Monday, May 14, 2012

What I Want To Know – Questions for Southbridge Town Council Candidates


Back in April The O’Zone published an article titled “Where’s The Beef”.

Since then we have seen precious little in the way of concrete proposals from those who claim to want to run our town.

Lacking anything substantive thus far from most of the candidates, and having gotten word that a town council candidates’ debate is tentatively scheduled for June 9th, I’ve decided to put forward some questions to which I would like answers.

I’d be interested to know what other questions O’Zone readers would like to ask the candidates.

I’m not looking for empty and vague generalities. I want specific, actionable proposals that will go before the council.

I will gladly publish replies from ANY candidate who chooses to respond.


1.      What is your position on the Town Council's proposed amendments to the Southbridge Home Rule Charter?
2.      Would you seek to reduce the town budget? In what areas? How?
3.      What would you do to increase employment opportunities in Southbridge?
4.      Would you act to replace the current town manager? Why?
5.      How would you make the town website more useful?
6.      What is your position on current trash and recycling regulations?
7.      What would you do to increase opportunities and activities for the town’s youth?
8.      What, if anything, should be done with the “industrial park”?
9.      Why are you the most qualified candidate in this race?


43 comments:

  1. Hi Ken. Tackling the budget is a tough problem. Budget increases are driven largely by labor costs and benefits which are locked in during contract negotiations. If someone promises to reduce my taxes if they're elected I'd like to know how they're going to get around this problem. Even holding the line on taxes will be difficult because of the pay raises negotiated into contracts and these contracts typically run for three years. I'd be happy if someone just told me they were going to take a hard look at the town's overhead rates and why the town is maintaining a roughly $3M deserve in the sewer/water budget (roughly one year of operating expenses and increasing).

    Of course, anyone can honestly pledge to look into these matters but if the majority of the council wants to look the other way and simply accept the administration's explanations, nothing will get done. The town needs a new majority on the council that will hold the administration accountable to the tax payers.

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    1. Rich:
      Thanks for responding.
      I would start by looking at the limp-wristed response by the town manager at the last council meeting to councilor McDonald’s criticism of recent new hires. Those are positions that did not have to be filled. There was no effort at austerity – only expansion of payroll.

      In addition there is a bylaw that I have proposed in the past that would help address this:

      4-102.5 The annual operating and capital budget submissions of the town manager to the town council shall include a projected impact upon the existing property tax rate given information available at the time of the vote on the budget. Any increase from the projections related to the budget as finally adopted when the proposed tax rate is actually presented to the council shall trigger a mandate that the budget be amended to conform to the revenue assumptions presented when the budget was adopted unless the council suspends by a 2/3 vote said mandate.

      If the current bylaw review committee had the same policy as the Charter Review Committee that offered an opportunity to submit suggestions on the town website I would have done so with this.

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    2. These are good ideas Ken. It only occurred to me during my last year on the council but I think any increase in the budget needs to be tied to an increase in business development. This would give the town an incentive to recruit good companies to move to town. Right now there's no incentive to bring business to town because any increase in the budget is covered by an increases in property taxes. This cycle needs to be broken. Lip service is paid to economic development but the reality is people continue to get pay raises even when businesses leave town. That's just nuts.

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    3. Rich:
      Again, I agree with you.

      If you'll recall, I addressed this concept in an earlier article on The O'Zone:

      http://ozonesouthbridge.blogspot.com/2012/01/lets-pay-for-performance-in-southbridge.html

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  2. While Rich is right some costs tend to be fixed, the idea that you have so many employees for the Town Manager alone begs the questions, how do you pay for what you can't afford? Sometimes paring down a budget is like a corporation that is bloated. Look at businesses that have lost employees and are now functioning at higher than expected levels because the people that are left are willing to work harder just to keep their jobsor start to realize there were too many eople doing a job that did not require that many. Buying needless items (street sweeper) when it is more cost efficient to lease as a town is another way. Why for instance is the lold sweeper following the new one if it works properly? Wate of time, money , and resources if you ask me. And what about the industrial park? Are you serious? Lets build a business park near a dump. OK. See them lining up yet? Too many times it is not the big ticket items, but how the money is spent on frivilous expenditures or misappropirated through bad management. It all starts with a stronger town council and not a bunch of yes men to the Chair and Clemence ruling through intimidation. Just my take on all of this.

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    1. Good points. There may be a few hundred thousand dollars to save by elliminating redundant positions but we'd have to find roughly one million dollars to eliminate the need for a tax increase. The subcommittees spend about an hour going over their contribution to the budget each year so there is never any real effort made to find cost savings. The budget proposed by the manager is bought hook, line and sinker by a majority of the council. If we want to reduce taxes, the council needs to make this a priority and devote the time needed to come up with creative ways to save money. We might need an independent commission of business professionals to review the budget and make recommendations.

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  3. Well, they better start finding a way to reduce the budget. Living in a town where taxes go up by quite a bit every year, while the values of our homes decline faster than in neighboring towns AND having water you can not drink without investing thousands into a whole house system, drug dealers and prostitutes running around town, a joke of a town council (with just 2 exceptions)... is getting old. If anyone is looking to buy a nice house... I am too old to wait another 20 years for this town to turn around, something needs to change NOW.

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    1. Convince some of your friends that don't vote to go to the polls this year. Elections swing on just a few votes in this town. If you bring your friends and your friends bring their friends then three good people might just get elected to the council.

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    2. aka Jester

      Earlier this year; TM Clark already “Forewarned” the Community that we can anticipate another Property Tax Rate Increase of (4%).

      I’m certainly not getting any warm, fuzzy feelings! Is this the best he can do for our Town...provide “Forewarnings”?

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    3. That speaks volumes about economic development in town. Prop 2 1/2 limits the growth in real estate tax to 2.5% of the previous years tax receipts. In southbridge, where roughly half the budget is funded through property taxes (the other half comes from the state and is generated by things like sales taxes that are collected by the state and returned to us) prop 2 1/2 limits budget increses to about $600k per year. When business leaves, a greater portion of this $600k has to come from home owners. The council can bring a lot of dog and pony shows to it's meetings but the 4% property tax hike tells you how much real business is being conducted in town. We need people with ideas, not cheer leaders.

      I want to put in a good word for Sandy Acly here. She and her small staff put in a lot of time getting state and federal grants for the town, among other things. If you ever have the chance to talk with her, you'll find she has a lot of good ideas for economic development. Take a look at the library she keeps in her office to get a sense of how much research she does. Her office needs greater support from the administration; it shouldn't have to scrape by on grants when the town can find money to "invest" in street sweepers.

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    4. Mr. Logan you lost your credibility when you compliment Sandy Acly. She is in way over her head and does not have the qualifications for the office she holds at $70,000 a year.

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    5. Steve, I have to disagree. My experience with Sandy was that she has a lot of ideas but little backing from the administration to implement them. When your boss doesn't provide you with the resources to do your job, how can you succeed? I also found Sandy open to new ideas and willing to work on them. She never told me something was impossible to do. I like that kind of attitude and would like to see what she can do given the proper support and resources.

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  4. Will do Mr. Logan. Was very disappointed to see you leave... one less "voice or reason"....

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  5. I mentioned this idea in the past when I was involved in the General Government Subcommittee: It may be trivial, but it would still help a little. When packets are given out for the Council Meetings, the budget, etc., please use double sided paper. When I was on this Subcommittee, I couldn't begin to say how much paper could have been saved.

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  6. I've heard a rumor that I want an answer to.
    I'm told Mrs. Peloquin has demonic tatoos on her neck and that she always wares scarves to hide them.
    I want to know if this is true.

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    1. Somebody told me the same thing.

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    2. Just what we need on the council another witch

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    3. Soemone told me there are councilors hiding embaraasing facts and relationships. The newspapers don't report this because they like the way things are. I hope this comes up in the debate.

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    4. Test While you brought up Kennedy -Donovan for certain councillors lets ad Russell Harrington and Park n shop supermarket to the frey. All has been documented if you care to look back to previous years dating back to the late eightys early nineties. Its a pattern of stealing and womanizing! Is this what we need on council? Theres more to come.

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    5. Tell me more. I heard a rumor about late night "meetings" involving certain people.

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    6. This kind of rumor is for imbeciles. If you want to attract the knuckle dragging crowd against Amelia, don't bother. They already oppose her because of how she stands up to Clemence and Nikolla.

      This is beginning to sound really desperate, by the way. What's next? She's selling Mexican day laborers from her basement? Really, give more credit to the good people of town. They're smarter than this.

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    7. This comment by Raciel proves the problem with Peloquin and her supporters. They are naive about the underlying forces and history of Southbridge politics.The remarks he is responding to don't even relate to Peloquin, they are about another candidate who Raciel has criticized.

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    8. Who knows. Maybe that’s a slip about something we haven’t heard about yet. Just sayin.

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  7. Easy way to find out: ask her!

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    1. That's what anonymous 3:37 did. The silence is deafening.

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    2. Hi, folks. I don't read Ken's blog every day, and when I do read it, I don't always read all the comments. The best way to get in touch with me is via email (Amelia@ElectAmelia.com, or you can use the contact form on my site) or by phone: 774-318-9665.

      Yes, I've got a couple of tattoos, but they are neither "demonic" (what does that even
      mean?) nor located on my neck. I do have a pair of blue stars on my chest. I don't go out of my way to hide them, and they're frequently visible whether or not I'm wearing a scarf. (I just happen to like wearing scarves.) I do not practice any sort of witchcraft; I'm Catholic and I attend Mass weekly. Despite the fact that I think all of this is extremely silly, I will tell you that if you have any other questions, you are welcome to get in touch via email or phone.

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  8. Ms. Peloquin, a you long with Stephanie Demartino, were all over the blogs, Facebook and the newspapers bad mouthing and falsely accusing a kind hearted clergyman here in town who was doing so much to help the tornado victims with their needs.

    I won't forget how you tried to tarnish his reputation and hurt his ministry because of your glory seeking nature.

    You won't get my vote. I say go Moriarty, Lazo and Martinek.

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    1. Of course, you are free to throw as many anonymous smears my way as you see fit. I'm running for local office; I'm literally asking for it. That being said, I really hope people eventually stop dragging the person you mentioned into local political stuff and making an issue out of him.

      I respect the aforementioned clergyman and his ministry enough that I have *no* desire to make any public comments about this individual in the future, especially within the context of local politics. At this point he's a private citizen, and in my opinion, it's just not appropriate. He's been through more than enough.

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    2. Bad attempt at deflection. This isn't about him, it's about your glory hunting to the extent of making the good others do out to be bad.

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    3. I think the Tornado survivors were the ultimate authority in this issue and they clearly appreciated Amelia. She's not deflecting, she's being respectful to the clergyman, which is more than I can say about your cheap ump-teenth attempt at smearing a good candidate and pulling him back out as a weapon.

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    4. Sometimes desperate people will believe anybody who claims to be their salvation. As I recall the tornado victims also believed Nicolla when she promised to make them a priority.

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    5. "He's been through more than enough".<---- Thanks to Amelia Peloquin's bullying of the good Father. If she'll attack a priest to advance her ego (what councilor does that remind you of?) what won't she say or do? If she were a movie she'd be "Say Anything" (while saying nothing). A plan for economic development? Entrepreneurship? That will bring jobs to Southbridge one at a time. Great.

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  9. Why is someones opinion "smearing?" Your "side" is so transparent AND desperate. Thanks to your strategy of elect Amelia and Shaun you'll put Councilors Spinelli and Clemence back. Forgot that your strategy will split the vote? Well, "our side" thanks you for helping to re-elect Denise and Larry!

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  10. Because your opinion is unfounded. That's when it's just smearing. A priest hating witch? Really?. And as far as strategy, there's only one strategy and that is to remove Clemence and Spinelli. Unfortunately, all these "anonymous" posters' strategy seems to be to remove Amelia from the ticket. This is an arrogant approach since she's gaining momentum. Splitting the ticket? Yes, as long as there are 4 good candidates opposing the incumbents the ticket will be split. But again, the arrogance of Anonymous is that you feel that the "little lady", who, by the way was in pretty early into the race, should just bow out and let the big boys do the job because she will be the spoiler. I think she will be one of the top vote getters for the opposition. Good luck to everyone else except Spinelli and Clemence. That was sincere.

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  11. Raciel and all,

    I've been watching with interest the comments going back and forth and back and forth...and it's getting dizzying.

    My focus, as I'm sure is the case with Steve, Shaun, Amelia and Jean should be on knocking out the incumbents and gaining all three seats. The infighting by supporters of any of ours on our behalf doesn't help any of us to get our messages out and stay on point.

    We have a great chance to change the direction of this town for the better, so if anyone who is supporting me is behind this, I would call on it to cease. I am sure that the other candidates would say the same thing on behalf of their supporters.

    So let's realize, with a little over a month to go, what this race is about:

    Reducing spending, cutting the tax rate (or showing something for what we pay or both), and ending the bickering and creating a professional Town Council that people can be proud of. Oh, and showing that this is a town that is compassionate towards her people.

    I would venture to guess that none of us see this as differentiating ourselves from the rest of the pack, so let's get away from the rumors and focus on the facts:

    What the incumbents have, and haven't, accomplished and the cost to us as taxpayers.

    Have a great weekend.

    Dennis

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    1. Dennis, I agree with what you say. But I also remember that Raciel was one of those who didn’t hesitate to claim that those who didn’t like the petition for going back to a board of selectmen and a town meeting were supposed to agree. If they didn’t then they were traitors to “our side”. Whatever became of that petition? It seems to me that if anybody is guilty of saying its my way or the highway its his side whatever that means.

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    2. You’ve made the point exactly. Amelia and her people will waffle when it suits them. But when they take a position anybody who disagrees with them is the enemy. This is the same kind of arrogance that needs to be eliminated on the council. They should stop trying to equate themselves with Shaun. He’s his own man and they don’t do him any favors by trying to link their caboose to his engine.

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    3. I was going to support her but after looking at the discussion here I don't think so.

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    4. Anonymous 4:09,

      I have a lot of respect for Raciel, he's an articulate, smart, and well spoken individual, who I hope will run for Town Council one day.

      I don't remember things that way you state. Was he disappointed I didn't agree with the petition? Possibly. Did he show me any disrespect for not siding with him? Not at all.

      Raciel is smart enough to know that we can't all agree on everything. I think what he does with his blog is great, and, he knows that I did sign the petition despite my not supporting it.

      He is a passionate man, not unlike myself, and frankly, I admire his defending his positions and his candidates. There is absolutely nothing wrong about that, and indeed, quite a bit right about it.

      Let Raciel have his opinions without attacking him...I like his loyalty, something that this town is sorely lacking.

      As Forrest Gump would say, "that's all I have to say about that".

      Cheers,

      Dennis

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    5. Wow, you don't remember? Now we see the politician Dennis. I remember this fernandez guy bad mouthing you Ken and McDonalld because you went against his petition.

      I guess you feel the need to pander to Raciel, Marketti and company to try to get votes. Doesn't matter what you say Dennis, they aren't going to vote for you. They have no use for people who don't agree with them. Just like nikolla and company.right now, I'm only voting for Lazo and Shaun. You lost my vote.

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    6. You are the reason the dumbcumbents will win: vote for 2? A strategy for disaster, Ray.

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  12. Ray, it's not called pandering its called I don't remember it that way with Raciel. With Marketti ? Yes. Sorry if your memory is different, but so be it. I don't believe most who wanted the petition will be voting for me, so there's no amount of pandering or begging that will change that, and I won't stoop to that level for an election...it's not me. By the way, in the future, "Ray", you're posting time gives you away.

    Cheers,

    Dennis

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