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  1. #1
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    Default New Beach House/Electronic Voting

    The Finance Committee has approved an expenditure of approximately $1 Million to rebuild and enlarge the beach house at the town beach. At the same time, they voted unanimously against the electronic voting article primarily because of its cost, which, according to the FinCom would be $178,000. Although electronic voting would not be without some flaws, it seems to me to be something that would have great potential to improve the efficiency of Town Meeting, causing it to take less time, and thus perhaps resulting in a greater number of residents being willing to participate. It would also result in more accurate vote counts, which would obviously be particularly important in close vote situations. I am having difficulty understanding why, in these economic times, we ought to be spending $1 Million on a beach house, but we don't have $178,000 to spend on something that would probably significantly improve our town legislative process. My disclaimer here is that I am not a "beach person," and I barely ever set foot on the town beach, so I could very easily be missing the importance of a new beach house.

  2. #2
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    I agree that spending a $1.0MM right now for a new Beach House sounds a little fiscally irresponsible...but maybe we could combine the two ideas...Install the Electronic Voting "Machines"...in the new Beach House...

  3. #3
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    Keep in mind that the capital expenditures recommended by the Finance Committee--including the beach house work--are "tax neutral" in that the new debt/interest payments replace existing debt/interest payments that are being retired. Put another way, the result of approving the capital expenditures is not that taxes will go up a little, but rather that they won't go down a little.

  4. #4
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    Where can we see a plan for the new beach house? I'm curious if they are going to add a classroom area (programs for the kids, beach buddies if it rains...etc..) and are they going to add a sit down type of cafe? Who is making those decisions?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by John O'Brien View Post
    Where can we see a plan for the new beach house? I'm curious if they are going to add a classroom area (programs for the kids, beach buddies if it rains...etc..) and are they going to add a sit down type of cafe? Who is making those decisions?
    John, I have posted all the information we have received on the Beach House on this page.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Keep in mind that the capital expenditures recommended by the Finance Committee--including the beach house work--are "tax neutral" in that the new debt/interest payments replace existing debt/interest payments that are being retired. Put another way, the result of approving the capital expenditures is not that taxes will go up a little, but rather that they won't go down a little.
    The fact that the total of proposed expenditures is "tax neutral" does not justify any particular expenditure. Our objective should be to fund what we absolutely need, not fund whatever we can without increasing taxes.

    If it's fiscally irresponsible to spend $1M on a beach house in this economic environment, the fact that spending this money would not increase the tax rate doesn't alter that assessment.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    The fact that the total of proposed expenditures is "tax neutral" does not justify any particular expenditure. Our objective should be to fund what we absolutely need, not fund whatever we can without increasing taxes.

    If it's fiscally irresponsible to spend $1M on a beach house in this economic environment, the fact that spending this money would not increase the tax rate doesn't alter that assessment.
    I agree with you regarding "tax neutral" 100%. I have always had some discomfort with the phrase "tax neutral". I understand the meaning those who use are trying to convey, but I'd rather evaluate the expenditure considering its actual cost, and not think of that cost as essentially zero.

  8. #8
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    I was pointing out tax neutrality as a fact, not an argument pro or con.

    The underlying Finance Committee philosophy of (capital) tax neutrality isn't a justification of any particular expenditure, but rather, an intent to maintain our infrastructure in general as opposed to allowing it to decay.

  9. #9
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    Thumbs up Margaritas and Democracy

    Quote Originally Posted by John O'Brien View Post
    I agree that spending a $1.0MM right now for a new Beach House sounds a little fiscally irresponsible...but maybe we could combine the two ideas...Install the Electronic Voting "Machines"...in the new Beach House...
    John, I think its a wonderful idea to combine electronic voting with the beach house... think of the possibilities. Watch the sunset and practice democracy !

    Of course, the problem is that voting outside of the venue (ie. the field house) is not currently legal in Massachusetts. Some people have suggested to me that we have internet or remote voting so that they can sit at home, watch the meeting on TV and then participate by voting. Certainly, if the remote security, remote validation and legal issues were addressed (of which all three are not trivial) then this would certainly be a voting technique of the 21st century and it would improve attendance at town meeting by leaps and bounds.

    But remember, there are people who believe that town meeting is a participatory exercise and one should physically be present to get the right to vote.

    Apparently the state believes that too. So this is a tall hill to climb in order to change it.

    Electronic 'keypad' voting, which is what the article calls for, calls for voting that takes place within the fieldhouse by proprietary handheld wireless remotes. But, if Massachusetts were to ever adopt a remote voting law then I think that it would have been the result of taking a number of baby steps such that we would first go through a number of years where people would vote with keypads locally to the meeting and then when people are comfortable with that then the next step could take place.

    In fact, Westwood has written me a letter of their intent and interest to use electronic keypad voting at their town meeting and wishes to partner with Wayland on town sharing to reduce the costs to both towns. At least a 40% reduction would occur in this scenario.

    Purchasing this equipment for a maximum audience of 2,000 people has been quoted to me at $145,000 with a maintaince contract and warranty for two years included. On the third year and every year thereafter, its 8% of the purchase price. The total would work out to be $186,000 over 5 years. With 9,000 registered votes who are affected by town meeting, every town meeting, it works out to be $2 per voter per town meeting over the 5 years. Essentially $20 per voter over the 5 years.

    A rental price was quoted to be to be about 1/6th of the purchase price for one town meeting and with a 20% credit towards purchase.

    I have a decision to make on whether this will be a purchase or rental at town meeting and I am still collecting data to help me with my decision as the lead petitioner.

    But the benefits of such a system would go to the heart of improving many things which are wrong with modern day New England Town Meeting, things such as -

    -- The ability to count large numbers of votes very fast (2,000 votes in 5 seconds)
    -- The ability to achieve accurate vote counts very quickly (as opposed to our shout, stand manual methods)
    -- The ability to eliminate illegal votes (only registered voters get keypads)
    -- The ability to eliminate voter intimidation by the same privacy you have now at the polls but in your seat at town meeting.

    Other ancillary benefits come in the form of
    -- Usage of the state automation assets (currently not used) to speed up checkin
    -- Tying the electronic voting system to the clerk's state system to eliminate hours of manual voter attendance data entry.
    -- Less time for voting, more time for debate.
    -- Fast, accurate voting means no contention due to the voting process.

    Certainly we spend tons of money in Wayland on many things... but when do we spend it directly on our democracy and or privacy of the vote.

    Electronic voting is coming to Massachusetts. Not a question of IF... just a question of WHEN.

    If you want to know more... www.ElectronicVoting.info
    Last edited by AlanJReiss; 04-30-2010 at 08:05 PM. Reason: Added 'remote'

  10. #10
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    Thanks for responding...I agree it would have been nice to be able to enjoy the beach house at the same time..but I agree...I also remember a scandal involving Diebold systems...something about voting over the internet, or electronic voting machines..it does seem like it could be an issue with privacy and internet security etc..until that's perfected...I think it will be an issue...even with logins and ID's...security would be an issue..how would we know that the person logged into this is realy the person etc..
    I hate to back things up on this issue but it doesn't seem "Fair" that the town meeting hall (The High School) dosn't hold all the eligible voters...maybe we could move the meeting to the new beach house...and have it out doors...with some music in the background...so drinks to losen everyone up...or my other alternative...let's just change the structure of the town govt...go to a mayor instead of selectman...or is that not possible? Let the mayor make all the decisions for the town...it would make things easier...and like any type of system...you'll have people who are happy and people who aren't...that's the beauty of democracy...the majority should rule...

  11. #11
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    I'm not sure that Town Meeting attendance has ever exceeded the Field House capacity (1,850 or so, I think). Several years back (for the Town Center vote?), the Selectmen prepared for overflow into the HS Commons and perhaps another space, but if I recall correctly, it wasn't needed.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'm not sure that Town Meeting attendance has ever exceeded the Field House capacity (1,850 or so, I think). Several years back (for the Town Center vote?), the Selectmen prepared for overflow into the HS Commons and perhaps another space, but if I recall correctly, it wasn't needed.
    On the second town center vote we had an additional venue at the middle school. That was the one time I remember.

  13. #13
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    Default Continued....

    Quote Originally Posted by John O'Brien View Post
    I also remember a scandal involving Diebold systems...something about voting over the internet, or electronic voting machines..it does seem like it could be an issue with privacy and internet security etc..until that's perfected...I think it will be an issue...even with logins and ID's...security would be an issue..how would we know that the person logged into this is realy the person etc..
    They keypad voting systems are un-related to the Diebold systems issue or even the 'pregant chad' low tech issues of the Florida lottery.

    I can tell you that electronic keypad voting in a closed setting is trusted worldwide. The technology is used in stock holder meetings, corporations, focus groups, game shows, universities, conventions and it is used in the classrooms of the Wayland Public School system to poll test questions among a class of students quickly and privately so that the teacher can understand the comprehension of the material by the kids while the kids donít suffer embarrassment when they vote a wrong answer. The kids get to learn the material and the teachers get to learn how the kids are learning.

    Ask yourself this question: If we trust this technology to be deployed by our school system teachers to use as learning tools in the hands of our own children then why canít we trust this technology on the floor of town meeting to be used in our own hands to vote, quickly, accurately and privately?

    The system has multiple levels of security including proprietary hardware, encryption, frequency hopping, partial packets and barcode identification. The system will not be hacked and it is trusted worldwide. Nobody is going to spend the millions of dollars necessary to find some theoretical chink in the armor if that would even be possible.

    Security of this system is not an issue. I don't approach this as a novice... I have a professional background in these areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by John O'Brien View Post
    I hate to back things up on this issue but it doesn't seem "Fair" that the town meeting hall (The High School) dosn't hold all the eligible voters...maybe we could move the meeting to the new beach house...and have it out doors...with some music in the background...so drinks to losen everyone up...or my other alternative...let's just change the structure of the town govt...go to a mayor instead of selectman...or is that not possible? Let the mayor make all the decisions for the town...it would make things easier...and like any type of system...you'll have people who are happy and people who aren't...that's the beauty of democracy...the majority should rule...
    We have what we have and its 370 years old. We can complain about it or improve it. If you want a representative town meeting then submit and article for it. There is the official ballot article this May (www.Waylandvotes.org) but even if this passes it will most probably take years to get through the legislature - my bet is that it will never do that.

    Electronic voting is the closest 'silver bullet' we have to solving many problems of town meeting today.

    As for a mayor... we should be a much larger town than 13,000 to do that.
    We actually don't live in a democracy... we live in a republic of the people, by the people and for the people.
    In a republic there are certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the majority. You wouldn't want a majority to vote and take away the right of irish people to vote just because they are a majority... and same for any other ethnic or racial group etc..

    There is a thing called tyranny of the majority. This is where a group of well organized people will show up to a venue and vote in public and form a majority in the open. Any person in that group is subject to that tyranny because any person who does not vote with the group is outside the group and thus is further forced by the group... whether that person can afford it or not to vote on a particular issue.

    This is why we have privacy at the polls. We don't declare our open vote at the polls and there is no paper trail to show that the ballot machine has actuallly logged your vote... you did put in a piece of paper but your paper has no name on it so how do we know? The machine could have made two mistakes each canceling out the other. Now I don't believe that the electronic machines we use at the polls are evil or in-accurate but don't make the mistake of believing that we don't use electronics to vote already.

    Its my hope that you and the readers of WaylandeNews will come to town meeting and vote for electronic voting. This is the best and most practical way to solve many of the issues which plague and will continue to plague town meeting.

    Change is difficult but necessary. This is a necessary change.

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