Saturday, March 12, 2011

"ensure greater transparency in government"

To ensure a continued and consistent focus on the Open Meeting Law, Coakley created the Division of Open Government to educate individuals about the law, enforce the law, and act as a readily accessible resource for members of public bodies, members of the public, municipal officials, and the press. The division has focused its efforts on educating members of public bodies and the public at large about the revisions to the OML, establishing a complaint process, and resolving Open Meeting Law complaints. 
“The goal of the new law is to promote uniform interpretation of the Open Meeting Law and ensure greater transparency in government,” said Coakley. “As we move forward, we will continue to work with these governmental bodies, news media, and the public to ensure that we reach this shared goal of good governance.”

Read more: In first year, AG's office handled Open Meeting Law complaints, conducted training sessions 


Franklin provides a "Visitor's Orientation to Meetings" focused on the Town Council but generally applicable to other committee meetings.


The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report that showed:

"... government transparency is associated with residents’ feelings of efficacy and empowerment: Those who think their government shares information well are more likely to say that people like them can have an impact on government. It might be the case that signals from government that “we want to be open about what we do” make people think they can take advantage of that openness and influence the way the government operates."
This report helps foster the activities that you and I have been taking here. Our engagement on the website, through the weekly and daily newsletters, and on Facebook are helping to encourage Franklin to do more in these areas. Franklin regularly wins an award for for government information sharing but it can still do better. One of the major issues with the budget crisis we face is the lack of trust in the information provided. Increasing the transparency will foster trust.

The full report can be found here:
http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/08-Community-Information-Systems.aspx 




Franklin, MA


In the News - Fenway, VFW




Franklin men's group hosts program about Fenway






Franklin VFW to celebrate 75 years

"I think for the VFW to succeed we're going to have to take in new members," said member Howard Crawford, 87, who served in the U.S. Army in World War II and Korea. He said he is confident soldiers from the Gulf War and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will become active as they get older. 
"When people are returning from war (today), they are consumed with their family and want nothing to do with us. They just want to forget it."




Franklin, MA

Friday, March 11, 2011

Reach Out for Youth and Families

The Bernon Family Branch of the Hockomock Area YMCA will be holding a fund raising event at 3 Restaurant on March 22, 2011.

Reach Out for Youth and Families

Details can be found in the flyer below. Please RSVP by March 15, 2011.

YMCA Invitation


Note: email subscribers will need to click through to Franklin Matters to view the document.

Franklin, MA

In the News - unpaid taxes, Trivia Bee


Franklin seeks unpaid taxes





Franklin trivia bee raises funds, and provides fun




Franklin, MA

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Citizens against waste

There are folks who complain about the money Franklin spends. This form will enable those Franklin residents identify an item where the expense is questioned.

You ask the question. I'll facilitate to get an answer.
(The collection of questions and answers can be found here)

This should at least get the discussion respectfully focused on facts and details.

The 2010 Annual Report can be found here (PDF)

Other reference links for the FY 2012 Budget can be found here





Franklin, MA

Attention: knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, dyers, and anyone curious about fiber crafts

For the fiber crafters amongst us, a good event this weekend at MIT.
FiberCamp Boston is a PodCamp like community un-conference for fiber craft enthusiasts including knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, dyers, and anyone curious about fiber crafts. Fibercamp is based on the fact that everyone has something to share and teach. Connect with the community by sharing your passion.
More about FiberCamp on their website


You can register via Eventbrite here


The FiberCamp blog with information from last year's event can be found here




Franklin, MA

"It's misinformation that makes barriers to good decisions"

"There are very well-educated, insightful people who say I don't have enough information, so I'm always going to vote no," Chairman Doug Hardesty said. "To me if we can define what the questions are that will really provide a roadmap ... I think Franklin will be better off because you will have a bigger group of people more confident about decision they will make." 
In 2009, the committee, which was then composed of members of the Town Council, School Committee and Finance Committee, produced a 45-page report that explained how the town was facing a structural budget deficit where annual revenue growth was less than what was required to maintain town services. They projected that, through 2014, expenses would grow faster than revenue by $7 million to $10 million. 
The following year, voters rejected a $3 million property tax override. 
Graydon Smith, one of the seven residents who comprise this year's committee, noted many residents may assume the town has direct control over costs such as pensions and benefits provided to part-time employees. Instead, those are mostly determined at the state level and are difficult to change.
Read more: Franklin financial planners at work again

My notes from the meeting can be found here:
http://franklinmatters.blogspot.com/2011/03/live-reporting-long-range-financial.html


Franklin, MA

Facts At A Glance: Impact of Proposed Federal Budget Cuts on Massachusetts' Residents





Explore our online
budget database
Budget Browser


Is our research helpful to you? Support our work
Donate to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center


Find us on facebook


Twitter-badge


Forward to a Friend

Contact Info



  Noah Berger
  President

  (617) 426-1228 x102


  Tom Benner
  Communications Director
  tbenner@massbudget.org
  (617) 426-1228 x100




Facts At A Glance:
Impact of Proposed Federal Budget Cuts on Massachusetts' Residents 


March 9, 2011

Proposed legislation (H.R. 1) that funds the federal government through the final six months of Fiscal Year 2011 cuts funding for non-security discretionary programs by $66 billion, or an average of 14.3 percent.

Economists warn that these reductions in federal spending, including grants to states, could increase unemployment and weaken the national economy in the short-term. They will also significantly decrease funding for programs that invest in our state's long-term economic health and in the well-being of our residents. 

Facts At A Glance: Impact of Proposed Federal Budget Cuts on Massachusetts' Residents provides a brief description of how some of these cuts could affect Massachusetts residents.   

The fact sheet is available at www.massbudget.org or by clicking here.


See MassBudget's Budget Browser to explore Massachusetts state budgets from Fiscal Year 2001 to the present, as well as budget proposals for the next fiscal year as they are offered by the Governor and the Legislature.    

MassBudget provides independent research and analysis of state budget and tax policies, as well as economic issues, with particular attention to the effects on low- and moderate-income people.


This email was sent to shersteve@gmail.com by info@massbudget.org |  
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center | 15 Court Square | Suite 700 | Boston | MA | 02108

In the News - winter carnival, kickball teams

Franklin High holds Winter Carnival

by 



Franklin YMCA seeking teams for kickball tournament


Franklin, MA

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Live reporting - Long Range Financial Planning Committee

Present: Doug Hardesty, Craig DiMarzio, Graydon Smith, Sue Rohrbach, Orrin Bean, John Hogan,  Ken Harvey, Tina Powderly, Jeff Nutting (late), Glenn Jones
Absent:  Deb Bartlett

Brian Benson, Milford Daily News reporter, in attendance

Motion to approve minutes of Feb 9, Feb 23 meetings. Separate motions, both passed unanimously.

Agenda - to complete the review of the Long Range Financial Planning Report
the final  report of the prior committee from last year (PDF)

picking up on page 26
Structural deficit likely to continue

Another item to be added is the proposed EPA regulations (originally to be determined by Dec 2010 but not yet finalized) There are two aspects, one for the M4 permit and one for the private sector with more than 2 acres of impervious coverage.

Key example of the 'known unknowns' - tabled a full update of the regulation and issues around it, point to come back to, for now, just to have it acknowledged as an item

Discussion on prior committee role in making recommendations, they were not part of the charge but were attempted  (see page 27 of report link above)

Let's make sure that we can present the facts such that no matter what position one may take, they at least can work from the same set of numbers with confidence.

There is little remaining to be done with efficiencies in Town operations so from the Committee point of view that there is only an increase in revenues or a cut in services.

There is little agreement amongst some aspects of the population on this point however. The point needs to be addressed.

Improve transparency and accessibility remains a key route to success

comparative metrics can make a strong point but they can't be used alone

Do you spend time on new issues, or do spend time working to spread the word on what we have?
A regular question being revisited.

If you show some progress on the major issues, you might have a chance to gain their buy in

Town Council and the citizens, two major stakeholder groups
1 - From the Town Council view, how bad is the budget crisis and what can we do about it?
2 - We can't hold ourselves responsible for making those who are not interested interested. You have also folks who already have their minds made up. Then there are the people on the fence who haven't made up their minds. Those are the ones who we need to focus on.

Override vote in 2010 had 41.7% turnout. 2008 has 40.3%, and 2007 had 47.3%. In 2004 held in Nov, 83.2% turnout failed the override. Situation was different in 2004 compared to the more recent ones. In 2004, the stabilization fund was large and some money was used after the override failed to ameliorate the effect of the vote.

Looking to provide the best most reliable information to the electorate to enable them to make a decision.

Now to do some brain storming on some questions to propose answering withing each area of responsibility.

Where were we, where are we, where are we going?

In what ways can the Town manage its growth?

Do Franklin residents pay a reasonable amount of property taxes? Need to rephrase that as it already has a judgement in the question. Feedback on being under-taxed was underwhelming. What is the relative burden?
Need to have non-judgmental language in all the questions.

Why did I chose Franklin? Taxes, location, schools, house prices were all compelling pieces of the discussion when I came here 12 years ago.

What are relative out of pocket expenses for services? water, sewer, trash, busing... etc.

I know a cynic can attack any information put across. Anyone can raise a 'waste, fraud, and abuse' question without having to back it up.

 What is the ultimate goal, is the report just an update or will it look different?

Come up with the list of the key questions and then check to see if the Town leaders agree on these.
poll the council on the questions they would like answered? Poll at least some of the general public to gather some input from them. It will be a sample but should be something to work with.

What are the top 3 or 4 legislative items that would help the town benefit from a budget stand point?
We would have something to hand to Vallee, Spilka and Ross to go work
We could hand to the citizens the listing and say we can do only so much now and do more when these items are changed.

Bringing meeting to close. Continue to work on your own questions, send to Doug. He will compile and bring to the group for the next meeting to review/discuss the listing.

Need to balance the two constituents (Town Council and citizens) if we do one and not the other, then we'll not be providing enough information to make an informed decision.

One of the benefits of the way the committee is comprised is that we have a range of exposure to Town government and we want to leverage that in particular to ask fresh questions, simple or complex.


Franklin, MA

Asparagus - a stalk-umentary

With food on the radar, found this 'stalk-umentary' on asparagus insightful. Michigan farmers facing foreign competition due to US drug policies and foreign aid. This raises some good questions.

Watch more free documentaries

There are other documentary films like this from SnagFilms.

Franklin, MA

"concerned about keeping costs in check"

"It's 10 years old and 10 years ago it was state of the art," Rapoza said of the current website. "We want to give our teachers more abilities. We have hundreds of teachers and I want them all to have a web presence." 
All teachers can create a page on the current website, which is hosted on the district's servers and was designed by a volunteer. But posting requires some knowledge of HTML coding and experimentation to ensure information appears correctly. Many teachers have also requested the ability to upload videos, Rapoza said. 
Rapoza hopes a new website, which will be hosted by an outside company, will also be more searchable. Internet users have become accustomed to using Google or other search engines, but the current website relies on navigation trees, forcing people to browse through several layers of pages to find information, he said. 
"The Web overall has changed," Rapoza said. "People are looking for something differently. ... They want to see a big fat search page. The information is there. We just need to change with the times."
Read more: Franklin schools plan to redo website


Franklin, MA

In the News - musical cast, office hours


Franklin High announces cast members for musical





Rep. Vallee extends invitation to residents




Franklin, MA

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Snow art

My, what a nice mushroom you have sprouting!


Nature is wonderful!

I like this one with the snow melt. If you look closely, the lens caught several water drops suspended in act of falling.



I am not sorry to see the snow leave us. It hung around long enough.


Franklin, MA

Two new reports examine data on public employee compensation, pension costs





Explore our online
budget database
Budget Browser


Is our research helpful to you? Support our work
Donate to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center


Find us on facebook


Twitter-badge


Forward to a Friend

Contact Info



  Noah Berger
  President

  (617) 426-1228 x102


  Tom Benner
  Communications Director
  tbenner@massbudget.org
  (617) 426-1228 x100




Two new reports examine data on public employee compensation, pension costs


March 7, 2011

Across the country there has recently been extensive attention focused on issues relating to public employee compensation.  Two new reports from MassBudget examine the available data on public employee compensation and state pension costs in Massachusetts.  In looking at compensation the reports also consider the broader context: across the country, inequality has been increasing with wages for less-educated workers stagnating.

The first paper, Workforce Characteristics and Wages in the Public and Private Sectors, finds that wage outcomes differ across sectors by education level.  Workers with at least a four-year college degree (60 percent of the public sector workforce) earn less in the public sector than in the private sector in Massachusetts -- even after accounting for benefits.  For those workers without a college degree, overall compensation appears to be higher in the public sector, as the wage gap between more and less educated workers is not as great as in the private sector.

A companion report, Demystifying the State Pension System, explains how the Massachusetts public employee pension system works and what the state costs are.  It finds that while public employees have good pensions, those pensions are financed primarily by contributions made by public employees to the pension fund (and by the investment earnings of the fund).  The amount the state pays towards the pensions of current employees is less than the amount paid in most states -- and less than the amount paid by most private employers.  This is partly because state employees are not eligible for Social Security -- which means that the state saves the 6.2 percent (of the first $106,800 of salary) that private sector employers pay towards Social Security.  The amount the state pays into the pension fund for current employees is significantly less than 6 percent.

"Workforce Characteristics and Wages in the Public and Private Sectors" is available at www.massbudget.org or by clicking here.

"Demystifying the State Pension System" is available
by clicking here.


See MassBudget's Budget Browser to explore Massachusetts state budgets from Fiscal Year 2001 to the present, as well as budget proposals for the next fiscal year as they are offered by the Governor and the Legislature.    

MassBudget provides independent research and analysis of state budget and tax policies, as well as economic issues, with particular attention to the effects on low- and moderate-income people.


This email was sent to shersteve@gmail.com by info@massbudget.org |  
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center | 15 Court Square | Suite 700 | Boston | MA | 02108

"We call him the Energizer Bunny"

"The timing is just mind-boggling," Cusson, 43, said yesterday recalling the Presidents Day incident. "I just feel like God had me there at the exact right time." 
If Cusson hadn't gotten the milk, she would have arrived five minutes earlier, been occupied helping her grandmother and may not have noticed Thornhill's internal defibrillator had been activated. 
The machine, which goes into action when a person has a heart attack or irregular heartbeat, went off at least three times, attempting to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm. 
However, the defibrillator was unable to get his heart working properly again and he had a heart attack, Cusson said. 
"Had I been a few steps further away, I might not have heard him," said Cusson, who also lives in Franklin and is a nursing student at MassBay Community College in Framingham. "I called 911. ... His eyes started to roll back. And then he passed out. I kicked the feet out of the chair and then laid him down on the floor and started CPR."

Read more: Franklin woman saves grandfather from heart attack


Franklin, MA

Monday, March 7, 2011

FM #88 - Week ending 3/6/11

Lets take less than ten minutes to review what matters in Franklin, MA as the week ends March 6, 2011.

Time: 6 minutes, 20 seconds




MP3 File

Show Notes

This internet radio show or podcast is number 88 in the series for Franklin Matters.

We'll look back at the week that was as it comes to a close Sunday March 6. Then we will look at what is scheduled for the week ahead.

The Community Gardens group meet on Monday night in the Community Room of Stop & Shop. It is good to see such a group beginning this endeavor.

My notes from the meeting are here
http://franklinmatters.blogspot.com/2011/02/live-reporting-community-garden.html

The FinCom meeting on Tuesday was canceled as expected. The State numbers are too preliminary to begin to work with at this time. The current expectation is that by mid-month there should be some indication as to the range of numbers available from the State to begin planning.

The Town Council held a very brief meeting on Wednesday. I caught the replay via the video on demand in order to participate in the Friends of the Library meeting. It was a very good choice to make. My report is available here.
http://franklinmatters.blogspot.com/2011/03/library-and-friends-clear-air.html

Be sure to review the update on the tax donation status of gifts to the Library. With the standard disclaimer that I am not providing tax advice just information, check with your tax preparer how to handle this with your particular situation.
http://franklinmatters.blogspot.com/2011/03/re-franklin-library-blog-posting.html

The Community Health Council met on Thursday evening featuring an update from Peter Light on the health related activities at the high school. More information on the calendar of events coordinated by the Council can be found here http://www.franklin.ma.us/auto/schools/FPS/CHC/default.htm

Looking ahead:

The Long Range Financial Planning committee meets on Wednesday. The group will likely be continuing to develop its understanding of the financial issues around the Franklin budget.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report that showed:

"... government transparency is associated with residents’ feelings of efficacy and empowerment: Those who think their government shares information well are more likely to say that people like them can have an impact on government. It might be the case that signals from government that “we want to be open about what we do” make people think they can take advantage of that openness and influence the way the government operates."
This report helps foster the activities that you and I have been taking here. Our engagement on the website,through the weekly and daily newsletters, and on Facebook are helping to encourage Franklin to do more in these areas. Franklin regularly wins an award for for government information sharing but it can still do better. One of the major issues with the budget crisis we face is the lack of trust in the information provided. Increasing the transparency will foster trust.

The full report can be found here:
http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/08-Community-Information-Systems.aspx

---- ---- ----

This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin. I can use your help.

How can you help, you ask?

If you have an interest in covering the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and or the Zoning Board of Appeals meetings in Franklin, please let me know.

And as always

  • If you like this, please tell your friends and neighbors
  • If you don't like this, please tell me


Through this feedback loop we can continue to improve.

Thank you for listening.


For additional information, please visit Franklinmatters.blogspot.com/
If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark and Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission

I hope you enjoy!


Franklin, MA


"Repeated freeze-thaw cycles create favorable conditions"

Franklin has had at least one crew of two to five workers out fixing potholes Monday through Saturday and has people on call to respond to emergencies during off hours. 
"The guys are doing a great job," he said. "One day they put down six tons (of material). That was one crew. We have a program where we pretty much hit all the main (streets) and residents are not afraid to call in and tell us where they are." 
But Cantoreggi said it is frustrating to deal with potholes every year. The problem is exacerbated because towns have not been able to keep up with road repairs, he said, noting Franklin needs $20 million in road resurfacing and reconstruction work.

Read more: Towns fixing up winter-ravaged streets

Franklin, MA

"Franklin has developed a reputation as a business-friendly community"

"Part of it is that the economy is starting to loosen up a little bit, and the Franklin area is just prime for almost any new business," said Jack Lank, president of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce. 
The Franklin Cafe and Grill, which will serve Mediterranean and American food, is expected to open in a few weeks in the former Kentucky Fried Chicken building near Panther Way. 
In October, owners of the hibachi and sushi bar Ichigo Ichie plan to open in the old Piccadilly Pub just beyond where West Central Street and Rte. 140 split. 
And local businessman James Daddario hopes to begin construction of a Wendy's and Taco Bell at the old Knights of Columbus hall this spring. 
Lank said the availability of several vacant restaurant buildings on a busy road near Interstate 495 created a perfect opportunity for new businesses.

Read more: New restaurants hope to succeed in Franklin

Franklin, MA

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How do you do the impossible?

French artist JR creates a bridge with his art. Photos of peoples faces, side by side, face to face - how can you tell who is who?

Art asks questions that sometimes can not be asked with words.



Behind each image is a story.

The Inside out project website can be found here
http://www.insideoutproject.net/



Franklin, MA

Bill Gates on State budgets and Education

TED Talks are the visual presentations of an idea from significant thinkers that gather at TED each year. TED has also spawned a number of conferences under the TED umbrella; TEDx, TEDWomen, etc.

Bill Gates spoke at this year's TED conference about the impact of government deficits on education. He focused on California but the comments are applicable for other states.

If the youth are our future, how do we prepare them to take care of this whole place?




The collection of information for the Fiscal Year 2012 budget can be found here:
http://franklinmatters.blogspot.com/2011/01/fiscal-year-2012-budget-information.html


Franklin, MA