Friday, February 28


          I must confess, I put out some misinformation in my last post. Try as I may occasionally some things slip by me. I intimated that this was a slush fund that could be spent without approval at the town meeting. My bad, I was wrong; any expenditure must still pass at an ATM. Now that changes everything!! I guess can't call it a slush fund anymore. I'll have to start calling it a LOCK BOX, or a TRUST FUND. I wonder if it’s like the social security trust fund. I know, let's call it a war chest to fund all the committee projects that fall under the ever encroaching shadow of the CPA.
You may call it what you like, but I call it just another tax scheme and let me tell you why. Under the guise of “community preservation” the state decided to tack a fee to every piece of property being sold. In the beginning of the program all of the fees were attached to sale of the property including the 3% surcharge. However, with a lot of push back from realtors the rules were changed. These fees were to be collected and redistributed to communities for the purpose of preservation, and they are. However, getting the money back to your community is not as easy as it sounds.
Here's how the scheme works. The state collects a fee from the sale of every property sold in the state; and believe me they have collected a lot of money. This money is then set aside to redistribute back to communities for the purpose of “community preservation”. So the state takes your money and gives it back to you; well sort of. Strict rules make it so you can only spend it on certain things and then only if you first agree to CPA terms and conditions. The first condition is that you bypass proposition 2-1/2, the law that was designed to protect property owners from being overtaxed. Isn't it amazing that as soon as a law like Prop 2-1/2 is passed the politicians create new and better ways to get around it.
Anyhow, these monies are given only to communities who join the CPA. Communities wanting to join have to override proposition 2-1/2 and pass a property tax surcharge of one to three percent above and beyond the 2-1/2% maximum allowed by law. In other words if communities want to get their money back they have to pay another tax. Note that towns overtaxing their people at the 3% level will receive more of the funds than towns overtaxing citizens by only 1%. Basically the state has set up a system whereby they take your money with the promise of giving it back to you with up to 100% increase. I don’t know about you but this sounds like another government sponsored Ponzi scheme. Why not just leave the money in the hands of the people and let them preserve their own communities as they see fit. After all, Egremont has a long history of supporting their town projects. Just last year we paid $24,000.00 to start the process of preserving the schoolhouse and the library. All without the state taking our money and stingily doling it back to us.
Okay, now let’s look at what happens to the money if we do actually pass the MCPA. Let's say we want to receive as much of the state matching funds as we can, which means we would have to go all in. Mary Brazie said it would raise about 90k per year at 3%. They will have taken all this money from their friends and neighbors in hopes of doubling it with matching state funds. Ok, let's say that we do qualify for 100% matching funds and we collect 180k per year. Now how do we spend the money?
That’s the interesting part. We would have to set up a committee to review all of the applications for funding. Its board would consist of members from all of the committees that will be competing for the funds. This committee would decide which applications go onto the warrant for the people to vote on. Now I’m not saying that this committee wouldn’t be fair in determining who goes on the warrant; but talk about conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety.
Charlie Flynn wants to start low at 1%. Not because he doesn't want to take full advantage of all that state money. Rather he knows that the town would never approve a 3% tax hike; but he does think the town might approve a 1% CPA surcharge. I hope for our sake he’s wrong.

I believe adopting this act would be a disaster for our town despite the glowing review of the Friends of Egremont History (FOEH). FOEH stated that we should “join those towns who now are reporting good benefits from the act”. What FOEH didn't mention in their rosy review is the towns that were almost devastated by this act. Nor did they mention the fact that it is more often the wealthy towns that take the lions share of the monies; at the expense of the poorer towns. It’s the reverse Robin Hood syndrome where the state robs the poor and gives it to the rich. This was found in a HarvardStudy of the CPA. Follow this link to read the study for yourself.

Monday, February 17



 We are going to convene a legislative session in May. We call it the Annual Town Meeting, (ATM). Since this is a legislative session and we are the legislators I am going to treat it as such. When a legislator introduces legislation they typically have co-sponsors and the bill is named after the co sponsors. In our case a bill can be compared to an article on the ATM Warrant. In that spirit I'm going to call these bills by the name of the people sponsoring them. I figure if a person has the audacity to ask the town to take on an additional 3% in property tax then they shouldn't mind having their name attached to it.

          First let’s go over the Susan Bachelder/Dave Johnson Property Tax Increase. As you know Susan gave an impassioned presentation on adopting the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in our town. Susan, Dave Johnson and four members of the planning board went to a dinner for town officials to learn about the CPA. Susan said that they all went away enthusiastic about the program. Of course they were all enthusiastic; they are the boards and committees that will be spending the monies. Once the CPA is implemented those special projects that could never get passed at the ATM can be done without approval of the town. Essentially this act would create a slush fund for all those projects that the town voted down. Susan had all the buzzwords down. She called it a surcharge, a wonderful financing mechanism and a great way to get matching funds. But let’s face it, IT’S A TAX INCREASE.

          Now let’s talk about the Juliette Hass Water Tax. I call it this because there isn't a year that goes by that Juliette doesn't ask the taxpayers to “be a good neighbor” and foot the bill for the mismanaged water company. I know the town took over billing and things are getting better. However, as long as the person who lost hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars is still running the water company it is still being mismanaged. Let me remind you, we're already doing our good neighbor deed in that we subsidize the water company to the tune of 80k per year. So please don't imply that the only way to be a good neighbor is to pay for the entire water company debt. It’s insulting to all of your good neighbors. By the way I have a question, if the water users are in such need of financial aid, why would we want to impose a CPA tax on them. Doesn't that seem inconsistent? They can't afford the water but they can afford to pay the CPA tax. Maybe I just don't understand.      

Personally I think it’s a bad idea to raise any new taxes; especially in these hard economic times. There are a lot of people in our town still reeling from the effects of the recession. With many families having to work several jobs just to keep what they have; to impose another tax is unconscionable. Yet, we have people who really don't concern themselves with what it costs the poorer taxpayer as long as they get their pet projects done. If the future brings a better economic situation then these issues can be raised again. But they should be put before the town at a proper town meeting; not folded into a slush fund that doesn't even have to be approved by the townspeople. 

Here’s what I think.

          As a postscript, Charlie Flynn chimed in on the CPA issue and he thinks it’s a great idea. He said “it provides a venue to do things in this town we've always wanted to do and have never been able to do”. What Charlie really meant is that it creates a “financing mechanism” (SLUSH FUND), for funding projects that they have never been able to get approved at town meeting. Rather than inundate you with too much information, I’ll wait until next post to talk about the Charlie Flynn tax and other important budget items.

Thursday, February 13



I took a look at the MaCPA law and it hasn't changed my mind. In fact, I find I have even more of an aversion to it. Rather than express my opinion about this matter I am going to let people see your presentation and then we, the town, can have a civil discussion about it. So without further ado here is Susan in her own words. Susan's YouTube debut starts at about the 4 min mark.


Weather permitting the Conservation Commission, (ConCom), is having a meeting upstairs in the town hall at 7;00pm. Call before 3;00pm to see if the meeting is still on.

Monday, February 10


    Well I'm going to start talking again. I have been a bit quiet lately in order to allow the AG' office to do their job without a lot of static. I filed three Open Meeting Law complaints, one of which was a civil rights violation. The AG' office has finished their investigation and the ruling is in. All I can say is that two out of three ain't bad.

    I must say I was a little disappointed with the ruling on the first complaint. How the AG could rule that Chairman Turner did not violate OML when he stated emphatically, on video that the BoS did not have to be audible to the audience is beyond me; but they did. That's one win for the Chairman and zero for the citizens. I can only assume that the chairman's bitterness and vindictiveness didn't show up on the recordings. I almost lost faith in my government; that is until I received the second letter.

     The second complaint was instigated by the Chairman when he decided to arbitrarily change the recording policy for the BoS meetings. As you may remember on September 9th 2013 Chairman Turner forbade several citizens from recording the meeting because the citizens failed to inform the chairman before the meeting that they intended to record. I knew this was a violation of law but because I didn't know the law off the top of my head I yielded the point. However, after the meeting I looked up the statute and found that the law favored the citizens right to record. "anyone, upon informing the chairman of a public body, may record any public meeting".

    The third complaint was again instigated by Chairman Turner when he enforced his newly implemented recording policy. As you may recall on September 13th 2013 Chairman Turner decided to enforced his illegal policy to the point where he actually had me physically removed from the meeting. This was a clear violation of the OML and my civil rights. This also led to Chairman Turners YouTube debut.

    On the second and third complaint the AG ruled in favor of the citizens right to record according to the actual law rather than the chairman's distorted interpretation of the law. The AG ruled that the BoS violated the OML by denying citizens right to record. Unfortunately it's a hollow victory because there were no real consequences. The AG ordered the boards "immediate and future compliance with the open meeting law". They also warned the BoS that any future violations would be considered evidence of deliberate violations of the law. Well don't I just feel vindicated?

To read the OML click here


    There is a lot going on between now and the annual town meeting and election. These are some of the issues I'll be working on.

1 Juliette Haas wants to pass the debt service for the mismanaged water company on to the taxpayers again.

2 Our two candidates for selectman, Charlie Flynn and Dave Johnson; at the prompting of Susan Bachelder want to raise a new tax. There is a conservation Commission meeting on Thursday February 13, 2013 @ 7;00pm upstairs at the town hall. I believe Susan Bachelder  (Dave Johnson) is going to try to explain the new tax scheme.

3 Our last quarter tax bill is going to be higher and next year the DOR is working out a deal with the BoS to raise the taxes on the rich homeowners.