Yesterday afternoon, a guy walked into City Hall after the mayor's press conference and handed out to reporters copies of two citizens' petitions he's organizing. One is to recall the mayor and the entire City Council. The either forces the city into receivership. You can read more about this particular guy's ideas here
On the recall: I'm not a big fan of recalls in any circumstance, and I'm not really sure what horrible thing the mayor and council has done in the last six-plus month to warrant their heads on a platter. Sure, you might not like the cuts being made, but that's what overrides are for. Let's say, for example, a library override failed, 56-44 (the same numbers as the current Fitchburg Pride poll question on the subject). Isn't that sort of a tacit endorsement of the action? And then some of those people are going to nail the council and mayor for it? Seems a little skewed logically.
You want a recall? Vote 'em out next year. I'm not a big fan of recalls for four-year terms, but for two-year terms it seems really far-fetched. So, they all get recalled out in November, and a new batch is elected, say, in February. Then they all scramble to put together a budget no one likes and are voted on again in November? Silliness.
Anyway, this is a real long shot, and won't go very far, but it's out there.
On receivership (or, let the rant begin):
I've written about this so many times that I'm thoroughly repeating myself, but it's worth repeating again (and again, and again, and again). Receivership isn't just a bad idea, there's no basis for it right now.
I know, I know. Things suck. Ask the cops, firefighters, librarians, kids who can't go swimming, and on and on. But receivership isn't for when things suck. Receivership is for the day City Hall and schools don't open because the lights are turned off. Actually, receivership should only be considered a couple of days after that when there's still no electricity.
The city has a balanced budget. You might not like it, but the thing is balanced. The city anticipates bringing in enough revenue to cover its costs. The Department of Revenue -- the very white knight everyone thinks will fix everything for us poor commoners -- said last week that things are looking better. Not fixed, but looking better. There's a difference between tough and catastrophe, and the city is in the middle of the former and not even close to the latter.
What, exactly, do people think the DOR would do, anyway? What changes would they make to the current -- balanced -- budget that would make everything better? Would they come with a money tree to plant in the Upper Common that would shower downtown in $100 bills? Would they pan for gold in the Nashua River? Would they demand the historical society give up the secret treasure map to John Fitch's buried booty under Rollstone Hill?
Here's the dirty little secret no one seems to get: It isn't getting better overnight. But it's getting better. There were no cries this year that the budget was balanced with voodoo economics. A sliver of money is being put into stabilization. There's budget projections that actually include conservative growth numbers. This problem doesn't go away overnight. It takes baby steps now, and hopefully bigger steps later. Right now, the city is shuffling in the right direction. But it's the right direction. DOR has no fairy dust that will fix it overnight.
Fact is, solving this problem starts at home. First and foremost, it means making the city an attractive place to live and work. That starts by people pulling their heads out their backsides and start acting like we live in Fitchburg, not Kabul. Fake it until you make it, if you have to. But our obsession with the bad far outweighs the celebration of the good. That has to change. I know many of you won't even consider it. Let me be Michael Corleone here: "Don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever." But into the context of the movie, and it makes more sense than you think.
Second, who wants an override? I hear nothing but crickets. Fine, but in a weird, twisted way, an override lets us help ourselves. You want more services, you're going to have to pay for them. Let's say you go to L'espalier for dinner. You're paying partly for the service (which is fantastic, by the way). Let's say you go to Chili's for dinner. You're paying for the service there, too (which is fine, by the way, but, you know, not L'espalier). My point? You get what you pay for, and if the city is so resolute to not help itself (I know, I know, higher taxes and all that), why should the state come in to help us.
Finally, forget the fact that there's no legitimate reason to go into receivership. Forget the budget is balanced. Forget DOR says things are getting better (slightly). Forget that other communities far worse off than Fitchburg -- Lawrence and its school system make Fitchburg look like a thing of beauty, and Springfield was tens of millions of dollars in the hole -- managed to avoid it. Receivership is the ultimate community stain. Chelsea still hasn't scrubbed it away, and that was over 15 years ago (and Chelsea isn't exactly a gleaming waterfront community now). It's a signal that all hope is lost and there's nothing else that can be done (how about a little Andy Dufresne right now: "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.") It's waving the white flag, admitting complete and total defeat. It's taking on a black mark that will take decades to wash off. It's something to fight against until very, bitter end, not something to willingly accept. It's the last act of a sinking ship.
Fitchburg isn't sinking any more. It's treading water, and furiously at that, but it's not sinking. I'd rather kick until the end rather than grab what appears to be a lifeline, but is really a lead weight. Don't even let this receivership petition get close to the ballot. This isn't an endorsement of the current slate of city officials. This is an endorsement for the city and its future. "It's not that bad, really," isn't the most inspiring catchprase, but it's true. Fitchburg is a good thing. And no good thing ever dies. Receivership isn't a magic bullet. It's a bullet, period.
End of rant.
If you've come this far, thanks. Now, you should know that I'm outta here this afternoon and won't be near a computer until Monday night. I'll be checking comments throughout the day, but after 2 p.m. or so, don't expect to see your stuff here until Monday evening.
Labels: recall, Receivership, Save Fitchburg maintenance