Call to Gardner Homeowner Parents: Run for City Council in 2023

GRAVITAS . . . . Fair and Brutal Opinion (Trapped by Facts)

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About Contributing Journalist Scott J. Graves in his own words

Scott J. Graves, Esq., B.S. Biology, M.S. Pharmacology, J.D. Law – Father, Born-and-Bred Gardnerien-American, Gardner Native of Acadien Heritage, Gardner High School Class of 1982, Gardner Citizen-Voter, Gardner Homeowner/Taxpayer, 30-year Gardner Business Owner, 30-year Gardner Lawyer, former 16-year Gardner City Councillor, former Gardner City Council President, and former Gardner City Solicitor and Head of the City of Gardner Law Department.

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Call to Gardner Homeowner Parents: Run for City Council in 2023

We are now into the 2023 City of Gardner Election Season. The City Election will take place one year from now – on Nov. 7, 2023.

All of you Homeowner Parents can be a City Councillor – you have a full year to make this happen. 

You already have two of the five requirements by being a Homeowner Taxpayer and a Parent.  The only other qualifications you need are: 1) to be a registered voter over 18, 2) the capacity to speak your independent thought, 3) selflessness, and 4) common sense.

Yes, those qualities are rare, and it’s asking a lot.  But, you are out there – you know who you are. 

If you lack confidence, just take a gander at who is sitting around the City Council table these days.

You can do this. We need you to step up.

But, don’t think it’s as easy as the way the present City Councillors do it – by showing up twice a month at a 20-minute Meeting and saying “yes” when their name is called, and doing nothing else.

If you are going to run, go into it with the attitude that you are going to try your best to make a change, that you will be informed and prepared, and that you will contribute to the best interests of the Citizens. Anyone can go through the motions, and be a sleepwalker – which is what you are seeing now.

You must be willing to think your own way, and not be afraid or feel too threatened to speak your own mind. These are truly rare abilities.  But, those of you are out there who can do it.

Anyone can act like a babysitter to keep all the children in single-file, and “be nice.”  That’s what’s going on now.  Playing house.  Being nice.  Being agreeable. Don’t argue.  Don’t debate.  Be nice. “How was your weekend?, but don’t question the Mayor, he is great (just ask him).”  We don’t need more phonies – we are inundated with them.  We need Citizen Warriors. We need backbones, temerity, intestinal fortitude. We don’t need more fake obsequients.

We need the Parents – the Homeowner Parents.

Why? Because everything wasted by City Government falls on two classes of Citizens: 1) Parents, and 2) Homeowner Taxpayers. If you are both, you are getting the Harrison Bergeron Double-Whammy.

Only those with the most at stake, and with the most at risk, with the most skin in the game, know enough about life in order to be able to run things at City Hall. Use your common sense, and protect your kids/grandkids – and your property rights.

Of course, if you think tearing buildings down, or putting new facades on old relics – with no plan in place to bring good-paying jobs into the City, and with no plan to bring in high-income residents into the City, and with no plan to bring in meaningful consumer spending (above subsistence) into the City, and with no plan to bring in industrial/biotech development into the City, and with no plan to utilize Route 2 for our benefit instead of as a rotary to get to and from our out-of-city jobs) – is the definition of “economic development” (as does your Mayor and this City Council and your present Economic Development/Re-Development Wizard (Trevor Beauregard)), then just stay home like you did in 2021 when a despicable 11% of voting-age Gardner residents voted.  You get what you ask for.

Do you know that the City has had two major development plans in the last 50 years?  One was adopted in 2011 and the other in 2012.  We are into the second decade of both of those failed plans. Not only are they still in place, but they are self-proven to have been feckless money-wasters and utterly useless.

Take a drive down Rear Main Street (if you have a ATV), or down Mill Street – if you have the guts. There you will see the results of our two (2) Development Plans in this City.

Also, this is a true story: in Gardner, the City Government is still being driven and guided by a Community Development Plan that is almost 25 years old!  Only in Gardner could that ever be true.  It is almost impossible to comprehend.

The nomination papers for City Council 2023 will be available in a few months.  All you need is 50 signatures from any voter in the City – and your name will be on the ballot.

We need you.

Ask yourself: “what has each of the eleven City Councillors done in the last 2 years (or for some, for the last dozen years)”?  How many ordinance proposals, or amendments have they proposed? How many new policy ideas?  How many meaningful debates on the City Council Floor? How many times did they respond to your inquiries or emails? How many times did they stand up for Parents or for Taxpayers?  How many times did they stand up for Open Government is the face of institutional secrecy?  How many Councillors stood up for you (and their elected duties and rights) to obtain information from the Executive Branch when the Mayor and his lawyer tells them that they can’t handle the truth?  You’ll find that your answers will most often be “never.”

Just read the City Council Meeting minutes – available on-line, and judge for yourselves (if you can read them – they are in many ways almost unintelligible since Alan Agnelli left the Clerk’s Office, which is another thing no City Councillor has the verve and wherewithal to address).

Ask yourselves: “where has my Ward Councillor been?” Do you see them in your neighborhood?  Do they make themselves available to you?  Do they email with you? These are James Walsh (Ward 1), Dana Heath (Ward 2), Nate Boudreau (Ward 3), Karen Hardern (Ward 4), and Alek Dernalowicz (Ward 5).  I’m not talking about seeing them at the Ale House’s brew taps at the Chair Luge, or holding their own signs for two hours on the two Saturdays prior to the Election, or getting 2 pound bags of M&M’s at Wal-Mart.

I mean actually doing something (like walking around your neighborhood, for example) in your neighborhood. Do they have office hours in your neighborhood? Do they hold meetings for you and your neighbors – to voice your concerns?  Do they show you any interest? No.

Time for a change, people.

What about the At-Large Councillors? These are Judy Mack, Craig and his father Ron Cormier, Jimmy Boone, George Tyros, and Elizabeth Kazinskas.  What have they done, apart from serving as Mike Nicholson’s big Rubber Stamp and Cheerleaders? Answer: nothing.

If they are not sitting on the Mayor’s lap (or vice versa), what have you seen them doing? When they are not singing “Hail to Gardner” in unison with the Mayor, pumping their poms-poms high in the air to fabricate a sense of excitement, what are they doing?  If they are not sitting with their mouths taped shut at City Council Meetings (or “on mute”), what are they saying (other than “yes”) at the Meetings?  We are not counting “New Business” when some Councillors think Happy Anniversary announcements, or “have a good Christmas,” or “the DPW workers did a great job plowing the streets,” means that they are actually saying something. Nothing.

Did your real estate taxes rise?  Of course they did.  But, did anyone ask you if you need a new roof, a new furnace, new siding, new windows, a new driveway, a dry basement, or upgrades to your electrical service, bathrooms and kitchens?  Of course not – yet, the City automatically tells you that the value of your home has increased (even though no real estate appraiser has appraised it), and so your taxes are going up, and up, and up. Hail to Gardner.

Yet, Mikey Nicholson brags about keeping the “tax rate” down. Really? He keeps artificially inflating the value of our broken-down homes in this dead and dying post-industrial low-to-middle-class City, and then adjusts the tax rate so that it looks like the rate means something, when it does not.  So, the City gets it 2.5% increase in tax revenue every single year – on your backs – and the Mayor tells you to thank him for keeping the tax rate “low.”  This is like asking the Frosty the Snowman to thank his “benefactor” for keeping him in the greenhouse. 

Meanwhile, the City homeowner pays more real estate taxes in Gardner, per homeowner, than in any other municipality all around us for miles and miles and miles. Hail to Gardner!

Why is City Government so big, anyway?  Gardner has an 80 Million Dollar Budget! The School Budget is 40 million dollars! And we are back-sliding. Let’s keep increasing these Budgets, and let’s keep back-sliding. Does that make any sense to you?

Yet, you all just sit back and get virtually nothing for your high Taxes.  Parents, are your students coming home with a meaningful education that will get them into the Ivy League Schools (or even UMass)?  Even if your student can rise above the institutional mediocracy, can you even afford to send your kids to UMass (never mind Harvard)?

Of course you can’t, you are struggling to save up for a new furnace for your house – the broken house which the City tells you keeps increasing in value.

By the way, where are our Gardner students going when they graduate – after your millions, and millions, and millions of Taxes are spent on their education?  Everywhere – except Gardner.  They graduate, and are off to where the jobs are – never to return. The Great Brain Drain. So goes your Tax dollars. Been nice knowin’ ya. What’s to keep them here for jobs?  Nothing. But, just keep thanking the Mayor for your increased real estate tax bills – and maybe you’ll see your son and daughter (and your grandkids) every other five years or so.

Homeowners, what are you getting for paying your soaring tax bills? You’re probably getting criminal notices for forgetting to get your City Clerk dog “license,” or nasty letters because your tax payment was 20 cents short (true story – and those 20 cents collect interest), or because your snowblower put too much snow in the road – or (gasp…) because your chicken got loose and laid a healthy, organic, grass-fed, free-range egg on Mr. Smith’s front lawn. Oh no!! Get the Building Inspector and the Gardner Police Department out there, stat!

Why does City Government have to be so big?  $80,000,000.00?  Are you kidding me?  Why is it so big?  So that all the City pre-pensioners (Nicholson, Hawke, Flick, Walsh, Arnold, Dymek, Beauregard, Pelegrino, Siriphan, et al) can build their retirement nest eggs – and so that no City employee ever has to worry about their jobs. You all, who are just the Taxpayers, risk losing your jobs at every turn. You might get a 1% raise every 5 or ten years.  But, every employee in City Government has no such concerns. 

And, if you’re lucky, you might get $1,000 a month in Social Security – if you can ever afford to retire at all.  Meanwhile, slap yourselves on the backs for having paid, over the decades, your tax dollars so that the City Hall employees (they with the unprecedented job security their whole lives) can retire at a young age with exorbitant pensions (paid for by you) that make your Social Security crumbs look like what they are – true impoverishment.

City Government service these days is not about making your life better, it’s to make their lives better (and secure).  Just send some emails to your leaders, and see for yourself what you get in return (nothing). That will tell you all you need to know.

Do your kids and grandkids a favor, run for City Council in 2023.  It’s your duty to do so.

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