Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Send clear message in election February 17, 2003
Rob Meltzer Metrowest Daily News
There hasn't been a lot of good news in the newspaper as of late.  Whether the topic is Iraq, the threat of terrorism, the continuing downward trend in the economy or anything else, there hasn't been much to celebrate.

Consequently, we should be thrilled with any scrap of good news that comes our way. At the moment, the best news in our paper has been that towns like Framingham are slashing worthless town and school employees, combining redundant programs and cutting useless expenditures in order to meet budget constraints.

The odd thing about these budget cuts is that town managers like Framingham's George King have a weird habit of presenting fiscal prudence as bad news.  We are "warned" of budget cuts.  Managers are "afraid that lay offs" are necessary.  Or "tragically, a Prop 2 1/2 override is not feasible."

It is possible, of course, that voters are to blame for this phenomena.  When politicians do good things, we should reward them for good behavior.  And when politicians do bad things, we should make it abundantly clear that those bad things will have political consequences.  Unfortunately, here in Framingham, the voters have been giving mixed signals to the town government, and this needs to stop.

A couple of years ago, voters in Framingham voted a huge override to pay for an obscene and expensive new high school.  At the time that the override was being considered, proponents talked about how important it was to have the glitziest high school in the Commonwealth, and about how minor the tax increase would be.  Opponents were quick to note that the school was overkill, and that the problem with overrides for frivolous things during good economic times meant that this town would likely be unable to raise taxes again for important things during bad times.

And during the second, more recent override campaign, the town manager, the school superintendent and other town officials engaged in political blackmail, claiming that the town would close the Stapleton School if an override wasn't passed.  The gullible citizens of Saxonville bought the lie, fought for the override, won by a slim majority, and then learned that the opponents of the override were right in their claim that the Stapletoners had allowed themselves to be used and manipulated.

You need look no further than a letter to this paper by a Stapleton parent published last week. In the face of news that Stapleton is again on the chopping block, this parent wrote "it seems the victory we once celebrated was short lived.  The only constant is the fact that our tax bills increased and will remain as a result of the override.  The citizens that voted to keep the Stapleton School open will continue to pay for a school that may very possibly close."

Now, look at the letters to the editor of this paper written before the second override, in which it was noted that it would not save Stapleton or other programs if spending cuts were not also made at the same time.

The people who opposed both of these overrides are not surprised at the current fiscal crisis.  On the other hand, those opponents are sharing the pain caused by the foolishness of others.  That's democracy.  But there's another side to democracy.

Framingham has elections coming up, and these elections are an opportunity to send a clear message: the era of profligate and wasteful spending is over, and those who favor more controlled spending (who are fighting the urge to chant "I told you so") must be heard.

Believe it or not, one of the proponents of one of the disastrous overrides, Katie Murphy, is actually bragging that she co-chaired one of the override organizations that created our fiscal albatross.  This should disqualify her for public office, and the voters must reject her and her wastefulness as surely as they would today oppose her override.

Yes, it is good news that the town is finally getting its fiscal house in order by cutting costs.  But it is also imperative that we institute a change of government away from people who believe that raising taxes to pay for luxuries is a good thing.  It's not asking too much to ask the candidates to take a no new tax pledge, and to ask those who have sinned, like Murphy, to apologize, not gloat, about what they have done to this town.

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