Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
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 streamlined and easier to understand, unveiled at tonight’s meeting. It includes the ability to register, if you like, and get emails every time a new bill gets issued. Very useful. From the front page of the pay section:
The City of Lowell offers residents an easy and secure way to view, print and pay their real estate tax, personal property tax, motor vehicle tax and water bills online. We support electronic bill presentment (viewing) and payment because it is more convenient for residents and better for the environment.
Online Bill Payment, in partnership with Invoice Cloud, offers the following benefits:
- No registration required
- You have the option to pay immediately or schedule a payment
- Get an emailed confirmation of payment or print a receipt
- You may sign up for automatic payments
- You may choose to “Go Paperless” to reduce clutter and help the environment
- E-check is less than the cost of a stamp!
The following bills are available for online payment:
- Real Estate Taxes
- Personal Property Taxes
- Water/Sewer/Refuse Utility Billing
- Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes
- Boat Excise Taxes
- Parking Tickets
Visa, Mastercard, Discover and echeck are accepted. The convenience fee for echecks is only $.40, it’s $1-$3.95 for credit cards.
After clicking around a bit, this appears to be a vast improvement over the previous system, so thumbs up.
It’s easier to do a search (at least for real estate taxes) as they explained tonight. Since real estate taxes are public info, all you need is any part of your name (though if it’s “John” you search for you’ll get a million results) or address, or bill # if you have it, and you can see your past and current bills. Other billpays need the bill# as a required search term.
I just returned from a roundtable event with Elizabeth Warren here in Lowell at Mambo Grill, focused on women-owned small businesses, where I got to both be at the table, and also tweet my little heart out. (Dick Howe Jr, sitting nearby, was likely feeling a bit smug over that.) If you happened to catch my Twitter stream this afternoon, you would have been treated to quotes and photos from the event.
The local visit is part of the rolling out of the latest Warren endorsement - not only was Elizabeth joined by first-Congressperson-to-endorse Rep. Niki Tsongas, but also by Sheila Bair, former chair of the FDIC, a Republican who has never endorsed or campaigned for a Democrat but has decided to wade into this race. A G.W. Bush appointee, Bair worked with Warren on issues of stopping foreclosures and helping consumers during the financial meltdown, then also when Warren had oversight of the TARP program and the formation of the CFPB.
In the toss-around that is the rather tired old “bipartisan endorsement” game in the Commonwealth these days, why should you care about Sheila Bair’s? Because unlike other endorsements, this one has gravitas. It might not be a recognizable name to you, but in terms of really knowing Warren and her work, in places where it matters to average people, you can’t beat this former Chair of the FDIC.
It was great to hear Bair in person, and her reasons for endorsing Warren that go beyond party lines. For her, it’s about Warren’s real, tangible work on behalf of consumers, the middle class, homeowners, and squaring the financial system so that it’s fair for all. She said, specifically, that Warren is not anti-bank or anti-business, but rather is for an equal playing field for citizens and businesses alike.
Oh hell, I was on fire on my smartphone, I’m just going to include my own tweets here:
— LeftinLowell.com (@leftinlowell) October 17, 2012
[Apologies, previous Tweet has a smartphone-induced typo in Bair’s name.]
Bair: “Until we end ‘too big to fail,’ we won’t have a stable financial system…that’s why I have endorsed @elizabethforma.”— LeftinLowell.com (@leftinlowell) October 17, 2012
When a reporter asked the obligatory question about bipartisaniness, Bair responded with concrete examples of why Elizabeth Warren was the one who would do the real work:
— LeftinLowell.com (@leftinlowell) October 17, 2012
Two things of gleeful personal note: the silly press people had to ask Warren about the asbestos lawsuit thing, again, which I imagine has to be tiresome beyond belief, but in her response, Warren cited the asbestos union, the many victims, and the victims’ lawyers who’ve expressed dismay over Brown’s lies about the case. Glad to have helped with that.
Second, I got to ask a roundtable question, and I was debating talking about DBE issues (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a designation for federal DOT work as a women- or minority-owned business, for which my business was certified for several years) but…I decided to air out a long-standing frustration I have with a simple and obvious way that Dems can combat the “deregulate and untax businesses and they’ll grow!” idiocy from Republicans. I mentioned my own personal experience - that it’s the DEMAND from customers, not taxes, which are the arbiters of whether or not I expand as a business. If I have more work than I can handle, I hire. If it dries up, I shrink. Taxes and regulation have very little to do with it. If I can make money by expanding, of course I will!
This has been annoying the hell out of me - it’s such a simple, easily understood concept Dems could use to whack their Ayn Randian Republican opponents over the head with in debates and on the stump. Warren was all over it - citing the jobs bills that Brown voted against and helped to kill, which would have increased spending money in the hands of the employed, indirectly helping even my B-to-B business, nevermind the construction and infrastructure jobs bill which, as a WBE/DBE at the time, might have helped me land some really big contracts. Which would have forced me to hire, in all likelihood.
[Note to LiL readers: if this sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve said it before, and certainly the Mr. has said it before, to whom I give original credit.]
Anyway, I was grateful to finally get that little gem out in a meaningful way. I hope it is useful to her and she uses it! Now I just need to find a roundtable with Obama that I can crash…
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.)
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.
As Lynne reminds us: How Quickly We Forget
Councilor Elliott’s fiscal “acumen” leads us this way:
Ya, you read that right, so stop squinting.
On Warren Shaw’s WCAP program, this morning, Rita didn’t even flinch when asked about the current tax rate. She stated clearly that Lowell’s tax rates are in line with the services Lowellian’s receive. Later, in a response to a caller, Warren Shaw advised the caller that Lowell has lower rates than the surrounding suburbs.
It was bold of Rita to hold the line and stand up for the repair work the CM is performing on our City’s fiscal health.
I’ve been following (mostly online) the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston protests since nearly the beginning. They got traction and coverage on blogs and Twitter long before the media was covering it - in fact, before the unprovoked pepper spray incidents that made the news, the only place to read about what was happening was online.
The media complained that they weren’t cohesive enough and there wasn’t news to cover. Well, that has quickly changed and evolved. For starters, there were some very bad decisions from the NYPD - both institutionally, and by some idiot individuals - which put the protests on the map for the media, and solidified the motivation of participants and supporters. What’s more, it seems the organic sort of organizing that has sprung up has - and I have to use the word evolved again - to meet the challenges of running a protest, dealing with the media, finding a set of demands to articulate why they are angry and not going to take it any more. OWS has spokespeople and media tents and a strong online presence - all while being relatively leadersless in the traditional sense.
In some ways, my personal cynicism alert flag is up. (Yeah, I know, I’m too young to be truly cynical…) I spent years organizing with the peace movement against the Iraq war, butting my head up against the sheer stubbornness of the Bush administration and, later, Obama’s. After all, GitMo is still open, the USA PATRIOT Act was reauthorized and is being used to spy on Americans without due process, we’re still in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan though with some troop drawdown, and Obama even unilaterally bombed, for right or wrong, Libya, without the consent of Congress.
The only satisfaction we got out of our fight was that most of the American public got on our side after a while. But it still reelected Bush and let itself be lied to about Kerry’s war record and ability to lead, and we never got a truly different kind of leader to replace him in 2008, either. Obama put Wall St executives in charge of the economy even after it was evident they were full of shit.
But there is something really interesting happening with Occupy[America]. For one thing, it’s just average citizens (not diehard liberals or extremely informed people like me) who are protesting. Photo after photo, interview after interview, this is very evident.
There are so many people in this country who have been foreclosed on, laid off, unable to move forward, that a segment of them, with nothing left to lose, are truly taking the fight to the streets. Since they have nothing left to lose - no middle class lifestyle, no prospects - they have a lot to fight for. I always said the worst part about being an anti-war protester is that most of our citizens, even when sympathetic (and the majority was by the time I left that movement) are busy with their lives, making their livings, feeding their families, going to soccer games, and being generally content that things aren’t that bad for them, personally. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s totally human, and what’s more, a legacy of the last century of American progress. We built the middle class. A country with a middle class able to make ends meet is a relatively politically stable country. It’s a good thing.
Which is why I think there is something different in the air.
Gradually, we’ve seen the erosion of the buying power and the salaries of the middle class. For so many decades before, our children did at least a little better than their parents. Then, since the Reagan era, we started to see the slide. We began to only tread water…then occasionally swallowed some. Then we began drowning, but we as a people were the last to see it happen.
Even in the 2008 economic meltdown, we failed to notice our lungs filling with something other than air.
This generation of young people really are the first who truly believe - nay, who know - they are not destined to do better than their parents. Unlike the spoiled kids of my generation (raised largely in the 80s and coming of age in the 90s), they see the coming tide sweeping over them and pulling them under the water before they even get a chance to begin. They are left behind. And they know that if they do nothing, it will only get worse. They have nothing left to lose.
They join every one of their older siblings, parents, grandparents who have lost a house, a job, a future, despite being of the generations born with more promise. For some of us older ones, we’ve experienced firsthand how it’s gonna be going forward if there are no changes. For the rest of us older ones, we are beginning to understand how fragile our position of comfort is. The OccupyWallSt movement presents this to us in bas-relief - the notion that the middle class is under siege and has been for quite some time.
The thing that is different from now from these previous movements is that the situation that has caused these long term problems is not going to be alleviated by last generation’s leaders. Obama is cut off at the knees to even patch a pathetic temporary band-aid (the jobs bill) on our economic slide by Republican intransigence. And even Obama’s half-measures would probably only prove to elongate the stagnation, not solve the underlying problem. We’re now seeing the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us reach the levels seen right before the 1929 crash. Eventually, this was going to get noticed by someone. By everyone.
Even the Tea Party movement, while misguided to the extreme, is an expression of this loss of power by the average person. Why did they catch fire? Despite being such a minority of even the Republican party? Because poor and middle class Republicans too are suffering in this economic climate, this class warfare on us by the super-wealthy. They just aren’t right on who to blame for this.
Most of America, on the other hand, already knows what and who is to blame. They already overwhelmingly want to see taxes raised back up on the uberwealthy. They know that Wall St needs taking down a peg or three, and that we need to go back to regulating our economic system so that the playing field becomes level again. They just need the energy to look up from their day to day struggles against the tide, to look up, and see that horizon again.
I don’t know where the Occupy movement is going to go. It seems to change and swell bigger by the day, though it could have an upper limit, I suppose. But if this truly is the moment where the American people reach the tipping point, if this is the straw that, finally, after 30 years of straws, breaks the camel’s back, then maybe we can make the changes without the economic crash that I have been foreseeing for years. That crash (which will make 2008 look like cakewalk) could still be coming. But if we organize enough in advance, if we can offer an alternative to the American people now, perhaps we will not lose a decade like they did in the Great Depression. After all, we have history to inform us how best to rebuild the American middle class and spread prosperity around to everyone.
So, occupy on! There may not be an immediate result, but it could offer a long term solution. Hats off to the most powerless among us.
Whose pockets, Mitty? Whose?
ROMNEY: To balance our budget and not spend more than we take in, we need to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are promises we can keep, and there are various ways of doing that. One is we could raise taxes on people. That’s not the way…
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Corporations!
ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No they’re not!
ROMNEY: Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.
ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: In their pockets!
ROMNEY: Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Okay, human beings, my friend.
No one should be defending the “corporations are people” schtick that the Supreme Court’s 100+ year old precedent claims. It, of course, led to the modern conservative court ruling in favor of Citizens United, a very unpopular ruling that has incredibly damaging effects on our democracy.
Of course, if you’re Mitt Romney, you’ve had corporate profits go into your pocket, but for the vast majority of Americans, we don’t get any or much of that slice of the pie, do we? But gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? That doesn’t hurt anyone, does it? Way to be out of touch, Mittsy.
I also love the condescending “my friend” he puts at the end of sentences. Who’s he fooling?
OK, it seems that the blog has been a little slower as of late. Thankfully, Jack has added his own special blend of herbs and spices to our recipe. But it still feels like it could use some more frequent posting lately.
Toward addressing that end (in consultation with the landlord) I’ve decided to add my own flavors to the mix. I’ve only posted on the front page a few times on the blog here, having posted a bit at BlueMassGroup. I have, however been very active sharing links I find interesting on Facebook and over email. It occurred to me that I could take a cue from what atrios does occasionally (he used to do it more) and offer the links with a minimum of commentary.
So here it is, the first of what will probably be a regular occurrence that we’ll call “The Mr.’s Corner”. You’ll find I tend to follow more national stories and like many posters on the internet you’ll find some sources for items of interest tend to be visited more often than others. For today, I apologize to people who follow me on Facebook for the redundancies in this post.
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