$8,058 worth of virtue signaling

I will be speaking Monday night at Annual Town Meeting to defend the free speech rights of voters, and to stop Town Moderator Peter Ashton, backed up by some town leaders, from preventing the use of names during Town Meeting. Strange, but true. Hope to see you all there.

So I've been reviewing some of the resources available, including the Town Warrant online. And I found something a bit disturbing. Well, $8,058 worth of disturbing. Because that is how much the town spent to provide "limited translations" of the Town Warrant into Spanish, Portuguese, and "simplified" Chinese. These translations are presumably made to make Town Meeting more "inclusive," but I suspect this is just someone spending other people's money, and this is demonstrably a foolish expenditure.

Town Meeting is for voters...citizens. And people who are citizens of the United States need to conduct business in English. If they don't, they are going to miss out on a lot of stuff, Town Meeting being perhaps the least important.

Town Meeting is also about showing up and participating. This isn't a voiceless exercise like casting a vote on Election Day. The Town Meeting Warrant is far from the amount of information voters need and expect at Town Meeting. It is an important start but the presentations, questions, and comments are how most information is obtained and thus how most questions are answered, not by reading the warrant and coming prepared to vote without any further inputs. The warrant articles often change and what is "read" at TM is what people vote on, not what is printed in the warrant.

If a registered voter cannot speak English, they are simply unable to participate in Town Meeting. If the Town feels that a significant number of citizens don't speak English and therefore are unable to attend, a "limited" translation of the warrant isn't going to fix the problem.

I won't get into the specifics of the expenditure like how the languages were chosen, what resources are going to be provided to these non-English speakers at Town Meeting, etc. I don't want to give them a list of possible additional expenditures.

You want to know why our elected leaders spend money like it is an unlimited resource? Because they can. There are virtually no leaders in town (or school) government who stand up to this wasteful spending and just say no. All of "us" have been purged. There are a few token "Republicans" who serve on our boards and committees, but these people have been carefully self-selected to be agreeable to wasteful spending, just a little bit less than what the "Democrats" want. I've seen this play hundreds of times and the ending is always the same: your property taxes go up, but they go up a little bit less than they could have. All of our leaders feel quite good about this outcome.

In related news, Acton's average single family tax bill is expected to exceed $11,000 per year. In another year or two, it will hit $1,000 per month or $250 per week. If you are old like me, you will remember when someone used to get paid $250 per week for full-time work. Now, all of us are working to support our town and school employees. Acton Forum just posted the salaries of every employee. I believe we are now over 100 employees who earn over $100,000 a year.

So in terms of wasteful spending, I guess $8,058 is just a drop in a very large bucket.

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Comments

English test for citizenship

I just heard that to become a U.S citizen, you need to pass an English test. Since only citizens can vote at Town Meeting, it would therefore appear to be completely unnecessary to provide translations of the Warrant. Allen

Allen Nitschelm has lived in Acton since 1998 and writes about fiscal issues at the
local and state level. He is a former member of the town's Finance Committee
and publisher of the Acton Forum.