AllenN's blog

PAYT Proposal is Premature

Acton Forum has had a series of articles recently on Pay As You Throw (PAYT). There is a public forum being held tomorrow to discuss this issue in more detail. (For more info on the forum, see http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/problem-payt#comment-3904).

In Acton, PAYT would only affect the users of the Transfer Station. Acton does not have "free" (i.e., paid by your taxes) curbside pickup, so people who don't hire a private service must make a trip to the Transfer Station to dispose of their trash.

The Seven Sisters of President Obama

I am very troubled by America's decline around the world. One of the hopes in electing the first half-Black president was that we would gain stature among both our friends and enemies for our "multiculturalism." America would truly be seen as the melting pot that it is, and some of that good-feeling would surely rub off in our international relationships.

Things certainly started out that way, but after a brief honeymoon and a Nobel Peace Prize, our standing has quickly deteriorated. This has been primarily because of a series of gross missteps by our Communicator-in-Chief.

The Problem with PAYT

Over the past few weeks, we've had several articles on the Pay As You Throw (PAYT) proposal, including a reader survey, articles by proponents and opponents, and several attempts at humor by me about this proposal.

PAYT would require that transfer-station users purchase special garbage bags to throw out their trash. The act of paying for each bag is expected to coerce most users into being more efficient about their recycling.

Green Sidewalks Initiative

Green Acton is pleased to announce its new “Green Sidewalks” initiative, to promote walking and physical fitness, to save the planet and reduce the use of global-warming fossil fuels.

“As a leader in 'green' thinking, and a charter member of 'Green Communities' in Massachusetts, Acton is committed to doing whatever it can to reduce its reliance on fossil-fuels,” said Ignatius Hoy, the liaison to Green Acton on the Bored of Selectmen. “We are always ahead of the curve, even taking risks that most communities would call irresponsible, if it saves a couple of drops of oil,” he said.

The Green Piece of Paper

Mr. Jones: a bigot, a homophobe, a racist, a planet-polluter, a global-warming denier, a hater; in other words, a Conservative, went to Acton Town Hall to ask a couple of questions. He got as far as the front entrance. There, he was met at a table near the entrance by three “Green Acton” members.

Learning from Personal Injury Lawyers

There is a group of professionals whose job it is to prove that alcohol-serving establishments have violated the law. No, it isn't our local Board of Selectmen. It is personal injury lawyers who specialize in representing people who have been injured by DUI drivers.

I did some Google research and found information posted by several Massachusetts personal-injury law firms. These firms make it their business to sue local bars and restaurants who have not followed the law and therefore are potentially liable for the actions of their inebriated patrons who drive and cause damage to others.

Lessons from the Makaha

The Makaha is a Chinese restaurant on Great Road and has been operating in Acton for 43 years. On January 12, 2015, the Acton Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted to revoke the Makaha's liquor license because of an incident that occurred this past November, as well as two or three incidents prior to that in the same year. The Makaha's legal recourse is to file an appeal with the ABCC (Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission) which it has done.

Regional School balks at ALG budget guidance

Last Thursday night (2/5/15), the Acton-Boxborough Regional School Committee (ABRSC) was planning on voting their budget for FY16. Once they vote the budget, they may make future reductions to it, but it cannot go higher. There was a preliminary budget voted on "Budget Saturday" (1/31/15) but since then, there have been several proposals to reducing spending, including a recommendation from the Acton Leadership Group (ALG) that the School cut spending by about $500,000.

Municipal Gross Wages for 2014 released

The Town of Acton released their 2014 Gross Wages list and Acton Forum has posted this information at its Links and Docs page.

Unlike in prior years, the list was provided as a PDF document and not an Excel file. So we are not going to be easily able to provide statistical information, although we have requested the Excel file as we have received in the past.

There are 28 town employees who made over $100,000 in 2014. This is one fewer person than last year.

What happened to Acton's school finance director?

If you find Clare Jeannotte, the school's Interim Finance Director, please call the school's Lost and Found department.

I haven't met Clare, but I got a call last week from someone who claimed to be her. She called to apologize about some incorrect calculations that appeared in a budget presentation given to the School Committee.

But now I'm beginning to realize that I spoke with someone else and not the school's financial whiz. How some imposter managed to pull this off may be an unsolvable mystery, at least until Clare is returned safely to her school office.

Bob "The Hog" DeLeo and our local state reps' support

Bob "The Hog" DeLeo just pulled off a major personal and professional coup at the Massachusetts State House, with the help of our two local Acton state reps, Cory Atkins (D-Lemmings) and Jennifer Benson (D-Sheeple).

Great job, team! Way to go!

BOS uses bad data to convict Makaha of overserving

I have spent much of the last few days researching the Makaha restaurant liquor license revocation and have discovered something very startling. But before I get into the specifics, a few points.

Acton Selectmen should hold hearings on Verizon, Dunkin Donuts, pizza places, etc.

There is a serious and potentially dangerous situation in Acton that the Acton Board of Selectmen (BoS) may want to get involved in, and that is the public health hazard of distracted driving.

According to the FCC, distracted driving causes 18% of all fatal crashes and texting while driving increases the risk of a crash 23x. (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/texting-while-driving).

"Texting and driving safety.com" says that texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving.

Makaha launches petition drive to reinstate liquor license

The Makaha Restaurant, whose liquor license was revoked at the January 12, 2015 Board of Selectmen (BoS) hearing, has started a petition drive to convince the BoS to reinstate the license. A copy of the petition is available here: http://actonforum.com/sites/default/files/PetitionA.pdf.

Questionable school assessment increase

Two weeks ago, we reported on the proposed 8% increased school assessment to Acton. That article is here: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/acton-school-assessment-may-incre....

This was discussed at the School Committee meeting of 1/8/15, which you can watch on Acton TV here: http://actontv.org/on-demand/post-video/school-committee-meeting-1-8-15m....

Two for One

Fiscal Conservatism 401

One of the tenets of Fiscal Conservatism is belief in small government. American liberals today tend to believe in large government.

Small governments are better because they interfere less in the daily affairs of citizens. Government is meant to do the things that must be done as a society, and does not exist primarily to “help people.” People should help people, not governments.

BoS Bullies Makaha Restaurant, wrongly terminates liquor license

I read this week's Beacon about the cancellation of the Makaha Restaurant's liquor license during a Board of Selectmen (BoS) hearing this past Monday night, Jan. 12, 2015. The BoS held a liquor violation hearing based on the police being called to the restaurant by the owner, Raymond Cheng, on November 23, 2014, to take care of a patron who was inebriated. (For the Beacon article, click here: http://acton.wickedlocal.com/article/20150115/NEWS/150118483/?Start=1).

FC and logic, addendum

Fiscal Conservatism 306

It just so happens that yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (1/14/2015) was gushing with the news that our federal budget deficit is down to the lowest level in several years—only $450 billion! (See http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-treasury-reports-2-billion-surplus-in-de...).

Actually, I mistyped. It is $488 billion. But $38 billion is just a rounding error anyway.

Town Manager: Acton not taxed enough

In reviewing Acton Town Manager Steve Ledoux's budget request for FY16, I was startled to read that the Town Manager does not think Acton residents pay enough in taxes! He is proposing an increase in the meals tax for all Acton restaurants.

This seems to contradict about 100 articles on Acton Forum about our high tax burden no matter how you compare it to other communities. Other than a couple of town leaders and Town Manager Ledoux, I doubt you'd find anyone who actually lives in Acton who thinks our taxes are too low.

PAYT: A solution in search of a problem

Last month, Acton's Town Manager released his budget request for FY16 (starting in July, 2015) which is scheduled for rubber-stamping at this April's annual Town Meeting. The budget includes a section describing the "Pay As You Throw" (PAYT) trash disposal system for Acton transfer station users. PAYT would lower sticker prices but require users to purchase special garbage bags in which to throw out their trash. The goal is to reduce waste disposal and increase recycling (since recycling would be at no additional charge.)

Acton's property taxes jump relative to Boxborough's

Acton's average single-family property tax bill, the measure used by the state's Department of Revenue to compare tax burdens between communities, has continued to grow while Boxborough's has remained flat. That has opened up a rift between the two towns, which are joined together by a regional school system.

FC and logic, part three

Fiscal Conservatism 305

This is part three on using logic to make public policy decisions.

In part one, I tried to setup the thinking for this series. In part two, I gave an example of why we should build the Keystone pipeline. I contend that this is the logical course of action, and that opponents are opposed to the plan because of emotion, or some type of "emotional intelligence" that rejects or ignores logic.

FC and logic, part two

Fiscal Conservatism 304

Last article, I started to describe why Fiscal Conservatives (FC) are more logical than others when discussing things like economic policy. (See http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/fiscal-conservatism-intelligence-....) This is based on my own observation when talking to those on the other side about various issues. It seems to me that the FC side is using logic to backup our arguments and our philosophical opponents are using emotion to backup theirs.

Fiscal conservatism, intelligence and logic

Fiscal Conservatism 303

There is a wide spectrum of human thinking abilities. We generally use the term "smart" to indicate intelligence, but we know that intelligence comes in many forms. One person can be good at math and another at music and they may both possess the same level of "intelligence."

Acton school assessment may increase 8%

The preliminary school budget for next fiscal year is out and will be discussed at the next School Committee meeting this Thursday (1/8/2015). A link to the agenda and proposed budget is here: http://www.abschools.org/school-committee/meetings-agendas-packets-and-m.... The preliminary budget increases over 5% but because of possible cuts in state aid, Acton's assessment would increase 8%.

An 8% increased assessment for Acton means that Acton's share of the school costs will increase by $4 million. Acton's current-year assessment for the regional schools is $49.7 million.