2 thoughts on “LETTER: Areas Covered by CPA Should be Covered by Town Budget, Not More Taxes

  1. Dear Friends,
    You would think that a ballot question asking people to vote for an increase in their already high taxes to pay for some vaguely defined purposes would not have a ghost of a chance of being approved. Yet, judging from the number of “Vote Yes on 5” signs one sees around Watertown, this is not the case. So what is going on here?

    I think a key explanation is that the CPA ballot question is not presented in the way the four Massachusetts ballot questions are, with an Information for Voters booklet that for each question gives a summary, says what a YES vote and a NO vote will do, gives a statement of fiscal consequences, and, most important, gives carefully thought out arguments both for IN FAVOR and AGAINST. Lacking this, it is very difficult for Watertown voters to get a really clear picture of what is involved in approving the CPA ballot question. Supporters of the CPA question can campaign with almost slogan-like simplistic arguments for voting in favor of the CPA such as those to be found in the InvestInWatertown.org website and it requires considerable effort on the part of voters to see that there are very strong and detailed arguments for voting against the CPA.

    The essential thing for voters on the CPA ballot question to realize is that Watertown already provides for a great many services for its residents including good public schools, a free public library, a police and fire department, utilities, voting facilities, public transportation, road repair, street lighting, trash pickup, playgrounds, snow removal, and yes, affordable housing. These services are paid for by the high property taxes that we pay. However, no matter how many services the town provides, all of us have wish lists of additional services we would like to see. I, for example, would love to see bike-lanes on all streets, much improved public transportation, and a community center with an Olympic-size swimming pool. Unfortunately Watertown does not have unlimited resources to pay for everything people would like. Priorities have to be made. If people have particular projects they would like the town to provide, the machinery for this is already in place. The Town Council can introduce, debate, on vote on measures for appropriating tax money for these projects within the existing tax structure. This, however, does not satisfy some people who feel, rightly or not, that there is little if any chance that their projects can be approved because of unavoidable budgetary limitations. Thus, for example, some feel that the already substantial affordable housing made possible by the town is inadequate. Instead of respecting the existing tax structure and Town Council machinery and trying to solicit voluntary charitable contributions to help a few still in need, they are resorting to the devious device of circumventing the Town Council by way of the CPA ballot question. The same is true for others who have vaguely defined open space projects they would like. If the CPA ballot question is approved, all taxpayers will be forced by increases in their already high taxes to pay for the pet projects of a small number of people. The supporters of the CPA question are counting on that, unlike the four State ballot questions, there is no readily available clear detailed statement and rebuttal of their superficially appealing arguments to persuade voters to vote against their own real interests. Voters should not be taken in and vote an emphatic NO on Question 5!

    • Maybe there is another explanation Robert, for all the “yes” signs you see. Perhaps there are many Watertowners who have a deep sense of civic pride and want the things that CPA can bring to our town. Perhaps they realize that CPA could have augmented town funds for costs that we had to bear on our own because we rejected CPA in 2005. Perhaps they do understand that there will be community process and a Town Council vote on all projects. Perhaps they are fully informed and actually support the CPA.

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