Mayoral Vetoes

Today’s Eagle Tribune reports that I have vetoed two pieces of City Council legislation. The first legislation vetoed was the extension of the sewer and water task force. The Task Force was created by City Council action and was designed to look at and make recommendations on our water and sewer rates. This task force did make recommendations, which I will deal with in a larger post to follow. Unfortunately the process became politicized to the extent that the task force essentially represented that the numbers produced by my administration were “bogus” or “untrustworthy”. Despite the overheated rhetoric coming from the Commission I hosted what turned into a four hour meeting at which time the person represented to be handling the Commission’s numbers indicated that there were some fundamental errors in his presentation, and that revisions to those numbers were in order. The task force never revised their numbers, and at a subsequent City Council meeting declined to engage in discussion of their numbers, preferring to quote John Kennedy. Because they could not convince the City Council of the validity of their numbers their recommendation was defeated. I do not in principle oppose a citizen task force in this area, but the new Council should start fresh and include professionals in this area of their choice. The second veto dealt with the issue of a water registrar. Methuen has traditionally had a water registrar position. Upon the retirement of the last water registrar and after a short stint of filling the position (unsuccessfully) the City choose not to fill it and to pay stipends to existing employees to do that job. This action saved the City some twenty thousand dollars annually and allowed the job function to be done professionally. The Task force recommendation in this area has become a personal attack on the Chief Engineer and nothing else. My veto is designed to continue to uphold professional standards, save Methuen money, and not allow the Engineers function to be subject to political gamesmanship. I will do a post on the actual numbers, and some of the criticisms leveled in todays Tribune in short order. Read the Tribune article at this link.

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4 Responses to Mayoral Vetoes

  1. Anomynous says:

    Methuen loves ron paul!

    Ron Paul 2008!!! We need more supporters of the Ron Paul message! This is why i support the idea of the city donating money for a billboard advertisment of ron paul to be inserted somwhere in methuen! This r3volution will rise. AND METHUEN IS PART OF IT!

    http://www.ronpaul2008.com

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  2. Jack Burke says:

    Mr. Mayor,

    To clarify the following statement;”the person represented to be handling the Commission’s numbers indicated that there were some fundamental errors in his presentation, and that revisions to those numbers were in order. The task force never revised their numbers,”.
    I was in attendance at that meeting and the discussion was that both sides agreed that we had used two differing methodologies to arrive at our numeric conclusions. No fundamental errors were indicated. It was agreed that a new set of data would be generated based on equations supplied by the City Engineer and compared with the City numbers. This was accomplished and sent to the City Engineer as requested. The new number set did not show statistically significant differences with the Task Force numbers. I do not intend to begin a running blog on this issue, only to clarify a misconception generated in the original post.

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  3. Bill Manzi says:

    Jack,
    The data supplied by you that helped you to arrive at the Commission recommendation assumed that each user within the five tiers utilized the maximum amount within that tier. You acknowleged that as an assumption at this meeting when we asked you about it. When it was pointed out to you that such an assumption was incorrect, and that the usage was significantly lower on average, you agreed that such an incorrect assumption would require you to re-work your data. That is not, as far as I can see, “two differing methodologies” but rather one methodology using fundamentally flawed assumptions to reach a rate recommendation. That is what I posted, and that is what I stand by. I have not even reached the point (which I will do in an additional full posting) on the demand that the commission made that the flat fee they recommended be segregated, and how that would have placed the commissions recommendations from being short by a few hundred thousand dollars to being short by a million dollars. Finally I do not see how discussion of numbers and methodology is insulting to anyone. My staff and I were accused of being non-transparent by the Commission, but every time we try to discuss numbers people say they don’t want to get into that discussion. I think the Commission worked hard at the task, but eventually determined that a poltical purpose was more important than a substantive one. The numbers which you finally submitted were contained in a word document, and not in excel format, making our job of analyses of those numbers significantly more difficult.

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  4. Bob LeBlanc says:

    Mr Mayor,

    During this discussion you have unfortunately arrived at the conclusion that the make-up of the Council’s study committee was non-professional and in response to Jack Burke that the “commission determined that a political purpose was more important than a substantive one”….in neither case do the facts in terms of our performance and demeanor support that conclusion.

    This group of citizens consisted of folks of various educations and backgrounds, three with graduate degrees. They were both reflective of the Councillors who appointed them and the community at-large…it was a citizen’s group..the people who pay the bill.

    No one ever thought in their wildest dreams that this group of disparate and diverse folks could ever agree on much. The truth is that we all arrived at a unanimous set of recommendations because we put the good of the community above any personal or political agenda. That fact should have won respect at least from the members of the Council who appointed them, for we accomplished in six (6) weeks what the City Council could not in thirty-two (32) weeks)!

    The tapes of the meetings (6) do not support any conclusion that politics trumped substance. The two methodologies used were those of a professionals ( Jack Burke and Gerry McCall ) using the same formulae as your staff and myself using simple aritmatic computations based on the budget and staff data. Councillor Leone conducted a helpful analysis of all methodologies and came to the clear conclusion that the Task Force recommendations produced the amount of money demanded by the adminisration and some $300,000 more that either the flat rate or your request provided.

    You my friend and I agreed that the money necessary for 08 was satisfied by our recommendation. Your caveat was that the numbers worked if there were no constraints on the administration.

    So far since this past spring a total of at least five (5) proposals with different numbers have been put forward and the worst won the support of six(6) Councillors.

    What was wrong with the Task Force UNANIMOUS recommendation was that it achieved its goal in terms of finances ,but put a cap on Indirect Costs, demanded that the Water Registrar position be filled and put under Tom Kelly and that as debt was reduced the rates be reduced.

    Above all it required that each and every year ,just like the budget, the taxpayers see what is being spent and how it is to be funded.

    Accountability and transparencey were at the heart of this citizen’s task froce recomendations. The report was a professional one, not a political document. What went wrong is that politics trumped the process and reform beneficial to the taxpayers lost, in our opinion.

    But that is politics and while we were assured of six(6) votes when the meeting began, we were quickly reminded that promises are not always kept.

    One can only hope that a different outcome will occur in the next week with either Councillor Lahey, Quinn, Zanni or Leone changing their position.Otherwise the citiznes will contuinue to pay more than needed and some way toward a compromise will have to be found.

    You, Mr Mayor and the citizens of Methuen can be assured that I stand ready to work toward a reasonable compromise. So,if the citizen Task Force members can be of assistance we stand ready to continue in a professional manner.

    Thank you for your service to Methuen.

    Bob LeBlanc
    Chair, Citizen’s Task Force
    Former Town Manager/Councillor, Private Businessman, Attorney and Citizen

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