Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Get Ready for November 8

Election Day is still three weeks away, but it seems some people are already marking their absentee ballots, so it's time to talk about the flip side of the ballot.

There are two proposals (or propositions) on the ballot in Hudson this November. The language for both is long and complicated and hardly the sort of thing voters should be reading for the first time at the polls and deciding on the spot to vote yes or no. So, Gossips will attempt to prepare readers by providing a little proposition primer.

Proposal One (or Prop 1) is the Fair & Equal proposition, which would eliminate the system of weighted voting in the Common Council by redrawing the ward boundaries to create five voting districts of equal population.

Gossips has written often about the inequity of the weighted vote and about the Fair & Equal initiative. If you are still not decided, click here to learn more about the problem of the weighted vote and the proposal--Proposal One--that offers a solution to the problem.  

Proposal Two would establish a Service Award Program for our volunteer firefighters. The program works like a defined contribution pension plan. Every year, the City would contribute $700 into a Service Award Program account for each active and qualifying member of the Hudson Fire Department.

The Hudson Fire Department has been an all volunteer department since its beginning in 1794. The Service Award Program would be a reward for dedicated service as well as an incentive to help retain volunteers who are already trained as firefighters and recruit new volunteers to the department.

To learn more about the program, click here to read the resolution passed by the Common Council to bring the proposal to referendum.


  1. Prop. 2 hasn't been reported in the Register Star at all. I'm not sure voters are familiar with it. I'm happy to discuss it with anyone who would like to learn more -- I voted for it and strongly support it.

    Our fire fighters, who train many many hours each year, and get out of bed in the middle of the night to rush to fires and accidents without a second thought, earn the benefits this program makes available. It's modest and requires their continued commitment to the HFD to vest and earn the benefits going forward. These are our neighbors and I know they would really appreciate the vote of confidence in them and their work a "yes" vote on Prop 2 would deliver.

    We live in a wooden town, folks. Old wood. Vote "yes" on Prop 2!

    1. This comment came from a Gossips reader:

      Definitely important to invest in our fire fighters!

      John, where can I find out how this $93,000 annual increase will be funded... what sort of tax increase can I expect as a Hudson tax payer? Before the school vote last year, the public was provided with an estimate of cost per $1,000 assessed value on the proposed increase. Personally, that information really helped me to feel confident in my vote.

      Other than in this post, I have heard NOTHING about this Prop. I would hate for voters to skip over this Prop because they don't understand it!

      - Mara Estribou

    2. Like all City expenses (except those dealing w/ water and sewer), this will be paid out of the general fund. How the City's revenues (primarily property taxes, state and federal grants and sales taxes along with parking fees/tickets) are distributed is the alchemy of the City's Board of Estimate, comprised of the mayor, treasurer and council president, the body charged by the City Charter with forming the City's annual budget (itself reviewed and approved by the council). My understanding is that the alchemy (round 1, at least) is complete, and workshops on the budget are being scheduled. The public, as always, will be invited to the workshops and may participate by asking questions and making comments.

      But I'm not entirely clear that the question "what will this mean per $1k of assessed value?" goes far enough. I think, in this context, we have to ask also "and what are the alternatives?"

      The council is very cognizant that the HFD has some difficulty recruiting new members (Alderman Haddad just joined). As a community, we clearly rely on these men and women a great deal, and they are a source of pride for us as well. If we cannot keep new volunteers coming on and retain our existing, well-trained veterans, we will have to consider alternatives to an all-volunteer HFD.

      So some other things to consider when we discuss the cost of this program:

      * Our firefighters are required to undergo (on their own time) the same training that paid firefighters go through (while being paid). If a member of the HFD doesn't do the training they don't qualify for the benefit.

      * The readiness and state of the equipment of the HFD is one of the factors used to determine all property owners' property insurance rates. So a strong, youthful and well-equipped HFD helps make us safer and saves all property owners (and their tenants) money.

      * The cost of even a hybrid (volunteer and paid members), let alone 100% paid, fire department is so astronomically high that it would, if imposed on the City of Hudson, bring us to the bring of insolvency in a matter of years.

      * Even the existing HFD vets will have to continue to remain active and engage with the HFD to earn the benefit contemplated by this plan.

      It will cost money. No question. Is it worth the cost? I think it is -- we can't afford not to have a all-volunteer fire department. To maintain it, we have to invest in not just the equipment and the fixed facilities (fire houses), but in the more valuable human capital -- our friends and neighbors who keep us safe.

      For what it's worth, I intend to vote "yes" on both Prop 1 and Prop 2.