Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bren Bataclan: Art Show

Bren Bataclan is coming to Franklin Saturday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. He will be showing some of his work at the Franklin Art Center.

Bataclan, a Cambridge based artist, was recognized by Couric for his “Smile Boston Project. The project involves the artist leaving his cartoon inspired paintings for people to take for “free”. Attatched to each painting is a note saying, “ This painting is yours if you promise to smile at random people more often.” He founded the project in the summer of 2003 and has since gone worldwide. 
The town of Franklin has been honored to have Bataclan paint murals in our elementary schools. Bataclan has also been featured in The Smithsonian Magazine, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Chicago Tribune to name a few. His solo show at the Franklin Art Center will debuting his new painting style and his new Baha series. These paintings are a more figurative and narrative series of work. “Baha” portrays the heroism, resilience and compassion of the Filipino people who have dealt with the recent floods in the Philippines. “Baha” is Bren’s most extensive and quite possibly his most important show to date. The exhibit will also feature Bren’s regular, whimsical characters along with some new ones. Bren will be donating a portion of the sale of his work to help the Filipino people.

For additional information you can visit the Art Center Facebook page

Or their website

Or Bren's own website

Image of Bren borrowed from the above links

Reminder: Earth Hour - 8:30 PM

Friendly reminder that Earth Hour occurs at 8:30 PM Saturday evening. Turn off your lights and join millions around the world.

Video summary can be found here

Additional info on Earth Hour can be found here

Franklin Art Association to meet, April 4

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via Wicked Local Franklin News RSS by GateHouse Media, Inc. on 3/30/12

The Franklin Art Association will host a meeting on Wednesday, April 4, from 6:30-9 p.m., at the Franklin Senior Center, 10 Daniel McCahill St.

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Marijuana tax stamps still on sale even though law up in smoke

An oddity creates an opportunity for collectors!


Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:


via Commonwealth Conversations: Revenue by Robert Bliss on 3/30/12

A Massachusetts newspaper reported this week that two men arrested for possession of five pounds of marijuana had also run afoul of state tax law.

The story went on to quote from the law ... which was all well and good except the law was thrown out in a Supreme Judicial Court case settled in 1998, Commissioner of Revenue v. Mullins. In ruling against the Commonwealth, the SJC said the law was aimed at drug dealers and amounted to a double jeopardy penalty since it imposed a high rate of taxation, had a deterrent purpose, was clearly conditioned on the commission of a crime, and bore no logical relationship to legal possession.

Some background is in order. in 1993, the Massachusetts Legislature passed the Massachusetts Controlled Substance Tax which authorized DOR to print tax stamps for controlled substances such as marijuana. Even though the SJC ruling made the law moot, it has not been repealed. The law set a tax rate of $3.50 per gram or $99.20 per ounce of controlled substance.

After the SJC decision, DOR kept the stamps, which are purple and about the size of a postage stamp.

Indeed, since the law first took effect, DOR has earned about $2,500 from the stamps which sell for $3.50 each, with most of those sales registered after the SJC decision.

Who is buying a stamp that has no valid legal purpose, given the SJC decision? Stamp collectors. Some purchasers sell the stamps as collectibles on web-based auction sales sites for as much as $20.

If you'd like to order your collectible, gag gift or stocking stuffer -- and folks, supplies are running low, so act now since DOR will not re-order the useless stamps once they are gone -- you can obtain them by downloading DOR form CST-1, Marijuana and Controlled Substances Stamp order form and mailing it to DOR at the address listed on the form.

We can't make this stuff up.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Earth Hour: Sat 3/31/12 beginning at 8:30 PM

This Saturday evening turn off the non-essentials lights for an hour. Join with millions around the world in Earth Hour!

For more on Earth Hour visit the US website here

Gardening for the Hungry (video)

Grow a Greener Garden shares a program PBS did on Ample Harvest founder Gary Oppenheimer.
After finding his garden too bountiful, gardener Gary Oppenheimer gave his excess harvest away to friends and neighbors, and soon that route was maxed out as well. He didn’t want to waste great food, so after donating the rest to a local women’s shelter, the idea grew to figure out a way to connect home gardeners to the food banks who are prepared to handle and distribute fresh produce. 
So Gary founded, with a focus on doing just that, so that surplus harvest can go to hunger relief and not the compost bin. Today, from Master Gardening groups to your friends and neighbors, more people are sharing the bounty and there are some great and easy ways for you to do the same.
You can view the PBS episode here Episode 220: Gardening for the Hungry (time = 1 hour)

Gary Oppenheimer also spoke to the TEDxManhattan event in February (time = 14 minutes)

The Franklin Food Pantry is registered with Ample Harvest.

In the News - solar panels, disappointed voter

Church celebrates new solar panels in Franklin

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Franklin, MA: Economic Development Summit

On April 5, 2012 Franklin will host an economic development summit including tours of Tegra Medical's award winning facility. Details can be found in the invitation document below. RSVP by April 1 to Bryan Taberner, Franklin's Director of Planning and Community Development.

Franklin, MA: 2012 Economic Development Summit Invitation

“We feel it’s a better future for the children”

“I’m delighted. I’m just really happy about it,” resident Linda Dunnebier said of the 7,988 “yes” votes. That total was more than four times the 1,982 “no” votes. There was a single blank ballot. 
Town officials are now working on contract documents to send the design plans for the school out to bid in the hopes of awarding the bid by August and starting construction in October. 
If everything stays on track, students will be in the new school by fall of 2014, with demolition and the rebuilding of the athletic fields taking place after that.

Read more:

The collection of posts on the high school building project can be found here

MBTA: Letter to Our Customers

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via Commonwealth Conversations: Transportation by Klark Jessen on 3/28/12

By Richard A. Davey, MassDOT Secretary and CEO and Jonathan Davis, MBTA Acting GM

Let us start by first thanking each and every one of the nearly 6,000 individuals who attended our public meetings over the last several months and the thousands more who wrote in via email or letter. We understand that the MBTA is a lifeline for many of you, without which you may not be able to get to work, school or recreational activities.

It is because of your overwhelming engagement that our final recommendation to the MBTA board includes what we believe are modest fare increases and limited service changes. While both are necessary to close the $185 million gap we face next year, the proposals we released in January would have had a significantly greater impact than our final plan.

MassDOT and the MBTA have identified a number of savings and efficiencies and one-time financial actions that can be taken to reduce the operating deficit, thus reducing the need for the larger fare increases and service reductions originally proposed. Some of the most significant actions include enrollment of MBTA staff in a new, lower cost health care program, energy purchase savings and a reduction in Authority headcount of 51 positions. Additionally, the T implemented a hiring freeze for non-critical positions.

Today, we are proposing an overall 23 percent increase in fares, which will generate $72.9 million in revenue. This is the first time in more than five years that the MBTA would raise fares. Every other major public transit system across the country has raised its fares during this time period. Many have also reduced service.

What does this mean for riders? For CharlieCard users, the subway will now cost $2 per ride. Local bus service will cost $1.50. Students and seniors will each pay $0.75 for a bus trip and $1 for a subway ride. Building on your ideas, we will offer a new 7-day student pass in addition to the current weekday-only student pass.

The RIDE, our paratransit service, will also see price changes.  Over the last decade, the cost of providing the RIDE has increased more than 400%, requiring a growing slice of our operating budget.  As in both previous proposals, no current RIDE customers will lose service.  For RIDE trips required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the fare will be $4.  For non-ADA required trips, the new premium fare will be $5 per trip.

Commuter rail single trip and monthly passes would be increased an average of 29 percent, depending upon the zone of travel. Ferry prices will be increased an average of 35 percent.
Overwhelmingly, we heard your calls to protect your service. We worked diligently to identify additional efficiencies, some legislative changes and $61 million in one-time revenues that allowed us to avoid massive service cuts next year. Those one-time sources include $51 million from MassDOT's Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund; $5 million in MassDOT snow and ice surplus funds; and $5 million from leasing the North Station Garage.

Coupled with the smaller fare increase, we are proposing $15.4 million in service changes for next year, including the elimination of four weekday bus routes and modifications to 14 others. Under our proposal certain bus lines would run less frequently and others would see their routes altered.

On commuter rail, we will continue to operate full weekday service during our current service hours.  However, we will eliminate all weekend service on the Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth Lines as well as Saturday service on the Needham line.
Based on your feedback, we are proposing to maintain ferry service at a higher cost to customers. We will, however, eliminate the low-ridership Quincy ferry service on the weekends.

To close the remaining gap, we will seek legislative authorization to use $51 million from the Motor Vehicle Inspection Fund, a fund that is dedicated to promoting green transportation. Without this, the air pollution impacts of cutting more service would be significant. We will also use $5 million in surplus snow and ice funds, and $5 million in other one-time savings.
We understand that even these moderate changes we are proposing today will have a significant impact on some of our customers, and we appreciate that. But we have an obligation to balance our books and to be honest with each of you about the cost of service.

This is not a permanent budget solution.  As our fixed costs continue to grow, we anticipate the MBTA will have to close another deficit next year.  While we have avoided drastic service cuts this year, we may not be able to in the future.  The Governor and I will continue to work towards a long-term solution to our transportation funding issues and we ask you to remain engaged with us in that conversation.

The MBTA will continue to do everything it can to improve your commuting experience despite our fiscal challenges. We heard many good ideas from all of you, and we ask for your continued engagement in this conversation. It is because of your involvement in the process that we are here today.

A full report on our recommendations can be found at
Thank you.

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Franklin voters approve tax hike for $104.5m high school

The Boston Globe YT (YourTown) Budget Blues website provided an update on the election results.

Sent to you by Steve Sherlock via Google Reader:

via YT: Budget Blues on 3/28/12

Construction on a new $104.5 million Franklin High School is scheduled to begin in the fall after residents voted Tuesday to override Proposition 2 1/2 by a nearly four-to-one margin.
With nearly 50 percent of the town's voters going to the polls, 7,988 were in favor of the override for the town's $49 million share of the project, while 1,982 were opposed.

Owners of a home valued at $352,700, the average in town, will pay an additional $260 in taxes starting in 2017 and ending in 2040, according to Town Administrator Jeffrey D. Nutting.
The state will pick up the remaining cost of the new school, which should be completed within two years on land now used for baseball and softball fields next to the current facility.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trust tips #8 - Tell me more, please! (video)

Charlie Green is someone I follow and read regularly.

Note: Franklin Matters subscribers will need to click through to the website to view the video.

“This is a great day for the town of Franklin”

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Town Councilor and School Building Committee Chairman Thomas Mercer. “A major decision for the town was made by 10,000 people. It would have been a sin to see this decision made by 3,000 people.” 
The debt exclusion will raise property taxes until 2040, costing the average homeowner $1 in fiscal 2013, $45 in fiscal 2014, $85 in fiscal 2015, $216 in fiscal 2016, and $260 every year after that until 2040. 
The 104.5 million debt exclusion was the biggest obstacle for supporters of a new Franklin High School to overcome. 
Now, town officials will finish creating contract documents, with Mercer saying he hopes to put the project out to bid by the end of July. 
If everything stays on track, construction will break ground on the current high school sports fields this October, with students moving into a new school by the fall of 2014.


Read more:

The full set of results from the election can be found here

In the News - marathoner, softball, many voting

Franklin woman running to celebrate life

Franklin Lady Panthers softball clinic set for March 31

Many voting on Franklin override

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Franklin, MA: Debt Exclusion - precinct totals

Precinct         Yes                No               Blanks
1                   1011              258
2                    819               241
3                    772               335
4                  1093               251
5                   777                274                     1
6                  1018               219
7                  1366               210
8                  1132               194
Totals           7988             1982                     1

9971 total votes cast of 20,500 eligible voters for a 48.6%

Franklin, MA says "Yes" to model school program

The vote tally 9971

Yes = 7988
No = 1982

Total voters = 9971
Total registered voters = 20,500
percent voting 48.6%

15 Letters to the Editor

If this is any indication on the level of civic engagement in Franklin, then this election has been good to get so many involved. Let's all get out to cast our ballot.

VOTE YES: Barlow - Don’t miss the chance on FHS

VOTE YES: Hartnett - Yes to a new Franklin High School

Franklin, MA: Election Day

Voices of Franklin - Bill Glynn - Misinformation Campaign Manipulates Senior Citizens

The FHS vote is a rare situation when self-interest (to maintain lowest possible taxes) aligns with the community’s interest (to tend to the community’s needs). The high school problems are well documented: the entire facility must be made accessible to those with disabilities and the failing infrastructure must be upgraded to make the building safe and bring it up to code (these two issues alone will cost tens of millions of dollars in renovations). Franklin must decide either to pay $47M of the $104M cost to build a new school or 100% of the $86+M cost to renovate the existing school. The new school option is the taxpayers’ cheapest option and provides the best outcome. Since a “do nothing keep all my money” option doesn’t exist, a “NO” vote will cost Franklin $86+M instead of the $47M cost of a “YES” vote. It should be an easy decision.

Back when the current high school was built, there was no proposition 2.5, so the community probably looked at multiple options when deciding to build the current school – just like the building committee did during this analysis. There may have been a high-end option as well as a low-end option and perhaps middle of the road options too. The point is, the decision had to be analyzed and folks had to choose between competing goals such as: lowest-cost, best-value, maximum-benefit, etc. My guess is that their decision was more heavily-weighted toward the lowest-cost end of the spectrum. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a school with all of the facilities embedded in concrete walls (a cheap way to build, but extremely expensive to renovate and upgrade) and we would have a handicapped-accessible school with elevators. These two items in particular answer the question posed by some, “how come Tri-County is OK?” The answer is directly linked to what was bought: Franklin didn’t buy a Mercedes or a Toyota Camry and so the end result was a school with a relatively short lifespan that was not designed to be upgradable.

In the current situation, the state (MSBA) decided between the options first and determined which option (if any) it would choose to fund. First, the MSBA funds school projects on the basis of need; the higher the need, the closer to the top of the list you get. So, unless you’re thinking that the state just has more money than it knows what to do with, you have to agree that FHS must have some level of need in order to be near the top of the list. The state chose the model school option because the costs are very deterministic (the model has been built several times so cost overruns are minimized) and the state wasn’t looking for the lowest-cost option (renovation was about 85% of the cost of a new model school). Rather, the state was looking more along the lines of value for the money being spent – in other words, a higher return on their investment because they don’t want us coming back in 15 years. That’s why we’re able to have the option to get a new model school for less money (shared cost) than a renovation (we pay the full cost because the state won’t throw good money after bad).

So, if there is clearly a need to fix issues at the high school and that need is so great that the cost is roughly 85% of the cost to build a completely new school as well as rip down and dispose of the old school and we can get the new school by paying only 40% of the cost, then what’s the problem? While I am sensitive to the issue that there are some folks facing financial difficulty, the biggest problem is there are many more people who don’t like to deal with inconvenient data; they’d rather invent their own data and invent their own options and they believe that a “NO” vote gets them their invented option. The reality is there is no option that says ignore the situation, do nothing, spend no money and continue on as though the $1M or so and multiple years the town spent on engineers to analyze the situation never happened. Go back to sleep, it’s just a bad dream. Toward that goal, there are those who have been intentionally deceiving the Franklin taxpayer and preying upon the vulnerabilities of Franklin’s cost-sensitive senior community in particular with a disinformation campaign claiming there are no problems – just say “NO” and all will be well. If they are successful, they will have spared the Franklin taxpayers a $47M bill by convincing them to opt for an $86+M bill.

Although masterful in its execution, this disinformation campaign is repugnant by design. Is it effective? Only if you fall victim to the “all’s well” fantasy or you fail to vote and help protect yourself and the community from those who are victimized.