The results had some scratching their heads, as they gathered at Abbot Hall last night to hear the numbers and make sense of them. 

"It's weird," said School Committee member Amy Drinker. "I would never have guessed this outcome."

Five of eight questions passed, including two carrying big price tags -- $415,000 for a new fire truck on Question 2, and $422,000 toward keeping school programs alive on Question 4. 

"I'm very pleased with the results," said School Committee Chairman Rob Dana. "This was the entire community supporting this. ... It's a sign that people still say schools are important. And we don't take that for granted."

In addition, by approving Question 1 voters agreed to pay nearly $200,000 to properly close the old landfill. Health Director Wayne Attridge breathed an audible sigh of relief, noting, "We're under mandate to do that."

Citizens also gave thumbs up to Question 7, taxing an additional $73,000 for the Abbot Public Library. "That means we won't have to cut the hours at the library," said trustee Phil Sweeney. "I'm thankful to the voters."

Question 6, which raises $17,000 to keep the dump open on Mondays, also passed.

Unsuccessful was Question 3. Voters rejected half a million dollars in additional taxes to replace worn equipment, like an overused police cruiser, a destroyed dog officer's van, as well as computer equipment, a front-end loader and a street sweeper.

"I don't know what to make of that," said Selectman Jeff Shribman. "You can't defer maintenance forever."

"To get all these things repaired," echoed Selectman Judy Jacobi, "will cost us in the long run."

Also going down was Question 5, calling for $133,000 in order to hire three police officers. Shribman, who supported all eight of the questions, speculated that police did not fare well because their jobs so often bring them into conflict with citizens.

"Everybody wants the police to do their job as long as they're not getting stopped for a ticket."

Finally, a Finance Committee request for $55,000 to establish a reserve fund got the worst beating. "They didn't understand that one," suggested Town Clerk Tom McNulty as he announced the total.

One resident, Jean Eldridge, was not unhappy to see some of the questions defeated. She cited the impact of tax increases on seniors. "How much can you take?" she asked. "The money stretches only so far."

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