, Newburyport, MA

October 21, 2013

Troubling questions in Amesbury election

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Three aspects of the Amesbury election season are troubling me.

First, when did local elections in Amesbury include discussion about whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican? One of the wonderful things about municipal elections has been that a person’s party did not matter. The candidates are supposed to be concerned about the interests of all citizens, not the interests of a particular party. As of Sept. 30, the majority of Amesbury voters had no party affiliation (approximately 59 percent). Do the candidates in Amesbury care about representing these voters, or are the candidates simply toeing the party line for the minority?

Second, when did Amesbury create a group of second-class citizens who are supposedly not qualified to participate in the community? I have read and heard negative comments about citizens who are newcomers, renters or without children in the public school system. Apparently, the full and equal participation of these citizens is under siege despite the fact that there are many of us who have belonged through the years to any or all of these categories. Voters should beware of this issue while focusing on all the other issues affecting Amesbury every day.

Third, how can the tax rate and spending be major issues in Amesbury, and yet the candidates are providing no constructive examples showing what it would take to curb these items? The reality is that there are primarily three options available to impact the tax rate in the immediate future: 1) cut spending, 2) split the tax rate by reducing the residential rate and shifting an increase onto the business rate, or 3) do a combination of the first two options. I have heard that the mayoral candidates are against the split tax rate. What I have not heard is a hypothetical scenario showing some specific spending cuts that might be made. For instance, since a reduction in the tax rate by 25 cents is currently valued at approximately $450,000, what spending cuts would be required to meet that number? How many employees would have to be laid off or have their hours reduced? What other cuts would have to be made? What are the repercussions to economic development and future tax revenues? What are the effects on city services?

Before the November election takes place, the voters deserve more detailed information from the candidates illustrating some potential spending cuts as well as the candidates’ stand on making any of these cuts, no matter how controversial. Then let the voters decide which candidate is proposing a spending level and tax rate that would provide citizens with an acceptable future for their city.

Rosemary Cashman