Archive for November 2011

Oops! My Bad!

By William F. Zachmann for the Duxbury Clipper

Debbie Bornheimer and Jane Bradley, in a letter to the editor last week, pointed out an error in my recounting of the history of the Duxbury Free Library project (“Learning from the Library”, October 12, 2011). They are correct. I got some of it wrong. I want to thank them for pointing out my error. I inadvertently mixed up the 1995 Annual Town Meeting vote on the library project at the Upper Alden School with the 1996 Special Town Meeting vote on the redo of the Lower Alden School.

Starting from my own memory of the project, I had gone to my collection of Duxbury Annual Town Reports to check the record. My recollection was that it had originally come in as a more costly project to Duxbury’s taxpayers but that, after being turned down at Town Meeting, it came back in a significantly less costly but still completely adequate version.

I remembered thinking at the time that Debbie and the other supporters of the library had done a magnificent job saving Duxbury’s taxpayers a lot of money while still getting us a very fine library. Though not sure of the dates, I recalled opposing the project as originally proposed (in 1993) but admired Debbie’s persistence and hard work in coming back a couple years later with a better project that cost taxpayers less; one that I actively supported and voted for at Town Meeting (in 1995).

A challenge, however, of being an unpaid citizen journalist with sometimes contrarian and not always popular ideas is to find enough time fully to research the background of issues. That challenge is even greater when the research source is old Duxbury Town Reports lacking tables of contents or indexes, like those for the first half of the 1990s. One must leaf through them page by page to locate information, going back and forth from one to the other to put together the historical sequence.

In fact, I got most of it right. My error, in my haste to wrap writing that particular column and get on to trying to make enough money to be able to pay my own Duxbury real estate taxes, was mistakenly to copy information from October 15, 1996 STM Article 1 rather than correctly from March 11, 1995 ATM Article 10. That is surely a significant error. My bad! My apologies to readers!

Please do let us note, however, that the fundamental point remains: By sending the original plan “back to the drawing boards” in 1993 Duxbury’s citizens, voters, and taxpayers got a much better deal for the Duxbury Free Library in 1995. True, superficially both ATM Article 37 in 1993 and ATM Article 10 in 1995 apparently were for the same amount: $5.5 million. But in the 1993 article, taxpayers would have been required to pay for the entire amount. In the 1995 article, taxpayers were on the hook for 55% less, only $3 million, saving the taxpayers $2.5 million obtained through a state grant and private donations.

Unfortunately with the current schools project, rather than to seek a better deal, Duxbury’s voters have chosen to do the equivalent of whipping out an American Express card to pay a luxury car dealer’s initial asking price for a fancy new Cadillac Escalade or BMW X5 SUV loaded with all the accessories. “No matter the cost! I’ll take it!”

Out with Yankee thrift! On with the new debt-driven borrow now pay later 21st Century conspicuous consumer society! Well, good luck paying your real estate taxes (and all your other bills) over the next two decades! If you are part of Occupy Wall Street’s underprivileged 99%, you are going to need it!