LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sanctuary State Bill is ‘Political Stunt’

State Senate Bill #1305 would make our Commonwealth a Sanctuary State for undocumented immigrants.  It would prohibit police officers from engaging in immigration enforcement, from sharing immigration information with Federal officials and require that our officers block Federal officials from conducting interviews with immigrant detainees.

The bill attempts to address the concerns of undocumented immigrants living in Massachusetts, who are apprehensive about their vulnerability arising from possible federal immigration action.  While the horrendous state of our immigration system must be addressed, this bill compromises our homeland security.

The bill would impose a ban on state participation in any immigration enforcement run in concert with federal authorities.  It would eliminate the state’s ability to participate in the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Fusion center set up following Sept. 11. These invaluable partnerships with the Federal government, have led to the interdiction of numerous terrorist acts in Massachusetts.  The sharing of immigration information and the right to detain suspected terrorist and gang members on immigration violations is a pre-emptive capability that would be lost.

State law enforcement officers would face an ethical conflict if this bill were to pass stemming from their oath of office.   They swear to defend both the US and State Constitution.   Provisions which require our police to block interviews between federal immigration authorities and undocumented  individuals would obstruct the enforcement of federal law.  This interposition is unconstitutional.

The bill would grant fourth amendment protection to the undocumented, a measure that exceeds the Commonwealth’s constitutional authority.  In so doing, the rights of American citizens living in the state would be infringed.  This restriction, would weaken immigration enforcement efforts  in Massachusetts making the state vulnerable to charges that it is violating the equal protection clause (14th Amendment) of our Constitution. All U.S. citizens are entitled to the equal protection of federal law.

The ultimate and most dangerous effect of this bill would be the creation of a safe haven for the nefarious. The bill’s protections would attract an assortment of  individuals to this state, many bent on doing us harm either through terrorism or criminal activity. This bill was ill-conceived at the outset.  It is a dangerous political stunt and should be rejected by our legislature and any rational American citizen. — Dennis Galvin, Concord Road

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is a retired Major, Massachusetts State Police, and the former director of Security for the Executive Office of Transportation in Massachusetts.)

NO OVERRIDE NEEDED FOR TEACHERS’ SALARY ADJUSTMENTS!

No Override Needed to Give Teachers a Raise

By: Submitted Content | 4 hours ago

Editor’s note: This letter, which arrived by the deadline date of April 26, was inadvertently overlooked by the editor. Out of fairness to the author, it was published today, May 1.

Do we need an override — a permanent increase in our taxes — to increase teachers’ salaries? Let’s do the math. The funds are already there, which would allow the School Committee to bargain, in good faith, meeting their goals, while negotiating fairly in a fiscally responsible manner.

Every year the tax levy increases by 2 1/2 percent as a starting point for budgeting purposes. The base assumption is that all property taxes will increase to the maximum allowed by law. In reality, this doesn’t happen due to additional tax collected from new growth, and the 6-month offset in applying the new tax rate to properties. The effective tax rate has been less than 2,5 percent for several years.

Even though the effective tax rate is below 2.5 percent, we still have had a lot of free cash. Free cash is an amount of collected tax revenue that is unspent or unencumbered. Every department, including schools, has returned budgeted, but unneeded, operating funds. From a taxpayer’s perspective, this is unwarranted, as more is collected than used in one year.  From a financial perspective, this is prudent to avoid creating a structural deficit. The key is to find the balancing point between these opposing views. The budget assumption that strikes the balance is 5 percent in free cash and stabilization reserves.

The fiscal 2018 budget estimates 6.63 percent in reserves or $1,683,365 over the 5 percent minimum recommended reserve. This amount is after using $1.8 million in free cash for capital spending and bonding another $1.8 million for capital purchases. Confidence to bond means there is reliable, future cash flow, free cash. Is it a coincidence that the additional amount to our reserve is nearly the exact amount requested by the School Committee? Knowing the levy will never decrease, will increase by 2.5 percent every year, and departments are over-budgeted (or at least capable of realizing savings), a substantial amount of free cash has been available at the end of the fiscal year. It looks like teachers could have raises with or without a successful override vote.

When you do the math, you see that Westford CAN afford to pay teacher raises WITHOUT an override. It’s a win-win. Teachers get paid more and taxpayers don’t get another hike in their taxes. So when you read the back-of-the-ballot Question Number 1, “Shall the Town of Westford be allowed to assess an additional one million six hundred thousand dollars in real estate and personal property taxes for the purpose of supplementing the amount appropriated for the operation of the Westford Public Schools?,” VOTE NO; it’s already there! — Carolyn Ricciardi, Russell’s Way

http://www.westfordcatnews.org/2017/05/no-override-needed-to-give-teachers-a-raise/

Lowell Sun Supports a ‘No Override’ Vote

EDITORIAL: Westford election offers fresh change

The Lowell Sun

Updated:   05/01/2017 07:28:31 AM EDT

No matter which candidates win in Westford’s municipal election, one thing is for certain: The town will undergo a major transformation of new faces, voices and perspectives in local government.

The Tuesday, May 2 election is guaranteed to result in the election of two new members to the Board of Selectmen and School Committee, respectively.

It’s a positive sign that residents see the value and importance of running for local office. Now it’s up to voters to turn out and make the choices that will benefit the town.

Westford is hitting its stride and also feeling the growing pains.

It’s seen a great deal of economic growth over the past five years, fueled by commercial and residential building projects. Still, the question remains: Is Westford losing its smalltown feel and rural character? Is it growing too fast? And where is the additional tax revenue from new growth being spent?

Westford is a very desirable community with some looming challenges.

It’s difficult to understand that despite the economic vigor and prosperity, the School Committee is seeking an operations override of $1.6 million to fund negotiated wage increases for teachers’ salaries.

Whether teachers deserve a pay raise is not the issue in The Sun’s view.

Our main concern is the funding mechanism being used to achieve it. Utilizing an override vote to fund salary increases is bad policy and sets a bad precedent.

The obvious consequence is that it opens the door to similar requests from other collective bargaining units. What’s not so obvious, however, is that it creates a crutch for town officials who are expected to practice sound budgeting principles and plan accordingly for contractual obligations.

Override supporters say Westford teachers’ salaries are below the regional norm, and the funding will help close the gap and serve to retain quality staff.

So what happens when the next contract is due?

Shoving $1.6 million down the taxpayers’ throat is hard to swallow. The Sun rejects the override and urges voters to do the same.

* In the Board of Selectmen’s race, The Sun endorses Dennis Galvin and Elizabeth Almeida in a three-way race for the two vacant seats available.

Galvin is a consummate professional in all he does, has effectively served on the Planning Board, and is an ardent promoter of government transparency.

Almeida is a newcomer to politics and offers a fresh, positive outlook. She’s built a wealth of admirers for her civic engagement and visionary work at Fat Moon Farms.

* Voters also will select two new School Committee members among three candidates. The Sun endorses Megan Eckroth and Gloria Miller. They have made strong points about enhancing the system’s top-flight science and technology programs, improving district communications with parents, and holding down class sizes.

Read more: http://www.lowellsun.com/opinion/ci_30957898/westford-election-offers-fresh-change#ixzz4fsbD0LJH

 

WRTC Makes Case For Prudent Fiscal Responsibility

As an organization who believes in Fiscal Responsibility, Government Transparency and Honesty in applying the mandated and proven processes for Westford, and since it is bad for Westford, we must urge the Westford voters to defeat the 2 1/2 Override on 2 May 2017.

Approval of the Override would be bad for Westford – The School Committee created a misleading drive resulting in the Override ballot question to reward our school’s teachers with a significant raise that breaches the 2018 and beyond budget thresholds causing a significant increase in property owner’s taxes forever and ignores the process for securing raises by public employees.  The Town Meeting resulted in a heavily recruited, biased approval that was subsequently agreed by the Selectmen to place the Override question on the 2 May ballot.

The Override proponents established a pro-teacher website that includes School Committee members that implies the School Committee, who is elected to represent the Westford citizens is not working in behalf of its voters who elected them, but rather, the Teachers Union. In this Override they are subverting objective negotiations under the established collective bargaining process.  Despite the proponent’s alleged myth-bashing, the Override provides precedence for other Town employees to use similar tactics to increase their pay AND RAISE OUR TAXES!  It also lacks transparency by shielding the Westford citizens from insight into the internal working of the salary processes and bypasses the Town’s budget and collective bargaining processes.

If you ask “What is Good for Our Schools”, it’s NOT the Override – it’s the normal process that allows the Superintendent together with the School Committee’s input to establish a comprehensive budget without creating a tax increase that includes all school employees whose individual salaries are determined by collective bargaining within the confines of the school budget and established salary tables.  The product – our students’ future – is already successful because our school ratings are among the highest in the Commonwealth – Let’s keep our schools at the top without raising taxes or compromising our principles.

It is time for the voters of Westford to stand up against the continued subversion of our processes and lack of transparency by using tactics that raise our taxes and cause us all to be suspicious of the leaders and committees who we elect to represent us! VOTE NO on the  May 2nd ballot Override.

Cal Thomas commentary: Moral weakness at heart of nation’s descent

In 1926, speaking about the Declaration of Independence on its 150th anniversary, President Calvin Coolidge noted the unique philosophy behind the creation of the United States: “We cannot continue to enjoy the result, if we neglect and abandon the cause.”

Speaking at a news conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following the murder of three police officers and the wounding of three others, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said, “…this is not so much about gun control as it is about what’s in men’s hearts. And until we come together as a nation, as a people, to heal as a people, if we don’t do that and this madness continues, we will surely perish as a people.” Considering the anti-police rhetoric coming from so many groups and individuals, he is right. The question is how do we heal men’s hearts? Isn’t that the primary calling of the clergy?

Since the 1960s when one of the popular slogans of that rebellious generation was “question authority,” the United States has plunged into an era of licentiousness, looking out for No. 1 (a popular book title in the ’70s) and the pursuit of prosperity, ignoring higher things like tradition and history, which have proved better for individuals and nations.

The divisions have become so strained that some are at war against law enforcement, which, if it doesn’t cease, will end in anarchy.

Donald Trump has positioned himself as “the law and order” candidate. The left may be playing into his hands, as did those in 1968 who rioted in the streets and at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, sealing the election for Richard Nixon.

When it comes to national defense and domestic unrest, Republicans have been the preferred party to strengthen the country and restore domestic tranquility. But people looking for guidance on how to restore a sense of personal peace and order need look no further than the Bible, the guidebook found in many homes and in most hotel rooms.

One doesn’t have to endure a sermon — if that is unfamiliar territory — to be struck by the power of ancient truths. Start with Psalm 9:17, “The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.”

How about this one: “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (Proverbs 29:18)

One more to confirm the point: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)

The nation is groaning. One doesn’t have to be religious to understand the principle of cause and effect. If you jump off a tall building the cause of your rapid descent — gravity — will produce the effect of your death when you hit the ground.

In our post-modern, post-Christian era, we have ignored the moral gravity that once kept us grounded, the boundaries that kept us safe. And now we are suffering the consequences.

We are suffering as a people because we have neglected and abandoned the cause of our strength, peace, order and prosperity. There is a way back, but the road is not through the next election and it certainly is not through Washington, which is part of the problem.

In “The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, wrote: “If only it were all so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

It doesn’t have to be destroyed. It can be renewed, but that is up to our individual will and a higher power which politicians do not possess.

Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Content Agency.

tcaeditors@tribpub.com