Debate on North Adams Proposition 2 1/2 Ballot Question Still Heated One Week Before Residents Vote
By Patrick Donges
North Adams, MA – At their June 14 meeting, the North Adams City Council voted 7-2 in support of a resolution brought forward by councilor Michael Bloom to support an affirmative vote on the upcoming Proposition 2 1/2 override vote, scheduled for June 21. Here's Bloom.
"Now therefore (let) it be resolved, that the City Council of North Adams supports the passage of the Proposition 2 1/2 override ballot question and urges voters to vote yes, thus avoiding any further cuts in the important public education, public safety, public services, and general government functions of the city of North Adams."
Mayor Richard Alcombright proposed the measure that will have residents decid e whether the city can raise it's state mandated tax levy limit from $13.2 million to around $14.4 million to balance the budget.
At the same meeting the resolution was brought forward the council also approved the city's budget for the 2012 fiscal year at $35,537,010, a decrease of almost $400,000 from the city's 2011 budget. The cuts represent several positions in both City Hall and city schools; Alcombright repeated remarks that more drastic cuts will be required if the override is not passed.
"with few cash reserves, another cut in state aid, and declining local receipts, I'm regrettably in a position to have to recommend this budget knowing that If Prop 2 1/2 fails I'll be back to council in July with a new budget reflecting deeper and unforgivable cuts."
One of the councilors who voted against the resolution in support of the override was Marie Harpin, who said residents would not be able to afford the tax increase.
"I feel it's unfair in a way to ask the people to dig deeper when the majority of them are on fixed incomes. It's just a sad situation, and I just cannot in all honesty vote for this. And I'm going to be voting no on the Prop 2 1/2."
While he didn't indicate a disagreement with the substance of the resolution, City Council President Ronald Boucher, the second dissenting vote, said he felt taking a public position on the measure was inappropriate.
"I don't think the City Council should make a statement to support, yes, or no."
Agreeing that the resolution was "inappropriate," Council Vice President Lisa Blackmer didn't say how she would vote on the override, hinting instead that she would support it by quoting former mayor John Barrett.
"'You have to be attractive to attract.' Well, being attractive isn't just beautification and having a pretty downtown, and that comes at a cost, and I know the cost for some is going to be a problem. It's almost like we can't afford it, but we can't afford not to."
The remaining council members in support of the resolution indicated they would be voting for the override, including councilor David Bond, who spoke of his 150 year familial connection to the city.
"When this first started, I was going to vote no. So I sit here and I have to pass it. I'm here for the long term; I'm not here for one year, four years, I'm here for 10, 15, 20 years, and I want to see this city become something that I've always envisioned."
"The pieces are here; MCLA, (Mass) MoCA, the downtown right in the middle. We have everything we need; we just need to match income to expense. And I will be voting in favor."
City resident and city airport commission member Trevor Gilman said residents needed the council to take a stand on the override, which he said he will support.
"I can't think of anything in this community that's more important for the city of North Adams than this vote right now."
Gilman cited budget figures presented earlier in the meeting by Alcombright outlining a loss of over $3 million in state aid over the past three years, funds he said would likely not return in the future as the state struggles through its own financial woes.
"If you're going to vote no, you need to have some way of solving this problem. You can't just vote no because people can't afford it."
"What about the dozen people that are losing their jobs just in this budget that we're cutting, and the dozen families, what are they going to be able to afford?"
The last of five public hearings on the proposed override is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Greylock Elementary School.