By: Tammy Daniels On: 11:51PM / Tuesday June 14, 2011
Councilor Michael Bloom found majority support for his resolution on the Proposition 2 1/2 override on Tuesday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council mirrored the divisions splitting the city over the proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override even as it endorsed a resolution supporting the measure and a budget based on the override's passage.
The city's $35.5 million budget was approved unanimously, but the resolution failed to get full backing, passing 7-2 with Councilors Marie Harpin and President Ronald Boucher in the negative.
Voters will decide on Tuesday, June 21, on whether to approve the $1.2 million override and fund the budget as it currently stands. Failure of the override will mean up to $1 million in cuts in services and personnel in city and school departments, said Mayor Richard Alcombright.
Boucher called the introduction of the resolution by Councilor Michael Bloom "inappropriate."
"I don't think the City Council should make a statment for a yes or no vote," he said, suggesting the paper be filed. "I don't think it's the right time and place."
Boucher said the council had already voted last month when it decided to present the $1.2 million override to voters. That vote was even more split at 5-4, with Boucher also voting against because the budget had not yet been approved.
Bloom, chairman of the Finance Committee, disagreed strongly, saying everybody should stand and vote up or down because of the "devastating cuts" that will be made if the override doesn't pass.
"This is the most important time for the council to make the case," he said. "I'm shocked you want to file it. ... I've never seen a budget that's been cut as much as this budget. ... Seriously, at this time of day and at this hour, the council should stand and make a statement."
Most of the councilors expressed support for the override and some publicly stated whether they would vote for it.
"I've heard compelling arguments both for and against the override," said Councilor Alan Marden. "I will be voting yes in support of this resolution tonight and next Tuesday, I'll be voting in support of the override. We need new growth in this community. ... slashing city services, whether educational or general government, public safety or public services, is the wrong message to those who might look to move here and to invest here.
"We have to invest in ourselves if we want other to invest in us."
Councilor Marie Harpin, however, said it wasn't fair to the city's poor and those on fixed incomes.
"I'm totally ... in favor of all the services in the city of North Adams, but on the other hand I have to vote no on this resolution because I feel the people in this community really can't afford to pay any more taxes, not to this extent," she said. " I cannot in all honesty vote for this and I'm going to vote no on the Prop 2 1/2."
Councilor Michael Boland said he was willing to be counted. "If I voted for you, I'd want to know where you stood on an important issue."
Frequent critic Robert Cardimino claimed what the council was doing was illegal, based on his reading of state campaign law and vowed to call state officials and report them.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer noted the council frequently took up resolutions on ballot issues, some of which are generated by the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"This is our job to have this discussion," she told Cardimino.
Both Marden and Boland said they hoped the community would come together after next Tuesday's vote to work together whatever the outcome.
The review and passage of the budget, done by department with each councilor taking a turn reading it, went fairly swiftly — except when it smashed into the Office of Tourism and Cultural Development.
Councilors and audience members spent nearly an hour debating the wisdom of funding the post of tourism director after Marden moved to eliminate the entire tourism budget of $51,186. There was some confusion later as Blackmer tried to amend a motion to eliminate just the salary and Bloom tried to move the question. In the end, the motion to remove the salary died with Blackmer, Harpin, Boucher and Marden voting for and the entire line item was retained.
Blackmer advocated strongly that the position be put on the backburner for at least a year until a better job description could be formulated making more a "cruise director" position for the city and a cultural development plan put in place. Considering the city's current financial woes, it wasn't a good time to be funding a post whose duties could be filled with volunteers, she said, when it could be focusing on its website or funding an assistant building inspector.
"We need to connect on economic development as a whole, not just the tourism aspect," said Blackmer. "... It doesn't pass the smell test with the community."
Councilor Keith Bona, however, said restaurants and businesses had been sold on the implementation of the meals and rooms taxes with the idea that they would get some return by putting the money toward marketing the city. Councilor David Bond agreed, saying removing the position would save some money in the budget but likely cost businesses down the road: "But I understand where we are financially and why people want to cut it."
Councilor David Lamarre raised his previous objections that the post, at $34,186, was too low to attract quality candidates. He suggesting not filling it until the city was in a position to offer a better salary. Blackmer, meanwhile, was advocating cutting the car allowance of $1,500 should the department budget pass.
Several audience members spoke in favor of filling the job. Gail Sellers, who operates a pottery studio in the Eclipse Mill and sits on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Commission, said volunteers here are wonderful but they can only do so much. "I see a lot of things hanging by a thread," she said.
Alcombright said filling the post was critical to marketing the city, organizing events and aiding the development of a cultural plan and website.
"If you take it away this year, how are you going to put it back?" he asked. "I think to lose this position for a year would be devastating."
His office had received nearly 30 applications and was in the process of interviewing finalists — all quality candidates, the mayor assured Lamarre.
Resident Trevor Gilman, a member of the Airport Commission, said voters would be making the decision next week whether to move forward or backward; if the override failed, then it was on the table.
"To eliminate this position when there are a lot of people who want to move this city forward is a mistake," said Gilman. "I need you to lead and make decisions to make this city better."
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It's very simple, the Tourism Director brings events, attention, and tourists...tourists spend money in North Adams. This is actually one of the only positions that create revenue, and drive attention to North Adams. Anyone that opposes a position that drives so much forward should not be involved in city politics, or budgets.
The people on North Adams are being sold scared Tactic not the truth, the Mayor only needs 960 K not the 1.2 m so why doesn't a city councilor put a resolution in for the 960K, and the 960 K is now only 610K as the school is cutting 350k this year and next to the city, it all goes into and out of the same pot, july 1 taxes go up by 2.5 % or about 400K so now the trur override is only 210K not the 1.2 m
Editor: Your numbers are incorrect. The council cannot amend an item that is already on the ballot. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Glad to see the councilors take a stand, although the majority took the wrong stand. At least I know who not to vote for in November. Councilor Harpin, keep fighting......we know there are reserves to use, and you confirmed it!
I feel like the council has failed the voters of North Adams. No matter where you stand on 2 1/2, voting on the dollar figure of $1.2 million before working through the numbers and possible cuts was unfair, and in my opinion wrong.
Couple of concerns from this city voter, actually agree with Mr. Cardimino on why the $40,000 for snow removel from the state was put into the general budget, can anyone explain this because no answer was offered last night...and also can not believe the debate over the tourism director when they just cut the Public Safety commissioner, a position that MOST citys have.
Editor: To my knowledge, all revenue received by the city goes into the general account unless a special account has been established. Perhaps someone with more municipal accounting experience can address this. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Mike Bloom is really something else. He is building a house in Williamstown and will soon move there. I also understand he already has one of his kids going to school there which means North Adams is paying Williamstown. In addition to this cost the the taxpayers pay $13,000 toward his health insurance and now he wants more of our money. This is just awful!
The city always underfunds the snow removal account. If the city budgets $200,000 for snow removal and that's all it cost the state won't give anything. If the city budgets $150,000 and it costs $200,000 the state will give $30-$50,000 towards it. If the city takes that reimbursement and puts it towards the snow removal for the following year, it's that much less we could get next year. Plus there's no telling how much the state will give each year. You can't budget an unknown amount. It goes into the general fund and used to pay other portions of the budget when they run over. That's how Mayor Barrett explained it to me years ago.
At a time when the Mayor is crying that the city has no money and needs an override or else the walls will come crashing down on us all, there should be a hiring freeze in effect in city government. That's the first step businesses take when the money dries up, and it's time the Mayor stopped spending and started saving.
I also find it funny that the same people who complained the loudest about Rod Bunt as tourism director (Bona, Bond, and others made it clear they wanted him out) are now trying to claim they desperately need a new tourism director. How much do you want to bet this new position goes to someone with close ties to those councilors?
Ugh has the typical opinion of the intolerant. If you don't agree with me, move. Sorry, ugh, I've lived in this fine city for nearly 30 years and have paid taxes to it for the whole time. How long have you lived here, are you even a homeowner? Do you work for the city, a teacher, firefighter, dpw or police? Oh, and since you are dying to pay more in taxes, feel free to move to Pittsfield, or, why don't you just donate some more tax money to North Adams? I've paid my fair share. Vote NO.
I'm opposed to the override, but what Mr. Bloom does with his own money is his own business and not related to this issue. If and when he does move to Williamstown, then he will have to leave the council, but until then he owns a home in North Adams, pays taxes on it, and has a right to serve. School choice laws allow his kid to go to school in Williamstown. You may not like it, but it's the law. My kids both went to school in North Adams and received good educations. I disagree with Bloom and the other councilors who voted in favor of the resolution, but I can do two things to counter that - vote no on Tuesday and vote against them in the November election.
@ughly - If my opinion that you would be a better fit where you have a majority vote (and the ironic fact that where the tea party actually has a presence in this county has far higher taxes than our welfare sucking city) is intolerant, I would dare say your stereotype of override supporters is grossly ignorant.
Homeowner, parent of school age kids, taxpayer, private sector
You once again made my point. I don't recall one post you've ever made where you don't act as if anyone who disagrees with you is a tea partier or should leave the city or any number of other examples of your failure to be able to debate issues. All you do is cast aspersions and act as if because you write it, it must be correct. First of all, I'm not a tea party follower, I'm a Democrat. But unlike you, the apparently stereotypical Democrat (tax and spend tax and spend tax and spend no other way no other way), I can debate an issue without making accusations. Whoops. I guess I did make an accusation. Call me ugh-2.
I'd like to see some REAL discussions with actual FACTS rather than the
"were gonna take away your child's education" blather. I realize this is a political move to mobilize the self righteous mob that always forms in these cases.
This whole "if you don't agree, SHUT UP!" silliness isn't how ADULTS discuss issues
I was proud to see Mike Bloom bring this to the council and stand up to emphatically say this is what the city needs at this time. How Mr. Boucher and Ms. Harpin can sit there and pretend that their opinion shouldn't be asked at a time like this is unbelievable to me. What really is their job if not to guide the city in financial times like this? What is their plan if the override fails? If they are unaware of how tight this budget is right now, then shame on them for not spending the time at the DPW, public services and city hall to realize it. What are their recommendations of areas to cut if it fails? Do they think the schools should take the total hit, maybe cut the police department, or volunteer fire? What do they offer for solutions? NOTHING. Politics as usual.
Mr. Bloom is only looking out for his own intrest. He is on a ( do not reelect list) and I hope the new council will take away his cheep city insurance so he will start paying like the rest of us.
Has anyone noticed that the majority of the people speeking if favor of the override are tied to the city payroll !! The mayor has caled out the the First name of the majority of people speeking in favor of the override. It is time that the taxparers stop the money train. VOTE NO !!!
All, just found out something very disturbing. Called Channel 17, and was told that they will only televise the Prop 2 1/2 meetings if they get a request from the mayor's office......does this smell bad to anyone?
@zaphod, the facts are the facts. Some people accept them and realize that we fund it or it goes away. Others say acknowledging reality is a scare tactic. Certain others would rather cut some programs than pay.
No - it's community TV, so programming is generally produced by the public. If nobody volunteers to film the meeting, it won't be filmed. It's that simple.
If the mayor were to request that a meeting be filmed, they'd try to find someone to film it - but basically, community television is produced by the community. NBCTV is just the provider of the equipment and studio space. They aren't a news channel, and don't have reporters.
If you're so worried about these meetings, go tape them and air them. That's what Channel 17 is FOR.
You are completely misunderstanding what was said to you.
Guy, no I am not. I was very clear. The woman said the request would come from the mayor's office. That was after she said it could come from the mayor's office, or anyone. So I said I think it should be televised, and she backtracked and said "these requests usually come from the mayor's office"
"She said these requests usually come from the mayor's office" - so what? They probably do! (North Adams isn't exactly KNOWN for its informed, involved, active citizenry, now is it?)
That does not preclude you, or any other citizen, from taping a public meeting and airing it on the public access channel. You may not get it on the government channel, because that programming space is reserved for actual municipal meetings - not necessarily informational forums (unless the mayor requests it, as he has done).
You are woefully uninformed about how public television works. Furthermore, if you go into a conversation with a stubborn preconceived notion, you probably aren't going to absorb much information.
How do you know the Mayor didn't request it? Even if he didn't, you've already been told the probable answer - Wednesday is a busy meeting night, and the cameras and volunteers were most likely elsewhere.
This same subject matter has been covered over and over ad nauseam, so I can't help wondering what your big yank is all about. Do you consider this entertainment? Did you, perhaps, want to see yourself on TV? What's this really all about, Alfie?
North adams resident, Yes Ms. Harpin or anyone else who works less that Full time should not be intitled to the city health insurance. She does a wonderful job , but the taxpayers should not have to pay for her health care.
Just noticed the budget in section 7 has 926k in capital....what if we used 900k of that for the deficit..then according to the Mayor's latest figures we have to cut 56k more...that should be doable.....
Discussion? Let's not raise taxes. Can we at least point this out, and maybe the council can vote on this when the override fails?
Editor: You have to look at the line items on Page 50. Do you really think there's $926,000 lying around? Second, if there was, it doesn't fix the deficit. Why are there so many grasshoppers in this city? I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
Well, is it expenses, or is it reserves? I guess I need to ask another question then, where are the reserves listed then?
Editor, you are showing your bias. If you know the budget so well, then point out reserve funds. Also, it would just about fix the deficit, per the mayor. The mayor now says the deficit is 956k. Well, 900k is a big chunck of 956k.
Does anybody know how the afterschool programs are funded, I know that it used to be grant money, is this the case or have these programs been added into the city budget. Also wondered who the city school vans are picking up at 6am at Dunkin Donuts every morning....hmmm...maybe stuff like that needs to be addressed. And what is a grasshopper?????
Editor: I just get tired of pointing out the obvious and need to take a break. Again, the $926,00 in the capital line item is for capital costs - fuel, heat, electricity, equipment. That has tripled because this year all those costs were consolidated in one place; they were previously spread through departments.
From Here Ok start with health care for city councilors. Have 10 percent pay cut for everyone and have them pay 10 percent more for health insurance and have all city workers pay more into retirement plan. The private sector workers have been doing this for years, so welcome aboard. Would you like more ideas . Isn't it about time we all share some pain ? Why does the mayor feel that his followers should be reworded when others suffer ????? VOTE NO to stop this crazy path the mayor is on
Unfair I sure the boss has suggested to everyone to show. It doesn't matter how many teachers come out . Teachers have spoken at the meetings that do not live in the city. It isn't about the teachers it is about the mayor and his spending . He will never stop unless the taxpayers stop him . We have a chance to do that on Tuesday . SO VOTE NO !!!!!!
I'm an employee of the city of North Adams and am proud to say that I'll be voting NO on the over ride issue. I think it's time we (city governemt) start living within our means. I'd like to see the mayor and city council stop crying also. They all knew, or should have seen at least, what was happening finacially to the city and thy sat on their collective backsides and did nothing. Now it's coming back to bite then in the same backsides they sat on. As for school cuts let me say this. There's plenty of waste in that department. Two full time Deans of students - when for years one was enough - for a school whose student body only increased by about 100 students. Then there are adjustment councillors, guidence councillors, an athletic director, numerous coaches and, get this, three phys ed teachers. There's also a curriculum director who, as far as I understand, teaches about one class a day, and numerous department heads who I guess are teachers but get paid extra.
As far as eliminating AP courses etc;we all know it's not going to happen. And what's wrong with families whose kids are playing sports to cough up an extra $300 or so a year? Make a hard choice, do you want, do you want sports, arts or academics? You can't have everything. It seems those same people are the ones voting for an over ride and have plenty of $$ anyway.
Now I'd like to say a word about the teaches "giving back' their 1% raise, which they've all suggested the rest of us should do for the good of the students. Nonsense. It's called job security. Many of them, even after giving back their raise, are still eligable for step raises. Each time they take a credit course they can "step up" on the pay scale and are entitled to get more money, and you can be sure that it's more than 1%. Ask any one of them to show you the chart. Are they giving that up also? You bet they're not.
Sorry if my grammar and spelling are off. I was educated in NA
cityworker Do not worry about the spelling or grammar. The bottom line is you are telling the troth. If you do work for the city I hope the boss does not find out who you are. Thank you for speaking out . VOTE NO !!!
1) Eliminate health care for city councilors - Fine. I disagree, but OK. Unfortunately, there are only two and that doesn't add up to very much money.
2) Have 10 percent pay cut for everyone and have them pay 10 percent more for health insurance and have all city workers pay more into retirement plan. - First of all, they are underpaid already. But, I know you disagree with that. Second, they have been paying ?% more than they thought they were for their insurance thanks to "you-know-who" for years that was never compensated for. Finally, the kicker, these are almost all union employees with contracts in place. Not do-able.
So far, you've saved us all about 2 cents on the tax rate. Any other ideas?
I didn't see you propose any cuts to "your" department. If there's so much fat in this government, you must be most familiar with your own department (if true). But instead, you propose chopping the school department. Interesting.
If cityworker works at City Hall or the DPW there is no where else to cut. Not to mention if cityworker does work at City Hall, the Library or the Spitzer Center he/she hasn't had a raise in 3 years. Think I'm making this up? Walk into any office in City Hall other than the Mayor's office and just ask when was your last raise? You'll be really surprised by their answer.
Seriously find me a private sector PART TIME job that will pay for my health insurance and I will be the first to apply, it may not save much but it would be a start, and would be the right thing to do. My job funding comes from the Federal government and I havent had a raise in two years, and my pension funding is reflective of the economy so the past two years other than what I have put in the employer contribution is not much. I dont believe in Union busting but if the Unions Bust this city it will be a no win situation for everyone....We are all underpaid in this economy but some of us are just glad we have a job!!!!!! and sometimes the obvious is not always the obvious.
City and others: Some of us don't have any job at all. We don't really care if some people haven't had raises in however many years. They are lucky to have jobs. And many of them will have pensions. A lot of us, especially those who've always worked in the private sector, do not. And in this economic climate, the unemployed of North Adams are not necessarily uneducated, used to living on public assistance, or even renters.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.