Columnist Susan Timberlake: Seeking Smarter, More Effective Government

Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazzette. Support local news!

I read with great interest the column by Clare Higgins “Reflections on Obama Presidency” (Weekend Gazette, Dec. 31-Jan. 1).

She is an accomplished politician and executive. More importantly, she actually knows how to use power and get things done. She is one of my favorite Democrats.

I mention this because, as a lifelong Republican, I seek out leaders who have demonstrated experience and ability. They must be able to articulate their plans, justify them with argument and be willing to use all avenues of available power to get them done. There must also be transparency.

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Vote vote vote 2015

Election day for 2015 is coming up in 11 days.  There aren’t any statewide offices or voter initiatives to consider this year, but there are races for school committee, city council, mayor, and other local offices in many communities.  Find out what’s going on in your town, and get out to vote on Tuesday after next, November 3rd.

Of course, you can’t vote if you aren’t enrolled, so all of us here at Civil Politics urge you to register ASAP.   It’s quite simple if you live here in Massachusetts, especially if you have a driver’s license.  You can register at any RMV office, by mail, or with an online form at the secretary of state’s website.

Even if you are registered to vote, that website has lots of helpful information, and in particular, they have an easy to use online form to check on your registration status.  All you need is your name, date of birth, and zip code, and if you are currently registered, it will pop up with a detailed list of where your polling place is, all the state and federal elected officials you can vote for (with links to their websites).  You should definitely take a moment to double check that you haven’t slipped through the cracks.

Remember: you’re going to have to live with the results whether you vote or not, so take action for the world you want.

–MSD

Our Panel’s Opinions on the Massachusetts Ballot Questions

Still making up your mind about the four referenda on the MA state ballot tomorrow?

Here’s where our panel came down on them on our first (sadly, unrecorded) show:

Question 1 “De-Indexing the Gasoline tax from the inflation rate”
This basically means that the state’s tax per gallon of gas (which is independent of the price of gas itself) will not automatically adjust up or down based on the changing value of the dollar. Over time, therefore, the funds raised by the tax will be less and less adequate to pay for upkeep on our highways and bridges.

Susan and George both agreed that we have to maintain the roads, which means we have to pay for it somehow, so a minimal tax that will keep pace with inflation (and, as Susan pointed out, that one can avoid by using less gasoline) seems the way to go. Changing the status quo means that we will have to endure more debates in the legislature over taxes, all of which will either end in raising taxes to do what the law currently does anyway, or else in skimping on life-saving bridge maintenance.

Our panel thus urges you to vote NO on Question 1.

Question 2 “Expanding the bottle bill”
The original bottle bill was an enormous success, reducing litter and increasing recycling rates across the state. The difference between rates of recycling of glass bottles that have a deposit and those that don’t is stark.

Susan also pointed out that the deposit incentivizes people to actively collect and recycle stuff others have discarded, a market-driven solution that she heartily approves.

Since recycling is a public good, and this will lead to more of it, our panel thus urges you to vote YES on Question 2.

Question 3 “Banning all casino gambling in MA”

The economic benefits of casinos are, at best, mixed. The jobs they create are almost all service jobs, and the money they bring in does not typically significantly benefit the community they’re in. Also, they do not create new wealth or prosperity, but merely siphon off already extant surplus. George also points out that, with casinos closing across the country, it seems unlikely that casinos in Springfield, Boston, or elsewhere in the state will thrive.

Despite that, our panel split on this question, with Susan suggesting a YES vote on Question 3, and George a NO on Question 3. George reasoned that, since the casino project in Springfield has been building steam for years, and the state legislature has more than once allowed it continue, it seems silly to call a halt now.

Question 4 “Earned sick time for employees of companies will 11 or more employees”

This law will make it much easier for sick people to stay home from work, which is a wise public health measure, as well as an important quality of life issue.

The measure will also apply when caring for immediate family members, so folks can stay home with kids, ailing parents, and siblings. It will, of course, modestly increase payroll costs for any businesses in the state that do not already grant sick time to their workers, but Susan pointed out that healthy workers are more productive, and George opined that having one person stay home for a day or two was better than having everyone in the office get sick.

Our panel thus urges you to vote YES on Question 4.