Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blog update from Admin.

The purpose of this post is to address a number of questions directed to me, the blog, or the Fixers in general and to clarify the intent of the blog.

Intent of the blog.

The intent of the blog is as stated on the opening page: “This blog was created to enable residents of Newburgh to discuss political affairs with each other. Please be courteous.”

Lately, and to my disappointment, is has evolved into a ping pong arena where personal slams are passed back and forth. I realize that venting is important but when it has reached the point where other people are discouraged from adding their insights and observations the intent of the blog is no longer being served.

Therefore from here on comments that do not further the intent of the blog will be moved to the Hash and Bash postings. The comments will not be deleted unless there is a threat of physical violence, or are so inflammatory they would never be used in any other circumstance except where anonymity allows extremes.

In reply to the suggestion to take the blog down. Two reasons were given for this. One was that the blog had deteriorated to the web equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show. Hopefully this was properly addressed in the above paragraph.

The second was that there was no longer any need for the blog. A tangential comment to this was that the Fixers are no more. For me to reply to this I need to make clear I am only speaking for myself. The people that are and have been involved with our group are a very diversified group, ranging from tea baggers to union organizers. We would probably not ever be in the same room were it not for the compelling need we felt to fix the problems in our town.

My main concern, aside from the financial irregularities, was to make the legislative branch of our municipal government viable again. Consider for a moment in the past (2005-2009) an average 20 people attended the annual town meeting, the selectmen exceeded budget lines and in effect legislated where they thought the town should go. Another example is the last administration not including in the town meeting articles a discount for taxpayers that pay early and monies donated to various agencies like the Red Cross and Penquis CAP and Spruce Run. These have always been part of the articles. These administrative actions border on disdain for the voters and could only occur where the townspeople were apathetic or felt discouraged (might be one and the same) about what power they had to influence the direction of the town.

Change has begun to happen. Next year we will go to an administrative assistant/selectmen form of government. This will make the town employees responsible to the selectmen, one step closer to the townspeople. There will be 5 selectmen therefore more diversity and representation (and hopefully expertise on the board). These steps will help empower the townspeople.

Questions asked:

A question that was asked in various forms was is there a need for the Fixers or this blog. I say yes. I believe there are a number of major and minor issues that are the responsibility of or would empower the electorate that need to be addressed. Of the top of my head they include:

• What should we do about a municipal facility? Will the school meet our needs? Some have said is costing too much (we have yet to get a reliable cost estimate for being at the school), others have said we would be better off building our own facility, yet others have advocated moving back to the old town office.

• Changing to a line item budget. Presently budget items are grouped together and do not allow a person to vote on individual items. Granted we do not need to vote on pencil and paper but when the administrative budget has grown over 120% in ten years items that constitute the major portions of this item need to be understood and voted on. The same thing with roads; identify which road repair is being proposed and let the townspeople decide (versus this year where only a total sum was voted on, then is was at the discretion of the manager).

• Going to a referendum budget vote versus a town meeting. In the 20 plus town where this has been implemented the involvement of the electorate has increased 5 to 10 times. How this works is that the townspeople vote by secret ballot (at the same time they are voting for selectmen) for the following years’ budget.

• A town survey asking various questions about the direction the town should go.

• Town office hours that would be most helpful to townspeople (versus the staff).

Implied in the question is that because we have a new administration there is no need for the Fixers or the blog. This is naïve. The legislative branch as we learned from the failures of the past must be an active part of town government. In whatever way the blog can assist in this it will.

We need to have an active, empowered legislature to have a healthy community. We need to have people do their civic duty, call them Fixers, concerned citizens or if you do not like the above simply call them townspeople. Regardless of the title, citizens will now (fingers crossed) be involved in their town or as the last line of the fixers mission statement says : “We will not abdicate our responsibilities as Newburgh citizens again.” .

Hopefully we will get beyond the divisiveness that has occurred in the last year, although going by the comments left last week there will be remnants for a while. We hope those that do not agree with the direction of the town use a positive approach and use the same tools we had/have at our disposal: petitions, education of the electorate, and participation at meetings with articulated and researched facts and concerns.

Thank you for indulging me in this rather long dissertation, I promise not do to be so verbose next time.