Commentary by Frank Schroth
The election results provided a reminder that this is still Massachusetts. Had Capuano beaten Coakley, Brown may never have happened. Senator Brown, a good, strong, moderate Republican was a deviation in the natural political course of events. The course has corrected itself. As the headline in today’s Globe stated. “Hard Mass. race ends in victory for liberalism.” And so the liberal Kennedy legacy endures. Massachusetts likes its Republicans as Governors not Senators. Massachusetts may see more of Scott Brown . . . in a different seat. But enough of that. Let’s look at the CPA.
The local contest in Milton was ballot question 4 which asked the town to join the Community Preservation Act. It lost. But it did not lose in other communities. Salem, Somerville, and Canton all passed a CPA question. There were 11 communities with this question on the ballot. Nine passed it and two denied it: Milton and Westhampton. You can find a list of those communities, the ballot result, and the surcharge they proposed along with exemptions here.
The group in support of the question was an interesting alliance of residents from across the political spectrum; Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Progressives, and Conservatives. However, they were not a match for the fiscal conservatives who banded together to oppose any additional tax. And in the end, the argument they made – “We don’t need any more taxes.” was much easier to say and for voters to understand than the one made by those in support – that the CPA would fund projects that would otherwise go unfunded and represented an excellent return on a modest investment (ie a 1.5% surcharge on property taxes over the first $100K of property value would yield at minimum a 22% return. That amount is expected to go up).
This is admittedly a gross simplification of both positions. But when it comes to the community at large – simple works. “No” is a simple statement. The voters understood they would be paying more but likely did not have a clear understanding of where it would go and what it would buy.
It is likely that Milton will see this issue return. This recent election was Canton’s third attempt. It failed twice before passing last night. We will be able to look across the border at our neighbors a year or so from now and look at what they have been able to do and what we have not — and most importantly, to determine if it has value, determine if the amount individually contributed would be worth the return it contributes to the common good or if, as we have chosen to do, the money is better kept in our pockets.
You can view a map of CPA and non-CPA communities here.