Sir, Your Choice is No Choice

In a letter to the editor of the notoriously progressive and misinformed Milford Cabinet the Moderator of the Town of Amherst, NH takes the paper to task for mistaking a point he made about “choices” at a Town Meeting.

The link is here:

http://www.cabinet.com/cabinet/cabinetletters/1058452-308/editorial-misconstrued-statement-made-at-deliberative-session.html

The Moderator, Steve Coughlan, wants to make sure he is quoted correctly in that he was NOT in favor of amending the town budget at the Deliberative Session because the attempt was to make the Default Budget equal to the proposed Operating Budget.

The Moderator has a point.

The Deliberative Session of an SB#2 municipality is what the good old fashioned Amherst Town Meeting used to be. The Moderator seems to be a fan of those more interactive “traditional” meetings.

So am I.

But he goes off the truth rails a bit with his next suggestion, about which he seems to be quite uninformed.

Moderator Coughlan says in his rebuttal to the hapless Milford Cackle, his point about choice is related to the loss of choice by having ballot voting.

Here is his quote:

“In any voting scenario, the same budget would be adopted, and no useful information would be provided by the thousands of voters who turned out to take time to exercise their will… we would only know the will of the 126 voters who attended the deliberative session. Which is exactly the argument used by SB2 proponents to remove decision making power from traditional school meetings, and instead to give it to all who come out on voting day.”

Now hold it right there Bucko!

Here is the jist of Article 23, the Amherst Operating Budget:

To see if the voters of the Town of Amherst will appopriate the sum of $12 million or so dollars or the Default number of $12 million or so dollars for the operation of the town of Amherst. (That's it in a nutshell. Some choice, eh.?)

Let’s have a little history lesson for the Amherst Town Moderator.

I was around and in the room when most of Senate Bill #2 was drafted back in 1995. And I know the “purpose” of SB#2. And it is not your version.

If I am not mistaken, your town operating budget is a bottom line budget of $12,427,814.00 or the default budget of $363,000.00 less. So it looks like you are a champion of two choices.

What a hero.

Senate Bill #2 was in reaction to the removal of ALL choice from voters with the now predominant bottom line budgets municipalities started providing as “choice” back in the 1970’s.

I remember a time when town halls were packed and we voted on the operating budget - line by line.

First we voted by ballot on Article 1. during the day for officers. Next, at Town Meeting we started by voting on the Executive Budget, the Highway Budget, the Police Budget, Animal Control, and so on until midnight.

Voting on each department line by line is a “traditional” town meeting with choice, not the bottom line, heads we win tails you lose, method we see today.

Voters are smart enough to see a rigged game. That is why SB#2 is so popular and no community can muster the votes to rescind it once voters see how it works.

Tell the truth Moderator Coughlan. Will you support a real town meeting in Amherst?