Letter to editor, March 18, 2019
We are being misled on the override. I am writing to alert our community about two instances of deliberate misinformation being spread in our community in the override debate. I respect the informed opinions of my neighbors who choose to vote yes or no with a clear-eyed understanding of the ramifications. What I can never respect is any attempt to mislead me or my neighbors. This happened twice in one weekend and I'm raising the alarm.
First, I received a misleading flyer published by Melrose Taxpayers' Alliance (MTA). Front-and-center they claim that Melrose has lots of “left over cash.” Millions of dollars---a surplus, you might think. This is false. There is no year-to-year surplus. It only happens when we are lucky and don't have a heavy snow removal winter and doesn't happen when we are unlucky and have to pay for unexpected things like replacements for broken down fire engines, roof repairs or the like. What they imply is surplus, "left over cash", is actually prudent budgeting ahead for predictable one-time expenses like the budget you and I keep around for flat tires, house repairs and other un-expected one-time expenses. The State Department of Revenue recommends that cities generate free cash equal to 3 - 5% of their annual operating budget as Melrose has done. If we fail to budget for those one-time expenses, we risk losing the AA+ bond rating the MTA tout and our city leaders sweat to maintain. Calling it a surplus is deliberately misleading.
Second are the false claims made face-to-face to community businesses like Stephen's Auto Body---a business who regularly supports our city and schools including a playground donations for the Horace Mann school and car donations for MHS drunk driving awareness skits. A weekend ago Stephen’s agreed to allow a “vote no” sign after being told that the override taxes would be applied only to business owners, with no mention of its necessity for our schools and an implication that it was meant to drive businesses out in favor of condos. If that were true, I'd have a “vote no” sign in my yard too! But it’s not true, of course. I took to social media to express surprise at the signs and ended up talking with owner Scott Longmuir. The truth is that neighborhood businesses like Stephen’s want to do their part with the rest of us. Upon reading up and finding out the truth, Scott thanked me for raising the issue and explained that he and his family had been misled by the folks with the black “Vote No” sign. Two other business owners have independently spoken out that they were told similar lies.
Finally, just this week after witnessing wild conspiracy theories abound on the internet---for your sanity, never, never read the comments folks---I see a letter from veteran Alderman Medeiros stipulating we cannot act unless there is an independent audit of our finances. But the books are already open to her and the community and have been for years and under her own supervision. The truth is that there is no conspiracy in our schools or at city hall---only our friends and neighbors doing their best with for our community with dwindling resources. The picture is already clear, has been for years and it won't get better with time. Just like rising real estate prices it is getting more expensive to run a city in eastern Massachusetts.
Please make sure your friends and neighbors have not been misled by the likes of the MTA who have broken trust with the community. Read, talk and get the facts---they are available. Mayor Infurna has laid them out time and again in detail with clarity and transparency. Our city budget requires action in the form of a tax override if we are to maintain our current standards---costs are rising faster than 2.5% per year and we must balance the budget with an override. There's not much more to it than that.
Big picture, it’s simple: vote ‘yes’ to to keep the standard of the Melrose we all know; vote ‘no’ to accept a city that gets less and therefore does less. We should all be afforded the right to decide based upon the facts, not distortions or outright lies.