Friday, May 28, 2010

Boston Common - picture courtesy of Dave Lombardi

Memorial Day 2010

One day a year this country pays tribute those who have sacrificed so much for our way of life, including their own lives. Millions have gone off to faraway places, volunteered or not, regardless of skin color, political views, families or careers. Many continue to pay a heavy price for their patriotism and devotion to the cause and yet, hundreds of thousands still go to war for us and our way of life.

On the Boston Common, there are 20,000 flags representing those from Mass who have sacrificed their lives. We still have 38 or so servicemen unaccounted for from Vietnam and just recently, finally resolved the first Desert Storm POW MIA pilot who was shot down on the first days of that war.

All the fancy speeches from the pols this Memorial Day may make the families of lost ones feel better, that at least their sacrifice will not be forgotten, it still begs the question, why do we lose so many of our people to war and will it ever end?

I think about my friends who went and those who came back only to suffer in so many ways I couldn't even understand. Gut wrenching accounts still haunt the young and old servicemen and women and no matter what the cost, this country owes it to those who have served. The fact that one out of three homeless people are veterans shows us we need to do better.

My own personal beliefs aside, I will never be able to show my appreciation enough. So I will proudly fly my Stars and Stripes and POW MIA flags as I do every day, and thank those of you who have done what I could not do, go to war.

2,933 kids miss diploma over MCAS

While I do agree, that kids need to be trained for this century's workforce requirements, the new requirement for passing the science test has almost 3,000 kids not getting a diploma. While the numbers are not extreme and hundreds of thousands do pass, we are spending millions on educating the kids to pass one test. Someday this testing regime will go away and be replaced with broader educational based testing, after all, not everyone is going to be a scientist.

The Senate votes to restrict access to services for illegal immigrants

In a stunner for this State, the Senate 28-10 voted to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, bar them from public health care, housing and higher education. The House still needs to approve this measure and Deval who is riding the fence, may well end up vetoing this, after all, the D's rely heavily on the immigrant vote and this is an election year.

It's time for this reform in so many ways.

204 million later... Town Meeting is done

In the last night of budget approval, only 103 members showed up to approve police, fire, Public works, etc and by 9:30, there were only 89 members left. Call me a whiner, but if anyone would like to defend such poor participation at TM, here's the place.

The only excitement came when one TMM proposed a resolution to have the selectman ask business owners coming to Town, if they were employing legal residents. And as we were voting on this resolution, the Senate was passing a immigration reform package that has shocked some in our State. Clearly, illegal immigration is a hot button issue, that in an election year, will be causing some trouble for the incumbents.

I am stunned over the things I saw and heard from TM. There's probably 100 or so people who have the intellect and drive to follow what goes on. A large percentage will rubber stamp anything put before them because they benefit financially in some way. Others are busy doing other things and couldn't possibly be paying attention enough to make a thorough decision, while others (like myself) try to understand the complex history of votes taken on issues years ago and the dizzying array of amendments. Made even more frustrating over those who take valuable air from the room by just speaking nonsense.

I've learned a lot and am even more convinced that this Town Meeting form of governing is making a good case for a city form of government. I look forward to fall TM.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Framingham misses out of Green Community status

These are the requirements we couldn't get done.

To qualify for the designation, Massachusetts communities had to turn in their paperwork by May 14 and meet five criteria:

Adopt zoning that allows the construction of renewable energy projects in certain areas without special permission.

Establish an expedited permitting process for those projects.

Set a baseline for municipal energy and reduce use 20 percent within five years.

Only purchase fuel-efficient municipal cars and trucks when available and practical, with exemptions for public safety.

Change building codes to require a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency for new commercial construction and new homes larger than 3,000 square feet.

We will miss out on millions of dollars in grant money and more importantly we will not part of the solution. I hope those who have stood in the way of progress are happy now.

choose your poison in the school budget

We heard from all sides last night about the school budget and tonight we will be asked to approve swallowing a poison pill, no matter which we go. The options on the table so far, 88,895 approved by Ways and Means, 88,695 which takes 400,000 a one time influx of meals tax money, which leaves the schools to cut another 400,000, and then there's the fincom recommendation of 86,800, which will cut severley more programs.

I was shocked to hear that we spend 66,000 per for some of the sped students. Not shocked at the resolution that calls for the closing of Widrow Wilson, next to General Chemical. We were told that the chemical plum is moving away from the school and that there is no fear about contamination.

Not surprising was the amount of unfunded mandates and how that really effects our school budget. It's criminal that the legislature and the feds force us to pay for things we can't afford. No child left behind, illegal immigrants, MCAS and so on, are bankrupting our education system and shortchanging our kids.

For their part, I feel the school committee has done a good job at cutting whats needed to make budget, but at the end of this day, TMM's who are awake and paying attention, not doing homework or reading magazines, will be forced to make a decision that will effect our childrens future.

Years and years of bad politically correct partisan decisions, a major down turn in the economy and the powerful self interest of the union mentality has brought us to this point. None of us will win in this scenario no matter which way we vote.

I'm open to any or all comments on how we should vote this school budget.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The out of controll Probation Department

If you needed a jolt of whats wrong with State government and the legislature, just look at how the Probation Department has made the case for re-organization. From the Globe, nine years ago, our inept legislature gave away control and oversight, which has resulted in scandalous reports of financial fraud and theft, inadequate oversight and a place where the political connected get the jobs, over well qualified people.

Not only has this department bullied the legislature into not cutting the probation department's bloated budge this year, but refuses to acknowledge that ethical standards are not being enforced, money being stolen and those who contribute to campaigns get special treatment, jobs and favors.

Now.. thanks to the Globes Spot Light Team reporting, Patrick has asked the AG to investigate Mr. John O'Brien, head of the Probation Department for ethics violation and the other candidates have asked Deval to fire Mr. O'Brien. We learned from the Globe, much of what is now going on, goes back to an embarrassing moment in 2002 for Mr. O'Brien, when he was held in contempt of court (by the states chief administrative Judge, Robert Mulligan), in a prisoner lockup in Brighton, over drug testing procedures.

Look for this to be a battle royal and if it goes on into the fall, a real campaign maker for those who challenge the status quo.

Unions won't budge on Health Care Costs

If you followed what happened at TM last Thursday, you may be as shocked as I was to hear that the Unions won't even let the Town have new employee's be put on a plan by which the employee's will contribute a little more to their own health insurance. As I sat there and listened intently to the well thought motions and frank statements from the Town Manager, it became very clear that the unions have not given any regard to the tax payers and this Towns financial future. And as we left on Thursday night, many around me acknowledged we did NOT vote on that article. Mr. O'Neil has asked for re-consideration of the article, but as I see it, it was never approved. Mr. Vassar will be submitting two motions on Tuesday night, which on the surface, sound very good.

How we got to this point, where Framingham is only one of 6 Towns in the entire State that allows unions to have veto power over employee contributions and insurance plans, can be chalked up to the BOS, way back in 1993, when John Stefanini was one of the two culprits who voted for this.

And as CFO Kelley pointed out, the short term gains will disappear in a few years and the Town will be spending huge amounts of money on health insurance no matter which way we go. It's a terrible spot for the Town and tax payers to be in and the no-guts legislature will never vote to allow Framingham the right to change the insurance. Dammed if we don't, dammed if we do. Public employee's unions win, but at what cost?

It's time to ban all public employee unions, their hazardous to our health.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Framingham bullied into funding Quinn

The other night, in a moment of fiscal irresponsibility, TM approved funding for the Quinn Bill. Over the common sense objections of Ways and Means, Audrey Hall explained that this will be another unfunded mandate that will never go away. While the Fin Comm group weighed in with approval, Chief Carl expalined he could not get qualified canidates to aplly for the open positions on the Police Force without Quinn. Town Counsel weighed in by saying some Towns have been brought to court over not funding Quinn. CFO Kelley did point out that the State is still funding Quinn for State Police and Enivoromental Police.

In the back of the hall stood a group of local cops, peering over the crowd as their superiors stood along side the selectman's corner. I wonder how many of the bullies even live in this Town and how many others being investigated have had extra education.

The political perk given to cops way back, was just nothing short of getting votes. While I do agree any education in any job related coarse is good for both the employee and the business, in these troubled times, it makes no sense to award a perk that the state no longer funds for Towns. If they don't fund it, we shouldn't either. Reminds me of the DARE program.

I did not vote for this. Next year and perhaps even this financial year, lay offs will happen. Health care costs are skyrocketing, foreclosures are rising, unemployment will remain around 9% and next years fiscal troubles are already on the radar, 3 billion more is what they now say for 2012.

Last night a young man sat down next to me and while a presentation was going on. With no Town Meeting paperwork in front of him, he opened a notebook and brought out two devices. One a very large calculator and a texter. He clearly was doing some homework and was a distraction to me. Finally I asked if he were a TM member and he showed me his badge. While doing his homework, he voted on the artcales presented.

Attendance was 117 last night and the night before, out of 130 that showed at the start, 50 had left at 9:30, leaving barley a quorum at 84. It is disturbing to see the lackadaisical attitude by some of TMM's and even more is the amount of people who leave early and don't show up at all. The fate of our Town is being decided by less than 100 people. I'd love to hear from a Town Meeting defender supporting this form of government..

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recycle baby... recycle

By the slimmest of margins, we approved the purchasing of larger recycle bins, bi-weekly pick-up and most importantly, this will save money and bring our community into the 21st century. I was proud to vote in favor of this, even with the reversions. Recycling rates will improve as time goes on and we will be thankful down the road and so will mother earth.

I was elected Precinct Chair, running on a platform of more precinct meetings, and am on the rules committee. Perhaps while on this committee, I can help tighten the rules for participation by the TMM's. Something has to be done about the half of TMM's who don't show up. And quite frankly, I would suggest an ambulance with a complete staff of EMT's be on hand at each meeting. I've seen homeless healthier people on the streets of Boston.

Watson, can you hear me now?..... Funny how a little pressure on the BOS can motivate the Gov Access crew to do their job. I did find out that Jim Eagan sets up the hall which in my mind, is the responsibility of Gov Access. None the less... bitching about the sound was heard and can only get better with time. Thank you all for your comments about this subject and I would hope, at any time you don't see or don't hear a meeting, you will let me know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Inside Town Meeting

As a newbie to the floor of Town Meeting I was disturbed to watch a TMM sleeping, a TMM reading magazines, a bunch of TMM's left at the break and some play on their lap tops while we are there to decide the fate of the Town's fiscal future.

The participation by the elected TMM's is shocking. 130 the first night, 117 the second night and 121 the third night. The low turnout is the best case for becoming a city form of Government.

Lastly, if you were watching the three nights, you heard no sound at the beginning of the first night, then screeching sounds when people came to the mic for the next two nights. This is not new and I have written to the Town Manager about this before and to no avail. I spoke with BOS Chairman Giombetti about this and Moderator Ed Noonan and they assured me that things would be better.. but they were not.

Tonight at the selectman's meeting they will discuss the sound issues.

Cancer Panel Sounds Alarm

From the Globe, An expert panel advising the President said last week, Americans are facing grievous harm from chemicals in the air, food and water that have largely gone unregulated and ignored. The panel also said, "to a disturbing extent, babies are born pre-polluted" adding that health officials lack the critical knowledge about chemicals effect on fetuses and children.

Keep this in mind as Framingham deals with General Chemical in the future.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tylenol recall , Zyrtec recall & children's medicine recall

It just never stops with drug companies and the unsafe use of their products. Please check this web site out for more details.

Disasters abound... why is the question

As we watch the continued coverage of perhaps the worse environmental disaster ever in this countries history, to be felt now and for many years to come, one has to wonder how this came to be. The blame is squarely on BP and owners of the oils rigs, but as we have just learned, Congress let the oil industry dictate safety policy many years ago. The magical acoustic switch that could have prevented this is not mandated on the oil rigs in this country, as it is in a few others like Denmark. And while oil still flows from 5 thousand feet below, no one seems to be sure of anything and efforts to stop the massive oil leak seem weeks and months away. And while thousands take to the streets demanding immigration reform, the now famous oil leak.. could reach the Atlantic side of the US.... which could kill off, destroy or disable a whole way of life for millions of people who make their livings using the oceans.

The water main break in Weston has been fixed and fights over bottled water will come to an end. This mini disaster has shown how vulnerable we all are to infrastructure failure. One might ask, how did this relatively new pipe break and will it happen again? And if.. .it turns out, that residents of this state have once again been cheated by the lack of oversight, faulty materials or poor workmanship, each and every employee who had a hand in this should be terminated from the payroll and taken to trial.

Natural catastrophic events like earth quakes, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcano's erupting are a part of our life, but man made disasters should be viewed as preventable. But as long as we have politicians taking money from those who want to take chances on our way of life, no one anywhere is safe and our environment will continue to be damaged.