Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Think the sequester doesn’t affect us? Think again.
Even the Lowell Sun knows better.
If automatic federal funding cuts go into effect Friday, Lowell National Historical Park officials expect they will have to cut about $415,000 from its budget, eliminating travel for employees and park funding for programs like the Lowell Folk Festival and the Tsongas Industrial History Center.
The National Park Service has asked individual parks to prepare to cut 5 percent from their budgets, but exactly what will happen when the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, go into effect still isn’t clear, said Celeste Bernardo, the Lowell park superintendent.
“The uncertainty is really difficult,” she said.
And I have news for the Republicans among us: The projected deficit has been cut pretty dramatically and it’s gone down already, without these draconian, stupid, self-inflicted and painful slashes to our important programs and services. And it is a LACK OF GROWTH that is killing our revenues and fueling huge deficits. The last thing you should be doing in a still-recovering economy is laying off teachers and fire fighters and reducing spending on projects like roads and bridges. All of those jobs are full of people who, when employed, SPEND MONEY and create economic activity. Guess what they do when they get laid off? They stop spending!
It’s that time again. I decided the big “Muttering Microphone Controversy of 2013″ was a great opportunity to highlight the utter inanity that is the Rodney Elliot Show on most Tuesday nights. By the time you watch the whole thing, you’ll be wishing the City Manager YELLED instead of muttered, you’re that frustrated.
This time, I got a little fancy in parts. I’m getting my editing legs under me. Soon I will be platform agnostic (Adobe Premiere and Final Cut).
Also, yeah, in parts I was brutal. You would be too if you had to play and rewind, play and rewind the bullshit over and over again.
Without much further ado, I present…Episode II.
PS - Episode I is here.
I was watching local news this morning and they had a segment on Governor Patrick’s and MassDOT’s new transportation plan (pdf). I think I owe the Governor a small apology as the things listed prominently as revenue sources for addressing the structural deficits, crumbing infrastructure, and needed transportation investments included MBTA fee hikes. I was all set to write a huffy blog post about that, and I will get to that in a minute, but it appears that the mention of MBTA fee increases is modest, if anything, in the actual report, so now I’m a little miffed at Channel 7 instead.
Since that early report, I have heard the Governor on WBUR on my way into work (audio not up yet) and read some online articles like on Boston.com and skimmed the revenue section of the report itself (as linked above). I have to say, the plan/report takes the situation pretty head on and has a very wide net in its revenue suggestions. And the report is not Boston-centric; although of course most of the public transit is in the Boston area, there is a call for a Boston-Springfield line (long overdue) and other projects. (more…)
In a full, regular session CM Bernie Lynch made his case for what he views as the most fiscally prudent way forward, taking into account the $6.4Million the Commonwealth has certified as Free Cash. The CM presented a detailed slide presentation in an effort to convince a majority of the City Council to support his fiscal sensibilities. Your mileage may vary, but Lowell is doing swell on so many fronts. Shouldn’t we just follow along?
A lazy man may say “Yes.” But, we have a Plan E Charter and our Council cannot, in good faith, simply roll over should this manager, or any manager, wink. Fortunately, CM Lynch presents a very solid case for the fine shape we are in. That fact makes it that much tougher to recklessly bat at his logic.
Below we find two of Lynch’s favorite metrics: Cash Reserves & Excess Levy Capacity
These metrics are measures of frugality. We don’t blow our budget and we don’t, contrary to popular myth, tax Lowellelians to death. (The last point drives UTL President Paul Georges nuts.) The take away here is that it is good to build up a rainy day fund, while concurrently leaving money in folks pockets. Some may argue that raising taxes EVER is a torrential downpour. They are full of crap, imho. Next…
It’s great having a writer and former reporter of Jen Myers’ caliber working for the city. Her posts at Room 50 are always a joy to read, and her corresponding photography slideshows a big bonus. Check out her latest post on the visit to our city by finance professionals from the Chinese Ministry of Finance, here to see how we do things.
On Friday morning City Hall welcomed a delegation of 20 finance professionals from the Chinese Ministry of Finance, eager to learn the ins and outs of the City of Lowell’s budget process and successful financial management policies.
The group, which included 16 Supervision Commissioners from the Office of the Ministry of Finance, from cities ranging from Sichuan (population 87 million) to the “small” city of Dalian (6.1 million), began their morning with a tour of the City Council Chamber and brief introduction to the city’s Plan E government. They were quite astonished to learn Lowell was the first place in the world to utilize telephone numbers.
They then enjoyed a two-hour budget discussion with City Manager Bernie Lynch in the Mayor’s Reception Room.
There were some really amusing moments, apparently:
His Chinese visitors were surprised by the level of public input and participation in the budget process, but were much more stunned to hear the population of Lowell is only 106,000.
“You mean 106 million?” asked one of the delegates.
“No, 106,000,” answered Lynch.
“Oh, you are a very small town,” responded the Chinese visitor, astonished to learn Lowell is the fourth largest city in Massachusetts.
Go check out the full post. It’s great to have an inside eye on some of the really cool things that happen in our city government.
Poor Gov. Chris Christie. Coming off an awful Republican convention in which he was a keynote, Standard and Poor’s “lowered its credit outlook for New Jersey from stable to negative.” Why so? (Bold mine.)
While Standard & Poor’s did not change the state’s AA- rating — one of the worst among the states — it warned the more drastic step of a lower rating loomed if Christie’s nearly 8 percent growth in revenue failed to materialize.
“We revised the outlook to reflect our view of the risk of revenue assumptions we view as optimistic, continued reliance on one-time measures to offset revenue shortfalls, and longer-term growing expenditure pressures,” John Sugden, a credit analyst for Standard & Poor’s, said.
Christie has spent much of the year boasting of a “Jersey Comeback” — an assertion that has fizzled in recent months as state revenue has fallen short of expectations, unemployment has risen and foreclosures remain a drag on the real estate market.
What’s Christie’s risky revenue assumption? That cutting taxes will increase the state’s revenues! The Governor’s response to S&P? Double down!
Unswayed by the latest batch of economic news, Christie repeated his call for an income tax cut at an appearance in Bergen County and said it was a “joke” that Democrats had not yet delivered the cut.
I hate having to state the obvious, but…trickle-down economics doesn’t work. Cutting taxes does not increase revenues. It decreases revenues. If I get a pay cut at work, I don’t take in more money than I did before the cut.
Why is basic math so hard for conservatives to understand? Look, we can disagree, and do, about what government should be involved in and how much it should spend. But can we, please, just agree on basic freaking addition and subtraction? George H.W. Bush called Reagan’s supply-side plans “voodoo economics” over thirty years ago - he was right then, and he’s still right. Tax cuts have slashed revenues in states who have implemented them, and destroyed our national budgets. Conservatives complain about deficits but make them worse…the Bush tax cuts account for a very large percent of our deficit right now, along with his war bill, and the severe downturn he left behind him.
If I was a more cynical sort, I’d say that most trickle-down adherents actually know that what they peddle is a crock of snake oil, but they inflict the country with this policy anyway so that when the deficit inevitably balloons, they can slash the budget in places that will hurt the worst off in our country - that they really, underneath it all, mean “trickle-UP” - cutting taxes for the wealthy so their buddies can get even more gawd-awfully rich and the gap between them and the rest of us gets wider.
And a number of conservatives do know this, and do do this, aka the Norquist “drown it in a bathtub” admission. But I believe the real core of the Republican party, especially its voters, are merely obsessed with “supply-side economics” in a religious way, clinging to trickle-down dogma. You know, like when you see an interview with Tom Cruise, and the host tries to talk about the science of mental health, and Tom Cruise bounces up and down on the couch in denial that mental disease even exists, because his crazy ass religion tells him so. You can try to get him to stop bouncing and listen to the empirical evidence, but dogma prevents him from hearing you.
Well, that’s most trickle-down adherents for you. They keep bouncing, because if they stop and actually think logically, never mind view and digest the evidence against it, it would throw their entire worldview upside down, and that is a very uncomfortable place to be.
(Article via dkos.)
LowellStat Program Awarded Community Innovation Challenge Grant
April 2, 2012 by Office of the City Manager
April 4, 2012
Congrats to Data Nerds Everywhere
by Lynne at 11:32 am.
City wins recognition, and money, for data analysis
Posted by sunthecolumn on August 22nd, 2012
Below the fold, you will find the “whistle blower’s” letter. This letter set the whole fiasco around the City’s Parking Division ablaze. Though I find the letter petty in it’s tone and tenor, the City owes the author it’s thanks. I disagree with those that propose that the City “never” would have caught up with this. But, it is certain that this letter advanced the timeline by a month or two. Even with all the headaches and grandstanding, sometimes we have to take the bitter medicine. If you go to Gerry Nutter’s blog, you can link to the full report by the City Auditor. Note: The Auditor has determined the amount of funds missing. Further, it is clear that the problem was stopped in 2011 and was not ongoing, as the most breathy of our Councilors have floated.
The letter below puts to rest some of the more unhinged accusations that have been shoveled into the public square. You, reader, may think that the worst of the conspiracy theories are held only by those Bernie Bashers that populate the “Downtown Mob.” Fortunately, the misinformed accusation that a cover up was undertaken is proved false by the Whistle Blower’s letter. However, I still find those determined to believe the CM is doomed by this event and the ax will soon fall, once the “truth” comes out. :v\
(h/t Joe Smith)
Attachment “T” is apparently the “dime dropped” that exposed this situation. That document includes excerpts from the FY 2013 budget. Since the budget was not released until June, it further supports your contention that neither the City Manager nor the Mayor had this input prior to June, and most likely became aware of it along with the other councilors and news media as listed in the distribution on or about June 12th.
Nothing brings out the community like a neighborhood disaster.
A backup of traffic, and a lot of sirens going by, got me to leave my TV (where I was actually keenly interested in one of the last new episodes of “The Closer”) to go see what was up. A neighbor pointed to the twilight sky, where a column of smoke was rising. Heart in my throat hoping it wasn’t some family’s house, or apartment, I headed down the street. Admittedly, I was not being an intrepid reporter, and didn’t take my smartphone with me for vid or photo or tweeting, but in a way, I was more a neighbor in this case than a blogger.
Hiking down Main St (Lincoln was seriously backed up both ways by rubbernecking and street cutoffs), I think every single neighbor was outside trying to make out what was going on. I gleamed some rumors and such from people I passed, but largely what I was told turned out to be actually correct according to the Sun. It was a commercial storage shed, not a residence, and that gave me some relief.
It was a pretty tough looking fire, where something inside there was burning pretty bad. Even once they seemed to have some control, the fire kept coming back, only to be doused again, and then back.
Our city’s finest did a great job protecting nearby property. At one point I saw a few adjacent tree limbs on fire, and given how dry our state is right now (if my lawn is any indication), that could have spelled disaster. Luckily no homes were in danger.
Over and over in my head, I thanked the stars I live in a state, and city, that believes in the Common Good, and not that we’re all on our own. Unlike some states and counties, we have striven not to gut our fire and police services, nor to force families to watch their homes burn to the ground with their pets inside for forgetting to pay a specific fee. Examples of why paying for our Common Good should not be voluntary or optional. Whether a $75 fee forgotten or not paid (or not affordable), or a corporation or very wealthy person paying zero dollars in taxes, it amounts to the same thing.
We’re all in this country together, and in many things, we’re better together than apart, and we should not punish the good people willing to donate to charity or service organizations, but consider it one’s duty as a citizen to pay into the pot so that we can all flourish. After all, a healthy society is actually better for even the most fortunate among us, in the end.
And above all, I’m grateful for the fact there are some brave people out there willing to put themselves in danger to help others. Grateful to the firefighters who are here to protect us, whether it’s a non-occupied commercial building, or a home where lives need saving. Thanks guys.
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