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Thread: Movie Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    At the local level, we actually do vote on every line item in the budget.

    As for not taking our business elsewhere, on the state and local level, we certainly can. How well local government is run, the decision it makes the outcomes it produces, have much to do with how people make decisions about where to live.
    Kim, I don't think I've ever got to vote on “every line item”. Have I been missing something?

    And moving? I'm not sure whether I'm not saying it well, you're not understanding, or you're just glossing over it with a good sounding counter argument, but whether people in Wayland or Massachusetts can move does not imply that they have any choice over their government's provided services.

    If there were two snow plowing companies I could choose from to do my street, then there would be choice. And there would be incentive for those companies to do the job better, and at a lower cost.

    Monopolized government services misses out on that incentive. The fact that I can move, or that we elect our “representatives” (who have their own agendas I might add) doesn't replace that missing incentive. Or give me a choice about who plows my street (or how much it costs), even when they in fact now do a lousy job.

    donBustin@verizon.net

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    Kim, I don't think I've ever got to vote on “every line item”. Have I been missing something?
    I guess you have. There's a warrant article that takes a very long time to go through - the budget. We go through it line by line and vote it up or down, take movements to amend, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    And moving? I'm not sure whether I'm not saying it well, you're not understanding, or you're just glossing over it with a good sounding counter argument, but whether people in Wayland or Massachusetts can move does not imply that they have any choice over their government's provided services.

    If there were two snow plowing companies I could choose from to do my street, then there would be choice. And there would be incentive for those companies to do the job better, and at a lower cost.

    Monopolized government services misses out on that incentive. The fact that I can move, or that we elect our “representatives” (who have their own agendas I might add) doesn't replace that missing incentive. Or give me a choice about who plows my street (or how much it costs), even when they in fact now do a lousy job.
    And there I thought you were one of those "small is beautiful" guys who wanted less government. You actually want TWO governments that compete. ;-)

    I do think the incentive to run the town well is clear - we all get a better town to live in, which makes our town more attractive both to future residents (who will buy our homes when we sell) and to current residents (who want to enjoy their time here). Nobody wants to throw their money away, and we all want to get as much as possible for our tax dollars.

    The short-term choices you make are when you go to the ballot box (and Town Meeting) and vote. If you don't like how your elected officials run the town, you vote them out. Change is therefore often slower than you might like, but that's the way our government was intentionally designed.

    What sort of competition to deliver services would you like to see? Which services would you privatize or compete? (and does this desire for competition for services influence the way you view the current health care debate?)
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 10-27-2009 at 12:36 PM. Reason: fix typo

  3. #18
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    Don, surely you wouldn't want to see *all* government services provided by the private sector, would you? Public safety (including the military) come to mind as monopolies we'd like to keep. Where we draw the line (for instance, on which side should education fall?) becomes an interesting question.

    One of the biggest drains on our economy is the cost of health insurance provided by private companies. As it happens, the increase in health insurance premiums that we pay as a town each year consumes roughly the allowable tax increase under Proposition 2 1/2, leaving no funds left for cost of living adjustments or added services.

    For whatever reason, government-provided health insurance (Medicare and Medicaid) don't see annual cost increases that match their private counterparts. I was heartened this morning to see that the Senate bill now includes a competition-friendly public option (if my quick read of the Boston Globe article was correct).

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    ... the budget. We go through it line by line and vote it up or down, take movements to amend, etc. )
    Yes, please don’t think too harshly of me, but alas I don’t get to go to Town Meeting (or any meetings for that matter). I work nights. Which of course could once again lead us to digress as to whether Town Meeting is actually democratic, when some can’t go, and others, usually a majority, choose not to. (Yes folks, as we endlessly hear, “it’s an overwhelming mandate from Town Meeting, 60% of the 500 attendees voted for...”) And no, I don’t think it’s democratic. A convenient myth, one useful for those interest groups that can mobilize attendance. Luckily, the upcoming Meeting will have more than 500 folks, but it still will be dominated by people with children who want the schools improved. Which doesn’t mean to say that I won’t vote for the school too...

    Kim, actually my question is about how the budget passing works? I see that a vote is taken on the “Total Personnel Services” and the “Total Expenses” for a department, or part of a department (note that these are not “expense” line item vetoes we’re talking about). I’m curious as to what kind of changes the Meeting makes to the Warrant’s proposed budget? Do people decide that the Dog Warden needs a new cage and give him another $500, or that Happy Hollow doesn’t need those windows, so takes out that money? Does the meeting actually reduce people's salaries, or give them a raise, or change the number of people in a department? Like how many things get changed and in what ways? Can you generalize or categorize what happens?

    donBustin@verizon.net

  5. #20
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    My experience over the last 15 years has been that there's a motion to amend the operating or capital budgets--that is, a line item within one of these budgets--on average less than once a year. It was more common in the late 1990s, particularly with respect to a particular position within the Highway Department.

    Keep in mind that the spring Town Meeting is simply the end of a 6 month or so process in which departments and boards receive guidelines from the Finance Committee, discuss their budgets in open meeting, present their recommendations to the Finance Committee in open meeting, then watch as the Finance Committee comes up with its overall recommendation ... you guessed it, in open meeting.

    So, the fact that the public has rarely exercised its right to amend the budget doesn't mean that the public hasn't had input on that budget.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    My experience over the last 15 years has been that there's a motion to amend the operating or capital budgets--that is, a line item within one of these budgets--on average less than once a year. It was more common in the late 1990s, particularly with respect to a particular position within the Highway Department.
    It seems to me it's more often than that. I would estimate that there's usually at least one motion to amend. Usually, it is motions to cut budgets for specific items. Last year, I seem to remember to motion to increase the salary of the Town Clerk (which passed handily, maybe even unanimously). But we do go through most of the budget with little discussion.

  7. #22
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    If one were really motivated, it would be easy to figure out the frequency of amendment. At the April 2008 ATM (record available here from the Town Clerk section of www.wayland.ma.us), there were two motions to amend: one to the operating budget and one to the capital budget (both were defeated). So, perhaps they are a bit more frequent than I remembered.

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