Articles #17 and #18: Less Democracy for You

By S.D. Plissken | March 3, 2020

Article #17 shares with Article #18 a proposed structural change to the Town government, sought by that same Town government, by which democracy in Milton is to be reduced.

That would be sufficient reason – in and of itself – to vote against both of these articles. In a 1947 speech before the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill observed that “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government, except for all those other forms.” If Churchill’s witticism is correct, Milton’s Board of Selectmen proposes changing our worst form of government to one of those other forms that are even worse. Worser? Worstest?

(Having just participated in Hitler’s downfall and facing then Stalin’s erection of the Iron Curtain, Churchill had some experience of authoritarian socialist forms of government, whether of either the National or the International variety).

The “Independent” Capital Improvement Committee, To Be Appointed by the Milton Board of Selectmen

Article 17: Establishment of Independent Capital Improvement Committee

Shall the Town vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to establish an independent committee pursuant to RSA 674:5 to prepare and amend the recommended program of municipal Capital Improvement Projects and to make budgetary recommendations to the Board of Selectmen. The committee, to be known as the Capital Improvement Program Committee, will have five (5) voting members to be appointed by the Board of Selectmen, and shall include at least One (1) member of the Planning Board.

Recommended by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0).

RSA 674:5. LOCAL LAND USE PLANNING AND REGULATORY POWERS. Capital Improvements Program. 674:5 Authorization. – In a municipality where the planning board has adopted a master plan, the local legislative body may authorize the planning board to prepare and amend a recommended program of municipal capital improvement projects projected over a period of at least 6 years. As an alternative, the legislative body may authorize the governing body of a municipality to appoint a capital improvement program committee, which shall include at least one member of the planning board and may include but not be limited to other members of the planning board, the budget committee, or the town or city governing body, to prepare and amend a recommended program of municipal capital improvement projects projected over a period of at least 6 years. The capital improvements program may encompass major projects being currently undertaken or future projects to be undertaken with federal, state, county and other public funds. The sole purpose and effect of the capital improvements program shall be to aid the mayor or selectmen and the budget committee in their consideration of the annual budget.

The Capital Improvement Program has proven itself to be an abject failure in its stated objective of preventing tax spikes. It has instead produced a single rapidly-increasing tax slope – the upslope of single giant tax spike. Okay, anyone can see that, and feel it in every tax increase, so it is well past time to just get rid of it. Aah, therein lies the problem. It is in the very nature of government, and its interventions of every kind, that its abject failures are never “backed out” as they should be. Instead, government prefers always to “fix” its mistakes through applying more money and time in further interventions, which also fail.

For example, government-imposed wage freezes during WW II caused labor shortages. Naturally, due to nature’s laws of supply and demand, anyone would know that. Thus constrained, employers sweetened their wage offers with additional health care expense coverage. Now, wages and health care do not belong together in the normal course of events. The connections should have been dissolved when victory was achieved and price controls no longer necessary. But post-war governments instead enshrined, codified, regulated, and even required such employer health care coverage. And every subsequent problem and intervention by them has led us further and further down the garden path to the unaffordable health care we see today.

But, back to our failed cost-smoothing CIP intervention which (in conjunction with bloated fund balances) instead drives Milton taxes higher, ever higher. Government cannot bring itself to back out its failed intervention, so there must be instead further interventions. This particular intervention would remove the taxpayer’s check-and-balance of voting democratically for more reasonable, and thus slightly more accountable, Planning Board members (I know, “reasonable” central planning is an oxymoron).

We will have instead an appointed CIP Committee, whose members will be accountable only to the Board of Selectmen, who have themselves proven to be generally unaccountable.

Less democracy for you.

(See also Standing Idle, Capital Reduction Program (CRP)Milton and the Knowledge Problem, and Rubber Stamps).

The Milton Fire Chief, To Be Appointed by the Milton Board of Selectmen

The current fire chief is a fine man, although I have disagreed with some of his initiatives. (We could talk about that some other time). Although he has been challenged at the polls, he would likely be re-elected in perpetuity. But the Town’s “Master Plan” – a term usually associated with movie super-villains – plans for “us” to have an appointed fire chief rather than an elected one. You have to love these guys, right?

Article 18: Elected to Appointed Fire Chief

To see if the Town will vote in accordance with RSA 154:1, IV to change the organization of the fire department from RSA 154:1(c) where the Fire Chief is elected by the legislative body to RSA 154:1(a) where the Fire Chief is appointed by the Board of Selectmen and with the firefighters being appointed by the Fire Chief. When approved, the change from an elected to an appointed Fire Chief would take place no sooner than one (1) year following this vote. (Majority vote required).

Recommended by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0).

The “when approved” portion of this is perhaps a bit presumptuous, even for misguided authoritarians. “If approved” would have been more correct when seeking to know “if the Town will vote.”

Imagine, if you will, that in the fullness of time our current fire chief – who currently holds his office through election – retires. The Board of Selectmen would appoint his replacement. It would be “in their gift,” as they say. I cannot see how that might be preferable to the election of his replacement by the voters of that distant time.

It works the other way round too. Imagine some tyrannical future Board of Selectmen simply dismissing this now-electable fire chief for some reason of their own, some unreasonable reason. Future voters will have little recourse, as you will have given up their democratic choice.

Less democracy for you, no democracy for them.

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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