Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A citizen tries to ask the Mayor a question and is rebuffed

A Boston resident who tried to testify about the meals tax at the State House yesterday, and who tried to ask the Mayor a question was rebuffed by both yesterday:

Was at the State House intending to testify about recommending that local options taxes be used as an offset to the property tax rather than incremental revenue and, no surprise, Mayor Menino showed up about a half hour into the meeting. After he testified I noticed that he was being interviewed in the hall outside. I went out and waited politely for him to finish a television interview. As he wrapped up and walked away I asked (loudly so he could definitely hear me) "Mr. Mayor - where is the revenue shortage in the budget coming from?" He ignored me, but an aide quickly jumped in and asked if I had a question for the Mayor (I guess as just a lowly constituent I'm not allowed to address his highness directly). I explained to the aide that if property taxes are fully funded and the cuts in state aid have been fully offset by stimulus funds and other cost savings already identified, there should be little or no shortfall in the 2010 budget so why is the mayor threatening to lay off half the city workers? The aide's response was that we hadn't received the stimulus money yet (perhaps the Treasury Secretary is going to cancel the check that's in the mail?). The Mayor escaped once again without answering my question.

Hint - the Mayor's assistants have better reflexes than the president's Secret Service - be prepared to sidestep them if you want to ask the mayor a question in public - he still won't answer you - but it'll be harder to ignore you and the reporters might someday find it odd that the Mayor won't answer what should be a simple and straightforward question. Real man of the people!

By the way - after 6 hours of waiting to testify with no break, no food and no drink in a room that had to be about 85 degrees by mid-afternoon I started to get physically ill and had to leave. So much for democracy in the modern age where someone could have texted/emailed me with 30 minutes notice to just walk across the Common from my office to the State House (there wasn't even a posting of the order of testimony - the Chair had complete control). Of course dozens of elected officials, lobbyists, business interests and more state health officials than I could ever imagine even worked for the state got to testify. The "people" like me who are there on their own time get to go last - or not at all if they eventually get sick and leave which seems to be the point of the whole exercise.

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