Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the rules

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Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the rules

Postby bferrari on Mon May 07, 2012 11:28 pm

The first time that we get to vote on Article 11, "Transfer funds from the certified General Fund Free Cash the sum of $906,224 for some specific purposes.

Warren Carey with support from Joe Gill and Rick O'Neil want to add an ammendment to take $300,000 of that money to open the South Street fire station instead. There is no guarantee it will be open all year round NOR is there a guarantee it would be fully staffed, and also this is NOT THE WAY TO RUN A TOWN USING FREE CASH! Eventually the ammendment is struck down by two votes (54ish to 53ish).

Not happy with that Warren comes back 20 minutes later stating that "some people from the check in area wanted to vote and didn't". Eventually the Town Moderator says that he made a mistake in procedure (correct me if I am wrong please). Then a vote is retaken after some of those workers come in and this time the Ammendment passes by three votes.

I asked the worker who was collecting the ribbons on my way out that are you ever asked to go vote on something, here response was:
"never, on big issue nights we have a monitor in here and we go in if we want to and go vote then, NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED US TO COME AND VOTE".

Well to me, this is a change in procedure, NOT A MISTAKE by the Town Moderator. WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT LEFT THE MEETING, and there were more than a few that left. If a revote was intended it should have been done on Wednesday so that those people who voted and left, can have fair warning that a revote was being taken.

I believe the vote should have stood as it was, and I stand by that.
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby swamper on Tue May 08, 2012 1:45 am

I agree, Bob.
NOTHING to do with the intention of keeping open the South St. station at all but I don't think it was fair to take a revote because the checkers (who are not newbies and should have known better plus they HAVE monitors to watch where they are stationed) didn't think to send someone in to request that they be allowed/come in to vote WHEN IT HAPPENED not a half hour later. I NEVER recall any Town Moderator specifically asking them in in past years so I don't think it was a procedural error on the Moderator's part. Also I know for a fact where I was sitting in the bleachers with an excellent view of the audience, several people who had previously voted against the measure to transfer/increase the funds had since left the mtg. and two people who had NOT even been there before came in and sat down without ribbons, then went back out and GOT ribbons for themselves just before the new vote was taken and were counted in the "yes" votes. If all the checkers were NOW in the gym (and again I SAW them all come in and sit down)....WHO registered those two latecomers in and was THAT fair or even legal? Yet the police at the doors wide open just let them on in. Regardless of where one stood, I believe it was handled wrong. Given how it went down with people coming and going, they should/could have just tabled it to Wed. night's continued Annual portion as they did for a couple of other items. My two cents.
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby sean_czarniecki on Tue May 08, 2012 5:48 am

All I can say is that I'm *still* excited by what went down last night. It set up the argument both for and against Town Meeting, didn't it? The fact that the town budget got changed on the floor of TM shows the power of the meeting. If someone just came before the Town Council and said, "I think we should put more money towards the South Fire Station," the Town Council (in this case) would have said, "Thank you for your comments." Here, an amendment was made to the budget by a single resident, and even if you don't agree with how the vote was passed, the change amazingly happened. The argument FOR Town Council now becomes, "All that hard work done by the Finance Committee, the Town Manager, and all the department heads was just thrown away." Now, I am totally against the change to Town Council and LOVE how the night before the vote, a "teaching moment" took place.

With respect to how the vote went down, we also have to take that as a moment to improve Town Meeting procedures. Have you ever come across a decision at TM that was decided by 1 vote? Suddenly, everyone's vote actually mattered! In the past, when has a budget item ever come down to that? While the checkers should have been on their toes, there has never really been a time in the past (that I recall), where we waited for the checkers to come down and get in the hall for a budget item like this. Now, should they have been allowed to make the decision after seeing the result of the vote? Not really, but, again, this was almost a new situation for everyone. Yes, people left right after that vote and they should also learn that something like this (votes reconsidered) can occur. Interestingly, even with the additional 10+ checkers, the new decision still came down to a 3-vote difference (in the other direction). VERY exciting!
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby bferrari on Tue May 08, 2012 7:31 am

All great points Sean and partly the reason I wrote what I did last night.

It also shows one very important thing... another reason NOT to switch to Town Council form of government. If one person can get what they want by having the vote changed, I SURE AS HELL don't want that person as a Town Councillor. Warren set the stage for a re vote, people had to re vote. At least it was citizens that got to re vote (even though a bunch of people had left and they did not get to vote which is my big argument about all this).

If Warren (in this case) was now a Town Councillor, he now has 1/9 of all the votes in his hand. Ad Rick O'Neill for another 1/9 and then Joe Gill another 1/9, imagine what they will do. The won't need people to vote anymore, these three would vote for you and there is nothing you can do about it.

One more thing, is it really necessary for that former Selectman to storm the microphone everytime he gets up to speak? The last time he ran up he almost ran over that poor lady that was in front of him, I mean really.
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby sean_czarniecki on Tue May 08, 2012 7:55 am

Man, I could just talk about this all day....too bad I actually have to work!

Bob - I have to agree with your initial post regarding use of free cash. This is why I opposed the change to the budget. Now, if the money came from reduction in operational costs elsewhere, that might have been better to me, but then other people would have been impacted (laid off?). I was in favor of paying off the leases to be able to remove ourselves from paying interest so that we could then move forward with even more money....which could then be applied to opening the station all year. That being said, I understand those that felt this as a higher priority. We all have different priorities.

Did anyone else watching at home have an issue with hearing the meeting? My wife turned it on to check in and couldn't hear anything (Verizon).
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby krauseo on Tue May 08, 2012 7:59 am

I’m going to try to nip this latest conspiracy theory in the bud immediately. Only one thing happened last night. I messed up. Regardless of who brought that fact to my attention, and how anyone feels about that person, rightly or wrongly, it was good that he brought it to my attention, because once he said it I knew what had happened and I knew that I had messed up. With an issue like that proposed amendment, which was clearly going to result in a close vote, it was on me to ensure that every voter was able to vote and to find out whether the dozen checkers in the cafeteria wished to participate in the vote. Whether one believes I had that responsibility or not, I believe I had it, and since I had to decide whether or not I messed up, I decided that I had. Once I realized that I had messed up, the difficult thing then became fixing the error within the rules of procedure, because fixing things procedurally inevitably causes confusion, anger, and delays. No one changed the rules; we followed them. After the meeting, I had a discussion with the Town Clerk about how we can ensure that we don’t disenfranchise the checkers in the cafeteria without making it a guessing game for the Moderator, and starting tonight we will have a process in place that gives the checkers a means of informing us during the discussion on an issue that they wish to come to the gym and vote. That way, the Moderator doesn’t have to ponder that possibility in the middle of a discussion and cause unnecessary delays before (or after) a vote. When they inform us of their desire to vote, we will have a short recess between the end of debate and the vote so they can come to the gym. This will certainly be the case at tonight’s meeting on the charter proposal. This is a difficult situation because in our current facility the checkers are in a room 150 feet away from where the voters vote, but the checkers are voters, and it’s important for me to ensure that they have the opportunity to vote, even when ensuring it requires me to make myself look like a numbskull.

As to the issue about people leaving between the first and second votes, I can’t help that people left the meeting after voting on an amendment to Article 4, and before we even voted on Article 4 itself, when the meeting was going to make decisions on Articles 2 through 28. People have to make their own decisions about when they leave, and when they leave they are voluntarily giving up their right to participate in whatever happens after they leave.

This is all I have to say about this issue. I’ve been beating myself up over this for twelve hours now, and I am going to stop dwelling on my mistake now that I’ve learned from it.

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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby sdeackoff on Tue May 08, 2012 8:44 am

I believe the vote last night was a message that the South St. Fire Station is a top priority. In the matter of priorities, public safety should take precedence. We built the fire station for a reason.

$302,000 is 4/10 of 1% of the town budget. We can hire 2 more janitors to clean the new high school, and additional technical staff to make sure the wireless internet works in the high school, yet we cannot hire 3 firemen to staff the fire station. Really?

As far as I am concerned, the vote last night was a directive to the Town Manager and Fire Chief that all 3 fire stations should be open year round and staffed appropriately.

The Voters said:
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby CuriousT on Tue May 08, 2012 9:14 am

Keith, if every town officials went to the lengths that you do to ensure that they do their job competently this town would be a lot better off. Mistakes happen. Looking at it another way its about time we went beyond the usual political lip service and actually did something about the South St. station.
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Re: Article 11

Postby bferrari on Tue May 08, 2012 9:38 am

Issue One:
Keith, I am trying to say that you did NOT make a mistake, this is the way it has been done, and that was confirmed by at least one of the "Checkers" in the other room who is at every town meeting according to what she told me, because I asked.

Nothing was done Illegally, no consipiracy. However, it was NOT a mistake, as Jay Kelly reiterated when he got up and spoke as this is how it's always been done.

I'm glad that the people spoke, that is what is great about Town Meeting, it's just that those that voted the first time and left for whatever reasons did not fairly get a chance to vote again.

Issue Two:
I also agree with Steve Deackoff that we need to keep the South Station Fire Station open.... but not with free cash, sorry, just my opinion. It's reckless and thoughtless. We need to change the way we spend, when money is tight, just the same way that the average person does when their personal budgets get tight, unlike the government purse strings that are unlimited, they simply keep raising taxes. I think our current Town Manager knows more about balancing budgets and running a town under a deficit than anyone else out here and I will stand by that, that is his original plan should have stayed. Some other cuts should be made to make this happen so that the station is open safely and in perpetuity.

Don't beat yourself up over it, something good came out of it, even though it's not the right way to get to that goal. You are definitely one of the most selfless officials I have ever known.
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby melli_fera on Tue May 08, 2012 11:35 am

I was torn on this amendment last night. In the end, however, I felt the need to send a message to town management. This was the only way to do it. I never thought I'd side with warren Carey on anything, but I cannot sit by while the town spends money on other things (being "fair" to other departments) when a serious need is present. It's easier to keep using an old street sweeper than to cut library hours or senior center budgets (which still are NOT more important than staffing a fire station).

I don't know what the long term solution is without pissing off some group within the town.

I thought last nights meeting was awesome. My vote mattered in a very tangible way. And I found it very telling that the majority of elected officials were against a re-vote, which seemed to be motivated by their desire to defeat the amendment rather than by their support (or lack thereof) of the democratic process. I wonder if they would have supported a re-vote being held on Wednesday rather than immediately.

I was energized last night and it just reinforces my commitment to town meeting.
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I rest my case.

Postby bferrari on Tue May 08, 2012 12:13 pm

And there you have it... two people on the SACC, the same two people who have come up with a new Town Charter that we will all be voting on adopting or not, tonite, these two people just showed us the power that each of us has, at Open Town Meeting....

VOTE "NO" to any change in our current form of government, tonight.

I rest my case.
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby Chasnbos on Tue May 08, 2012 1:20 pm

Last night vote signals a vote of no confidence in the BOS,Finance Committee and the TM. If you can do it once you can do it again. I'm sure that the TM is feeling that if dept heads don't like it they can now campaign their cause to influential town folk such as Mr Carey.
Granted the TM through his community roadshow should have in good faith address the concerns of staffing the firehouses with a timeline. If he had said my goal is 265 days of coverage - using free cash until I can figure this out would have appeased residents.
IMO most of the free cash should be put into a rainy day fund and not spent on a wish list. We are far from being in a good place. He is a good presenter but connecting with residents is still a work in progress. With that being said,ship seems to be righting itself but choppy waters lay ahead.

As far as how the vote went down it could be justified either way. When the checkers in past wanted to vote they have clearly made their intentions .
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby dougsears on Tue May 08, 2012 1:43 pm

There is no "government money," only your money at stake here.

The $302K question of how to spend your money was NOT about hiring new firefighters.
It was not about increasing staff for the fire houses.

It was about adding $302K for firefighter "overtime."
It was about taking money from our town's reserve (what determines our credit rating) fund to pay for "overtime."
(Note: Mr. Carey proposed the funds come from "free cash" but in actuality it will be taken from elsewhere in the budget, leaving "free cash" alone)

The "overtime" issue has been there for a long time.
Firefighters work somewhere between 90 and 95 days a year. For this they receive a salary. Teachers work 185 days.
This work time is subject to vacation, sick days, bonus incentive days etc. according to their contract.

Mr. Carey astutely realizes as former Town Treasurer that his fellow taxpayers prefer to pay firefighters salary plus "overtime."
Other Departments which have workers that do not rely as exclusively on "overtime" must give up $302K of what they in their budget as negotiated among their Department Heads and the Town Manager..

What do I mean?

Most fire fighters work many more days than 90 and 95 days a year.
For these other days days they are paid "over-time."
It is the over-time that makes firefighting in Tewksbury a desirable job.
(Fire fighters don't get to augment their salaries by paid detail opportunities such as are available to police).

Firefighters compare their jobs to those of the Tewksbury police.
For firefighters "overtime" is the equalizer that makes up for not their being able to do details.

Firefighters do not want more firefighters. They want to keep the "overtime" they have.

The voters of Tewksbury apparently support this compensation model.

When Mr. Carey and company see "overtime" being cut, they rally voters by darkly suggesting impending calamity if the voters fail to remove $302K for "overtime" from the budget of other departments or transfer it from the Town's reserves.

Manipulative a re-vote at Monday's Town Meeting is one thing. The actual calamitous collateral damage of this action is another.

The conscious efforts of three former town leaders to influence the way union employees are compensated while collective bargaining is actively in progress is an unfortunate precedent as an assault on the collective bargaining process.

There has always been a question as to the extent the town can pay firefighters' salaries plus the overtime they have come to rely upon when calculating their actual earnings.

The answer in the last few years or so is "no" -- we can't afford the salary + the overtime any longer -- but we can keep the Central Station and North Street to provide "core services."

The Chief, Town Manager, Selectmen and Finance Committee can work the budget around so that the South Street Fire can be open part time. South Street has never housed an ambulance. Central and North have ambulances. Central's ambulance serves the widest area so it won't get cut back. North has the "railroad track" argument that keeps it serving the other side of the tracks. "Overtime" goes to man those stations. What's left over in "overtime" goes to the South Station. Ambulance coverage in South Tewksbury is covered by Wilmington and the Saints when the Tewksbury ambulance is not available. Police assigned to South Tewksbury are trained as first responders and so equipped.

Last night's vote to take $302K to pay "overtime" from a one-time source "reserve"source does a disservice to firefighters.
They are in the end stage of collective bargaining -- the proper place for negotiating a new contract, not Town Meeting floor.

Why is this vote a disservice to firefighters?

Adding in this $302K in overtime this year does not solve the "overtime" affordability issue for next year.
It sets up a false expectation that their overtime will be "rescued" next year.
Finances may be even more constricted next year -- so what is the gain?

Are we going back to the same well again?
Are members of other town departments who made budget sacrifices going to be wary of the firefighters when they sit at the table in the future?

Will the Department Heads have in the forefront of their minds when planning next year's budget that no matter what they agreed to at the table there will be some dissatisfied department members who will get their budget augmented on the floor of Town Meeting through their self-appointed spokesmen?
Will the Department Heads now feel no matter how they agree among themselves, their decision will be second guessed and over-ridden by the majority of the 125+ who attend town meeting?

Some of the proponents of the re-vote left the hall strutting, laughing and acting like they had just won a fun game! "Can't wait until next year!"
Town meeting is a raucus caucus and vocally participatory. But it shouldn't be just another Tewksbury sport. We have to live with its unintended consequences.

As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby Leslie on Tue May 08, 2012 3:44 pm

Does anyone have a copy of the amendment to the budget?

As far as I remember it , nothing in the amendment to the fire department budget will guarantee that the South Fire Station will remain open 24-7.

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Re: Article 11, don't like the vote result, go change the ru

Postby Chasnbos on Tue May 08, 2012 4:14 pm

320000 / might get you 70 days all overtime last year it had to closed close to 120 day rough estimate Mr Sears could get intro. Question not answered was what's the plan. Do outsourced services add fireman etc alternate firehouses etc
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