Monday, March 1, 2010

Money can't buy those Indians, Cape Wind rejected again

Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon has offered two Native American tribes millions to halt their opposition as the clock runs down on the review period for the controversial wind power project slated for Nantucket Sound.

Sources told the Herald that Gordon, through a middleman, offered to pay the two tribes a total of $50,000 a year for 20 years if they would support the project.

Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said the offer represented “financial mitigation.”

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoags, which is one of the two tribes involved, said the offer was rejected “out of hand.”

“This issue has never been about money for us,” Cromwell said.

For nine years, Gordon has fought for approval of his estimated $2.6 billion, 130-turbine project, proposed for a 25-mile stretch of federal waters, located between Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Supporters say the project, which would be the nation’s first offshore wind power generator, will serve as an important symbol of the switch to clean energy.

Critics contend that the private, for-profit project will wreak havoc on the environment, disrupting fishing, transportation and tourism.

The Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes say the project will interfere with the long-held religious practice of greeting the morning sun, and could harm ancient tribal burial grounds. Horseshoe Shoals, where the project would go, was dry land thousands of years ago.

The battle could end soon because U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar has said that if the warring factions can’t reach a compromise by Monday, he’ll decide the project’s fate by April 1.

More perks for Clerk Magistrates

From The Herald:

Almost 200 high-paid clerk magistrates and their assistants are padding their pockets with thousands of dollars in bail fees, a little-known perk payment that fiscal watchdogs say should go to the cash-strapped commonwealth.

The $40 fees are incurred by suspects who pay bail set by clerk magistrates and assistants after hours, when courts are closed. The fee goes straight to the judicial staffers - on top of their salaries of $84,000 to $110,000.

“This is a striking amount of money these fees are generating for these clerks,” said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “They are paid well. This should be part of their responsibilities.”

Critics also warn of a possible built-in conflict of interest in the system: Rather than receive a flat fee for every suspect, magistrates collect the fee only if they set bail for a suspect and the bail is paid, potentially creating an incentive to set low bail.

“It’s clearly a temptation. Clearly from the point of view of a purer justice system, you don’t want this question to arise,” Widmer said. “It doesn’t engender trust in the judicial system to have this inherent conflict there.”

The fees are set by statute and can be changed only by the Legislature.

Another RMV increase

Very quietly, Deval has added an increase in RMV fees... some R's call for it to be repealed. The intent is to get more drivers to go on-line to do business, but there must be at least a million or so drivers who don't even own a computer. This move hits our seniors the most and is just another tax increases.

Customers will incur the new $5 fee if they speak with an RMV representative on the phone or go in to one of the 30 branches for the following services:

• Renewing your driver’s license (except for the 10-year renewal required in person);

• Getting a duplicate license or Massachusetts ID;

• Renewing your registration; or

• Requesting an attested driving record.

The fee won’t be charged for transactions completed online, by mail, or over the RMV’s automated phone system.

“We want to discourage people from going to the branches,” said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The RMV recorded only 1.8 million online transactions last year for the 4.7 million licensed drivers and the 5.8 million vehicles on the road.

Unions protect Heath Care benifits

From the Globe, we learn that the one major contributor to our budget woes here in Framingham and around the State, is the refusal of Unions to enroll in the States Group Insurance Commission. According to Mass Tax Payers Foundation and Boston Municipal Research Bureau, if all the towns and cities were to be consolidated into the Group Insurance, 1 billion dollars a year could be saved by 2018.

The GIC saves taxpayers money in two ways, requiring employees, retires and elected officials to pay more out of pocket dispenses. It also allows changes in health care plans without union barging.

The Bill that was passed in 2007 allowing communities to adopt the GIC program had one catch, it required a 70% vote by the union representatives before a community could join, giving the biggest unions, veto power.

Since it's inception, 10 communities, school districts and charter schools have joined, the second year 15 more and as of July 1, Hopedale and Brookline have joined.

Two bills pending allowing Towns to adopt the GIC without Union approval are still in committee and have been labeled as "too controversial".

While the majority of average citizens have had major increases in their health care cost and premium increases, Unions have shown little understanding of how their benefits are causing communities to look for ways to rein in the cost to the taxpayers. This is the price we pay now, for allowing powerful self interest to dictate policy in our community and resist money saving measures in health care costs. Town leaders must show the tax payers, that they feel our pain and negotiate in collective bargaining, a common sense plan to drive down health care costs.