Jim Dannis - Toxic Selectman
In the same way that Doug and I have been taking it on the chin from those that oppose our philosophy and seek to muddy the waters by bringing up "tone and civility", fellow blogger Jim Dannis of Milford is facing the same thing.
One large difference - in Gilford, the local press (the Citizen, the Sun, and the Gilford Steamer) have pretty much played it straight - factual and pretty much down the middle. And for that, we give them a big "THANKS".
In his case, the ability to reach the population of Milford directly is changing the tone and focus of the issues facing the town - swinging it from a town orientation to a taxpayer orientation. The entrenched establishment is working as hard as they can to fight this philosphical move brought forward by Jim. As he points out (emphasis mine):
While I’m flattered by the attention, it’s important to understand what is really going on.
The Milford media market is becoming a mini-version of what we see on a national level. It’s all about issues and issues advocacy.
There’s a constant battle between two sharply opposing belief sets about town government.
On the one side, the two selectmen with blogs see town government as working for taxpayers.
Government should provide good customer service. Government should be affordable. Government should be open and accountable. Every citizen should be treated fairly and equally. Government employees should be incentivized with rewards for good performance and accountability for poor performance. Selectmen should work hard and be knowledgeable about the town’s finances, budgets and practices so they can provide meaningful oversight of town government on behalf of taxpayers.
On the other side, there are those who believe just the opposite -- that taxpayers work for town government.
They strive to keep town government happy and well-fed, regardless of taxpayer cost. They don’t want open government and accountability because it will show up the sharp differences in expectations and results between the private sector and the public sector. They don’t want performance pay or similar incentives for employees because this may make some employees unhappy. As advocates for town government rather than taxpayers, there is no need to understand finance, budgets or operations. The “good enough for government work” standard is all that’s needed.
These are huge, fundamental differences in beliefs and approach.
The local paper is an open, unabashed advocate for town government, not taxpayers. Their agenda is to advance that position in any way possible. Page one of the playbook is attack the message; page two is attack the messenger. It’s all part of the game.
Sounds familiar, in a little bit of a different guise, doesn't it? Here, we hear about "tone and civility". We hear that we are destroying the town. We hear that people are tired of seeing Gilford in the news. They are tired of the discord.
In short, sweep any disagreements under the rug (with the rest of the "dirty laundry"). After all, we are GILFORD! We don't do that here!
Just like, as Phyllis Corrigan so correctly pointed out at one of the BudComm, how Gilford's different special interest groups will marshal themselves to fight to have taxpayers pay for football, but no such hue and cry was heard or seen over the reports of alcohol or drug abuse and other "bad" behaviors. Why?
I think that it might be fairly simple - one is "good" and one is "bad". It is easy to be part of the good. It is harder to be working on the other.
Yet, in asking the questions and doing research into town expenses, and the resulting public scrutiny of the facts and the process, public interest is up - always a good thing. I expect, as a result, that the voting on March 13 will be rather high. And for each of those that decry the negatives, we do hear from those that say "Atta boys!". Thus, this election may be quite surprising in its results.
We will learn, at least in terms of the BudComm elections, if tone and civility will win out over addressing the issues. The voters will certainly let us know which camp is correct.
This upcoming election for the BudComm here in Gilford is of the same aspect as the Selectman races are in Milford (and other towns in NH as well) - what is the governing philosophy going to be? Is it going to be a conservative or liberal one? Will it be one that watches and spends taxpayer hard earned dollars carefully and wisely? Or one where what is important is the services that the town provides, the "quality of life" issues at any cost? That no price is too high?
The truth is that there are far more good ideas that could be implemented than there are dollars to support them. There needs to be a separation of needs vs wants (and I believe that process is in place) - the arguing is over what is a "need" and what is a "want", and what are the resulting priorities thereof.
The fact is that taxes are rising at a much higher rate than either the consumer or wage inflation rates. Thus, another consideration will be "is it fair to taxpayers that their taxes go up far faster than their wages? Is it fair that taxpayers pay for increases in salaries and benefits than what they themselves see all in the effort to 'retain good employees'?"
In essense, where do the voters come down on the issue of fairness - where is that dividing line that marks "fair"? The slowing down of the rate of increasing taxes in favor of taxpayers or increasing the rate of spending by the Town for payroll and services?
Also, the next few upcoming years in Gilford will show that there are far more pressing and more important issues than what are being discussed.
Once again, I point out, that the real issue about the BudComm is being clouded - it is not civility, it is philosophical. Since Mr. Dormody has been at the forefront of effort to do away with the BudComm, and that effort has seemingly been altered irretrivebly (i.e., the removal of the fake BudComm of Warrant Article - VOTE NO!), he has altered his tactics.
Yet, has he enumerated his stances on these large upcoming expenses? It isn't as if he is not aware of them - to his credit, he did attend many of the BudComm meetings as well as many of the subcommittee meetings (even birddogging my Friday afternoon meeting with Chief Hayes a while ago).
Yet, he remains strangely silent on these issues. Why? Unlike, Doug and I who have had no problems in telling people where we stand, his lips are sealed. Why won't he inform the general electorate of his stances? My musings are that while Doug and Terry (and I) have no problem in standing behind what has been written and said, if his hard and fast stances were known, it would make for an easier decision for voters on March 13th.
[update: since first keyboarding the above, he has updated his site. I will comment on the new additions Real Soon Now].
No, that would not help his campaign if people knew, so it seems he wishes to change the campaign debate strictly on a personal level vesus a discussion on the fiscal issues facing the town. By making it on style and painting the conservatives running for the BudComm as loud mouth louts, only concerned with their own agenda, he attempts to get elected without the electorate know how he will vote.
The "Toxic Selectman"? Really, it seems to stand for one who goes against the grain to advocate for the taxpayers......and if that is a "personal agenda", it's not a bad one to have.