Liveblogging Town Meeting

I’ve had a number of requests to recap tomorrow’s Town Meeting “just like you used to” and I’ll be doing it — with a twist.

I’m liveblogging Town Meeting, from the floor to your Internet, starting from the moment I find a seat (hopefully in the auditorium!) to the moment we have a decision. I’m doing this with a techno-assist from my neighbor and, knock wood, we won’t have to move to the back up plan, which involves my iPhone.

Oh, and it’s all going down on TheDailyGrafton.com starting around 9:30 a.m.

Who is this aimed at? People who are going to be out-of-town and checking in on their smart phones. People out running errands and hoping they can get to the high school before a vote takes place. People stuck at home with a sick kid who wants to watch the same DVD over and over instead of Town Meeting on TV.

Or people who just want to hear me snark on Town Meeting. You know, for old time’s sake. Sadly, I’m going to be a bit too busy for Bingo.

See you there!

Student layoff hits Grafton schools, pink-slipped preschoolers puzzled

As Grafton residents know, there is no definitive Plan B if the proposed Grafton High School is not approved by voters. Greater Grafton recently received a copy of “Plan C,” a super-secret proposal to have a system-wide layoff of Grafton students to ease school overcrowding.

Dear Grafton student,

We regret to inform you that budgetary and space issues have forced us to terminate your education, effective at the start of the 2010-2011 school year. We realize that this may be a difficult concept for some of you to understand — indeed, some of you may not even know how to read — so we have prepared an informational booklet, “Mr. Bobo Can’t Go To School,” for younger students.

We realize that this interferes with your life plans and may prove to be rather inconvenient for your family. After all, the area isn’t exactly teeming with affordable private schools and adjacent towns, facing their own school space woes, aren’t clamoring for school choice students. Besides, we need to spend that $9,180 ($3,000 below the state average per pupil rate) that we would have spent on your education educating other children, so we’re requesting that high school-aged kids also avoid going the charter school route…. and good luck finding a spot at Valley Tech.

By remaining education-free, you will be saving the taxpayers of Grafton the cost of building a new high school.  Should your family actually manage to sell their home in this economy, we ask that a “no children” clause be placed in the deed. Tough economic times call for creative measures, and we salute your sacrifice.

Sincerely yours,

The Grafton Public Schools

P.S. Police Chief Crepeau asks that you not turn to a life of crime to compensate for your lack of education, as he is unable to hire more police officers.

Sitter for hire

Just a note for anyone who is looking for a babysitter for Town Meeting on Feb. 6 — my son is a graduate of the middle school babysitting course. He’s 12,  can speak the language of trucks, dinosaurs and Legos with small boys and has practiced diapering on a stuffed lion… although I don’t think I’d try him on a human just yet.

Also, he’s incredibly patient with his little sister, who frequently gives him reason to be impatient. He was a favorite of the children of our former neighbors, who have sadly moved to points south.

Drop me an email at greatergrafton (at) gmail.com if you’re in the market for a sitter. Bear in mind that this is my firstborn, so I’m sure there will be interviewing for suitability on both sides!

Also, for your reading pleasure, this fact sheet on the reason why we will all be occupied on Feb. 6 — the proposed Grafton High School.

GEA School Flyer_012310

Photo of the day: Hello Scott Browne!

It was inevitable.

Oh hell, I’d vote for him just to see Scott Browne in action on the Senate floor. We’ll see you on Feb. 6 — and that reminds me, who’s up for another round of Town Meeting Bingo? We’re going to need a whole new list of box topics for this special vote on the new Grafton High School….

Where have you gone, Scott Browne?

The  most earth-shattering moment of Town Meeting? There wasn’t one.

It lasted only 45 minutes. There wasn’t a single call to “move the question,” no veiled remarks about town officials, no rending of garments over uncontrolled spending, not even a single mention of PAYT. Had I gone to the trouble of printing out a card for Town Meeting Bingo (I figure we’ll leave the next game for the Town Meeting that deals with the new Grafton High School, and we’ll have some all-new squares), I wouldn’t even had marked off the one gimme item on the card.

That’s right. Where the heck was Scott Browne last night? Does he have swine flu? Did he decide to stay in and watch “How I Met Your Mother?” Was he just not feeling argumentative?

Even if I recapped tonight minute-by-minute — and I did start taking notes with that intention, having bagged it in the spring — it would be dull as dirt. I kind of perked up when Cathy Fenton brought up Nelson Library in reference to the Grafton Public Library’s handicap accessibility funding, but even that went by the wayside.

I didn’t get to wave my blue card, not even once. I didn’t even have time to send a single blog post. My family even seemed kind of disappointed that I was home with time to spare before my youngest’s bedtime.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not longing for the Powerpoint-of-hell from last fall (which lasted longer that the entirety of tonight’s meeting). But a little razzle? A little dazzle? At least one “speak through me, the moderator?” Is that too much to ask?

Let’s get this party started 7:35-9 p.m.

TM2For the complete news about the happenings at Town Meeting, might I suggest this story? Apologies for the delay in posting — I’m taking off for New York this weekend with my mother and daughter and I’ve been putting stories in the can.

7:35 p.m. New Selectman Chairman Chris LeMay leads Town Meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance. We welcome new Town Administrator Tim McInerney, who will get to dodge verbal bullets for most of the meeting. Welcome to Grafton, Tim!

7:36 p.m. Town Clerk Maureen Clark reads the warrant. Is that a hint of impending doom I hear in her voice?

7:39 p.m. Town Moderator Roger Trahan jokes there will be no overflow crowd in the gym. He’s not kidding. There are still plenty of seats in the auditorium.

7:40 p.m. We’re given the rules that we love so well and no, they don’t count for Town Meeting Bingo. Speak through the moderator. Try not to applaud. Keep your green card close to hand and sign it if possible — we may need it if a standing vote is called for.

7:41 p.m. Town Meeting Bingo starts!

7:42 p.m. Hi George! It’s state Rep. George Peterson and, this time, he’s not out to kill Bambi! He is taking shots at the state budget, though. The fiscal picture is grim (everyone crosses off “economic climate” on their bingo cards), he has no idea how much Grafton will ultimately receive in state aid and… golly, George, you’re kind of a downer tonight.

“I wish I could give you better news,” our normally jovial state rep.  says. So do we all, George. So do we all.

7:44 p.m. The few, the proud, the recently elected are recognized, as are those who recently stepped down from public work. I wonder how many people at Town Meeting even bothered voting in last week’s election, which had no contests save library trustee.

7:45 p.m. David Ross, chairman of the Finance Committee, decides Peterson didn’t depress us enough as he delivers the address on the state of the town budget. He pointedly speaks against spending reserve cash in response to budget shortfalls and notes no economic stimulus money has been included in this budget, “Now let’s pass it.”

I cross “economic climate” off on my Town Meeting Bingo sheet. Thanks Dave! FinCom has got to be the most thankless job on the planet.

7:50 p.m. And it’s a Town Meeting Bingo double play with Scott Browne calling for a point of order! Oh Scott Browne. You never disappoint. I had no idea he was “Project Runway” model Lauren Browne’s father, something a Farmer’s Market Committee member whispers in my general direction.

7:53 p.m. And we’re on Article 1. We’re totally going to tear through this warrant.

7:54 p.m. “The unsung heroes of Town Meeting are the runners,” Roger says as a runner, um, runs a microphone over to a speaker.

7:55 p.m. We’re on Article 5. And business grinds to a halt.

Selectman Peter Adams “with regret” is going against the vote of his fellow members and calling for Town Meeting to overturn plans to begin pay as you throw (PAYT) in July. He says we’ve had trash service for 35 years and shouldn’t change it.

7:56 p.m. “Hidden tax.” Another one for the bingo card!

8:05 p.m. I have written down “Tim’s still talking.” I have no idea when he started speaking. I’ve seen Town Administrator Tim McInerney run through the PAYT Powerpoint (another bingo check!) so many times I’m just keeping my ear open for quotes and watching the crowd. I’m betting most people came to Town Meeting with their minds made up one way or another, and a little bit of that McInerney black magic isn’t going to change it. He puts in a valiant effort, though, and my husband just scowls at me the next day when I cheerfully give him the stat that our trash bags are only going to cost 13-24 cents more per bag once we’re in PAYT mode.

8:10 p.m. Someone asks if the town will go back to regular trash pickup if the economy improves. Tim: “Fees generally don’t change. They don’t go away.” He’s honest about it, in any case. He also notes they are an incentive to recycle more, since we’re not getting charge extra for recycling.

8:15 p.m. Ray Meade calls the entire exercise “a mishigas.”

You go Ray with your crazy Yiddish! He notes that Town Meeting cannot overturn a decision of the Board of Selectmen, so why the heck are we wasting all this time talking about it? Shouldn’t all of this talk have been happening when Selectmen were actually considering it?

8:18 p.m. Bill McCusker asks the BOS what they plan to do if Town Meeting rejects PAYT. It’s a good question.

“We built our budget on PAYT,” Selectmen Craig Dauphinais said.

Chairman Chris LeMay notes that he puts out one bag of trash for two people and suggests that people who generate little trash really shouldn’t have to cover the cost of people who generate a lot of trash.

Selectman Mary Ann Cotton says it’s “the right next step.”

Selectman Brook Padgett says “I think this is the right thing to do whether we need to do it or not,” citing the need to reduce the trash stream.

Yup. This isn’t a board that’s going to say “oh, you don’t want PAYT? My bad.”

8:22 p.m. Ernest Peters takes the microphone. Hi Ernie! He’s kind of Grafton’s sixth selectman — he goes to every meeting — and he was recently appointed to the Board of Health.

“I’m old,” he says. “And we need to go forward here. We’ve been a throwaway society for 35-40 years.”

Ernie says he was against PAYT until he talked about the issue with the recycling committee. Now he’s one of its biggest supporters and he recycles 2/3 of his trash.

8:24 p.m. PAYT is called, again, an additional tax that has nothing to do with recycling.

8:25 p.m. Will PAYT affect condos? No.

8:36 p.m. Our first “speak into the microphone” of the night.

“This is a disincentive to properly dispose of our trash.”

8:39 p.m. Why aren’t we laying off town employees so we can fund trash pickup?

8:41 p.m. Scott Browne brings up the library budget. He’s told to wait until the budget to do so. He notes the library budget has not decreased despite the closing of the two branches and tying it in with the trash pickup costs — isn’t this a place where we could have cut instead?

8:43 p.m. Move the question!

8:45 p.m. I have two winning Bingo cards, one at 8:43 p.m., one at 8:44 p.m. Congrats Teri and Chris!

Chris’ card: A wait for clarification, hidden tax, free bingo space, point of order, Powerpoint.

Teri’s card: Powerpoint, “keep it the way it is,” speak into the microphone, comment through the moderator, free bingo space.

8:46 p.m. There’s a call for a standing count — Roger can’t tell from the show of hands. It’s very close.

A man behind me gripes about having to hold up a “green card” because he’s not an immigrant. He was also grumbling earlier about Tim and a few other town employees not living in Grafton.  It’s like my own personal version of talk radio.

8:55 p.m. And the vote is 146-158 for PAYT. A man objects, saying the people who were counting the votes voted for PAYT so were biased. There’s some back and forth. School Committee member Donna Stock, as one of the counters, is personally offended, as she should be.

9 p.m. People are leaving. People are leaving. We just finished Article 5 and the next thing up is the budget and people are leaving? They came to Town Meeting to vote on something that didn’t count and never was going to count and they’re leaving before the articles that actually count?

More TK…

For the love of Kay Whynot

Before we start the recap, I’d like you all to take a good look at this picture.

KayWhynot

This is the vote against PAYT last night, which I post not to show people who were against it or even Keith Regan working diligently away on his laptop. See, Keith told me today that this row — my row, the one I sat in for most of the night — included none other than Tony Kavanaugh, aka, Kay Whynot.

You’d think, given my torrid love affair, that I would have recognized the gentleman but, alas, I did not. I’m told the man in question is not the guy next to Keith in the blue windbreaker but the man next to him.

So when next week’s column features a chastisement of the bingo players in his row, now you know — it’s just a secret yearning for the chick with the iPhone.

It’s almost 3 a.m.

I’m going to bed.

Here’s something to tide you over until I have time to go through last night’s 5 hour marathon minute-by-minute.

While you’re over at GraftonTimes.com — because you know I just linked to the story — check out the baseball and softball stories by Amber Vaillancourt, our new sports reporter!

PAYT at TM?

Am I ever going to get tired of the alphabet soup that is a pay as you throw headline? Probably not.

I’m told there’s a petition going around to put PAYT on the warrant for the May Town Meeting. I don’t know the actual wording or if it’s binding or non-binding; I have a call into Tim McInerney.

This throws a bit of a wrench into the works. The town budget is kind of built on having this thing. I imagine if it’s binding and it passes, we’re going to have a long night hacking money out of various departments. Possibly Tim or the Finance Committee may have to have a back-up budget plan in place (God, who wants to do TWO budgets?).

In any case, there’s a meeting on PAYT tonight at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Center’s Conference Room B. I may end up dragging my daughter there after all if I don’t hear from Tim — and yes, that’s not an idle threat!

Plus: Handy link to all the town’s information about PAYT!

Show me the money!

The governor is supposed to delve a bit more into just how much local aid will be cut on Friday when he meets with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, according to acting Town Admin. McInerney.

That’s right. It’s no longer a “will it be cut” but a “by how much?” He even told Selectmen this week that he’s starting the process of informing the unions that they should be preparing seniority lists for the inevitable layoffs or, as he put it “serious reductions in staff.”

Kind of makes you want to scream, doesn’t it?

I propose we run Town Meeting and the upcoming election “American Idol” style. To vote, you need to call or text, and the town gets a cut of the take. Sure, the tweens will all vote for the cutest candidates, and the town moderator will have to study the judgmental stylings of Simon Cowell (“I’m sorry, that motion on the floor sounds like something you’d hear on a cruise ship”), Paula Abdul (“You look really pretty tonight, but I’m not seeing the colors in your argument”) or Randy Jackson (“Dawg, you’re kind of pitchy, can you speak through me?”), but how else are we going to fund the town?