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Common Sense: John DiMascio

Some People Are More Equal Than Others?

Several months ago I opened my municipal tax bill. Enclosed was an unusual questionnaire. Normally, I’d consider surveys a waste of time and a perfectly good tree. But, since my tax dollars were being used to distribute it, the least I should do was check it out. Lo and behold the sheet was laden with “leading” questions designed to raise interest and support for the tax increase now being shilled as the Community Preservation Act.

A few weeks later, I was inadvertently included in an email distribution. The sender was looking for volunteers to sift through these same questionnaires. I also noticed most of the other email recipients were associated with the Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety or other like-thinking special interest groups. Since this information was solicited at taxpayer expense, I found it very disturbing. Apparently this data was collected for and being used by de-facto lobbyists to build their base of support. But at the time, I let it go. I told myself, there are only so many battles one can fight at once .

More recently, another group who receives taxpayer money, Watertown Community Housing, sent out CPA campaign and fundraising material. Of course, they have every right to lobby their causes. However, in the past, the Town Council has appropriated funds so Watertown Community Housing could help the less fortunate. In light of their behavior, the Council and the taxpayers should now know better. If Watertown Community Housing has money to waste promoting tax increases, they don’t need the town’s money to help those in need.

On a far more serious note. The Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government has received more than one report that public resources are being directly used to promote the CPA.

Not only are they trying to raise our taxes, they are indirectly and possibly directly, using our money to fund their campaign. Forget the possible legal questions for the moment. This is like the guy who proposed marriage to his girlfriend after stealing her money to buy the engagement ring. Worst still, like leeches sponsoring a blood drive and charging the donors for the needle. For Pete’s sake, even charities provide a stamped self-addressed envelope.

It is quite clear, these particular CPA proponents suffer from a severe case of EDD; Ethical Deficit Disorder.

Let’s talk about the most recent outrage; The Faire on the Square. Those who rent tables are well informed of the rules. No politics allowed.

On September 13 th, Michael Donham, speaking for the committee in charge, reminded everyone; political advertising, verbal campaigning, and campaign literature were not welcome. At the time, Councilor Portz raised a reasonable point. He said: "Politics are part of what the community is all about." I happen to agree with Councilor Portz. Nevertheless, the rules -- are still the rules!

Let there be no misunderstanding, we are not talking about free speech here. There is no specious First Amendment argument to be made. We are talking about violating the rules set by the committee in charge of an event. No one forces anyone to participate. When you rent a table, you agree to follow the rules; whether you agree with them or not.

Imagine my dismay when I walked by the WCES booth and saw their volunteers handing out literature and soliciting signatures for the CPA.

Why so shocked; you might ask. It’s pretty simple. The WCES claims to be “Watertown’s Voice for Social Justice”. My concept of social justice includes equal rules for equal people. Apparently their concept is somewhat different. Rules don’t apply to them. I guess some people are more equal than others.

Of course, it is also fair to ask whether or not Councilor Falkoff was involved. After all, she was a longtime president of the WCES and is still a very active member. To her credit, she was neither manning the WCES station nor openly campaigning. In fact, when I asked how things were going at the WCES booth, she said she was not there on behalf of any group or cause. She was simply there as Susan.

Fair enough Susan; but please answer a simple question. Do you denounce the WCES for refusing to play by the rules? We would not want the voters to think you suffer from the same Ethical Deficit Disorder.

Democracy only works if all the people play by the same rules. I hope next year the rules for the Faire are different. All the candidates should be invited to have booths. All sides of ballot initiatives should be encouraged to make their case to Watertown. What better place than the Faire on Square?

In the mean time consider this, over that infamous cup of coffee Tolman wants you to give up to fund the CPA slush fund: The people asking us to vote for a tax increase could not be trusted to respect a simple rule. Can they be trusted with our money or our vote?

John DiMascio

Communications Director
Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government


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