• Property Taxes, Residential & Commercial
  • Proposal to Implement New Local Taxes
  • Proposal to Increase City Councilor Pay
  • Holyoke Issues
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  • Reducing City Council at-Large Seats
  • Establishment of Sewer Fees
  • Choices in Education
  • Orders Filed by Linda with the City Council
    August 8, 2012 - ORDER: That the City Council review the new late filed order language included in Rule 44 to ensure compliance with the Open Meeting Law. When orders are “late filed” they are being referred to committee without ever appearing on the agenda.

    July 15, 2012 - ORDER: The City Council request DPW to replace the yield sign at the Rt. 202 to Homestead Ave cut through (near the two mini-malls) with a stop sign. There have been accidents and a number of near misses due to drivers traveling at high speeds through the yield sign.

    July 15, 2012 - ORDER: That the City Council committee chairs comply with the City Council rule #61 that requires orders referred to committee to be brought up within 30 days. There are a number of orders “buried” in committees at this time.

    July 15, 2012 - ORDER: That the City Council adopt the tax work off program for veterans, part of the Valor Act, that allows veterans to work off up to $1,000 per year, similar to the senior tax work off program. This will help veterans stay in their homes and recognize their service.

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    BIG Y & O’CONNELL RETAIL SUMMARY

    Feb 14, 2012

    PROPOSED CONDITIONS FOR THE SITE PLAN APPROVAL
    FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF THE PLANNING BOARD

    In accordance with Ordinance 10.1.7, it is respectfully requested that the Planning Board give consideration to these recommendations and include them as conditions to any site plan approval for this project as appropriate.
    Read Entire Report Here
    See Plot Plan here

    UPCOMING PLANNING BOARD MEETING:
    Tuesday, March 20th
    6:00 P.M.
    CITY HALL ANNEX, 4th FLOOR
    Meeting is a "closed meeting" where the public may attend but no further information or testimony about the proposal may be submitted
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    GERIATRIC AUTHORITY UPDATE & HEARING
    UPCOMING MEETING:
    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2012
    7:00 P.M.
    CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL

    Petition calling for a public hearing to decide upon removal "for cause" and for the good of the Geriatric Authority of Holyoke of any or all of the board members of the Geriatric Authority.
    Per order of the Mayor (See order here),
    meeting pursuant to the Citizen Petition (See order here).

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    Linda's Votes on Local Issues
    May 2010
  • End Producer requirement to recycle manufactured goods
  • Vote to fund the library project
  • Feeding ban on cats
  • Allowing chickens in the city
    Linda's positions on these issues

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    Property Tax Rate
    February 2012

    SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

    It was Christmas Eve and the City Council was once again debating the tax rate due to a Mayoral veto of the original rate. During the debate, figures had been put forth describing the effect of the different rates on the total tax bill of the average homeowner. It had been made clear that the taxes for the average homeowner would increase at least $200.00 regardless of which rate we chose.

    The reason we have this debate every year is that Holyoke has a split tax rate. The average tax rate would be 23.06 per thousand for every tax payer if we had a single rate. The split tax rate places a greater tax burden on business owners rather than homeowners. So anything over 1.0 is a shift to the business owners. Last year we approved a 1.68 tax rate for home owners. The Mayor’s tax panel recommended shifting toward 1.5 and our Mayor recommended 1.65. This year the city council approved 1.67.

    Late in the discussion, Councilor Rebecca Lisi made a statement that I was wrong when I said the difference in the taxes was $50-$55.00 (per average home owner). She took my comment out of context. It was clear if one followed the debate, that I was referring to last year and comparing the effects of one tax rate to another (from year to year). Other councilors understood the point I was making. The tax rate of 1.68 that we passed last year (2010) increased the average home owner’s tax bill by $50 more than it would have been (if the higher proposed rate passed).
    We had the same debate this year. It was correctly pointed out by another councilor that the difference we were debating was $87.00 when looking at the Mayor’s proposed rate. I was referring to the differences between the proposed rates this year with those of last year. The rate that the Mayor proposed would have “saved” the average homeowner approximately $87.00 on their tax bill compared to the 1.6 rate.

    In the end, the approved rate of 1.67 will result in a tax increase of $200.00 for the average homeowner and almost $800.00 on average for business. As a councilor who has consistently voted against excessive spending, this is too much. It is time to reduce our spending and live within our means. Both homeowners and businesses agree on one thing. Taxes are too high.

    If Councilor Lisi wants to say I am wrong, she should get her facts straight first. I have a reputation for doing my homework and making well informed comments. While I do not object to a difference of opinion, I do object to a misrepresentation of my comments. My approach to city government comes from the goal of positive growth for homeowners and businesses alike. After all many of our business owners are homeowners too. We are all in this together.
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    Charter Review
    October, 2011
    My position on the charter revision ballot question to be voted on November 8th:

    I recommend a YES vote.

    Following careful analysis, attendance at public hearings and consideration of various opinions on the revised Charter for our city I ask you to please consider a Yes vote for the revised City Charter on the ballot November 8th and bring Holyoke into the 21st century.

    A common argument against the charter is that it upsets the balance of power, giving the Mayor too much power. Here is my take on the new proposal as it relates to checks and balances
    1. The Mayor appoints department heads that handle business of the city and the City Council confirms or does not confirm.
    2. The Mayor brings finance management under the office while the City Council chooses an outside auditing firm to complete an audit each year.
    3. The Mayor is elected for 4 years (citizens have the ability to recall the Mayor).
    4. The city council is reduced to 11 members from 15. I believe a smaller council will be more accountable to the voters, will lead to more competition for the seats and therefore be a net positive benefit for our community.
    In summary, it is my opinion that the new charter increases accountability and maintains balance while ensuring representation relative to the size of our community, with the 11 member council, (a position I have long supported).
    Linda's Votes on Local Issues
    May 2010
  • End Producer requirement to recycle manufactured goods
  • Vote to fund the library project
  • Feeding ban on cats
  • Allowing chickens in the city
    Linda's positions on these issues

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    Holyoke Property Tax Issue
    Facts of the Matter:
  • Some councilors state that they have always voted for a low tax rate for homeowners
  • The same councilors have voted for the highest tax rate in the state for business owners
  • The low tax rate for homeowners gives the impression that the taxes are also low, but that is not the case. Many homeowners experienced tax rate increases from $500.00 to $700.00 in one year.
  • Because the tax rate is artificially low, the valuation of the homes is simply increased each year by the assessor's office to meet the spending level set in the budget for the city.
  • The ridiculously high business tax rate has the opposite effect on property values for businesses, resulting in deflated property values, (the only hope that a business might actually locate here).
  • The end effect is that homeowners are paying increasingly disproportionate taxes on property that can not be sold for the valued amount (for tax purposes) and businesses who may be paying a reasonable amount of total dollars today, live in fear of the day that their property will be valued at the full rate.
  • The answer is growth in the business sector of our community.
  • Some Ideas for Economic Development:

    • Have charitable organizations that buy homes in the city for programs make a contribution in lieu of taxes. Right now these homes come off the tax roles and we make up the difference by paying higher taxes on our homes.
    • Have the city pay off back taxes on properties that are abandoned if this would be less expensive than the legal process of reclaiming the property for failure to pay. The legal process takes a long time and costs us money. If the property was improved and on the tax roles, it looks like there could be a cost benefit to the city.
    • Be aggressive on collecting unpaid taxes early on so absentee landlords know that our city is serious about this.

    Letter to Voters, 2007
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    Proposal to Implement New Local Taxes
    on Hotels, Meals and Telecommunications Companies

    Facts of the Matter:
  • This would generate a small amount of additional local money that would be funneled up to the state level and then returned to the local community
  • The amount of money generated would amount to pennies on the dollar in comparison to the predicted $1.3 billion dollar shortfall statewide and would do little for the local budget
  • It would generate less money for smaller communities with fewer restaurants and hotels

    My Position
  • I am opposed to this tax increase
  • It is adding a local tax layer that can be endlessly expanded once it is established
  • It is placing responsibility on local communities for fiscal accountability that belongs at the State level
  • It would penalize local residents for supporting neighborhood restaurants if the additional taxes are imposed
  • It is not business friendly in a city that is already known for having the highest tax rate in the area
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    Pay Raise Issue for City Councilors
    There is a proposal floating around to raise the pay of the City Council by 30%.

    Facts of the Matter:
  • Our Governor is talking about a 1.3 billion dollar shortfall in the state budget
  • Our Mayor is asking Department Heads to present level funded budgets
  • Our City Councilors are elected for two year terms and this is not their "regular job" but rather a position of service to the community as elected officials

    My Position
  • I am opposed to an increase in the pay for the City Councilors
  • The pay and benefits associated with the position are more than adequate
  • It is good for the City Council to serve as an example of fiscal restraint in times of tight budgets
  • Too much money encourages people to remain in the Council seats out of self-interest rather than the interests of the community
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    Establishment of Sewer Fees
    Some people think:
    • It is fair for all to pay for the water run off from streets in one part of the city.
    • They should pay for the services that they actually receive from the city.
    • We need a certain amount of 'socialism' because that is how things are these days.
    • We need to let people live their lives without imposing government fees on them.
    • They should make their choices of where to live and pay for the choices they make.
    FACTS OF THE MATTER
    • Those with septic systems have paid for the maintenance, testing and compliance with Title V regulations since they purchased their homes. There has been no assistance from the City.
    • Those with City sewer have enjoyed very low rates for many years.
    • The sewer rates in other towns such as Lee, are twice as much as the Holyoke rate will be, even after the first proposed increase.
    • Those who receive the service, unfortunately bear the cost of a sudden increase due to the 10 year delay on upgrading the treatment plant and the 6-7M expense due to the decline of the existing physical plant.
    WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

    To shift the cost of the sewer upgrade to those who have paid the full cost of sewer expense for the last 10 years on their own is just unfair.
    Establishing fees on all to help some is just a 'hidden' tax, and one that can not be written off.
    There are certain limited government services that we all pay for that serve the entire community. Many services can be and periodically should be looked at from the point of view; should we do it ourselves or outsource it? The answer will be different from one issue to another and one time to another. In any case various options need to be considered in looking out for our citizens and getting the most for our tax dollars.
    So for now, the proposed rates should be accepted that will allow the City to be eligible for the low cost loan to complete the sewer work required.
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    Reducing Number of at-Large Seats on the City Council
    In comparison to most other communities, Holyoke has a large number of council seats with fifteen; 8 at large and 7 ward seats. Then there is the ratio of "at large" seats to ward seats to consider.

    We need ward representation to ensure that the varying needs of different neighborhoods are addressed. We also need "at large" seats to ensure movement on matters when interests of neighborhoods may be competitive and when ward interests may compete with the interests of the city as a whole. It is not necessary to have a majority of at large seats to accomplish this. With a majority of "at large" seats, the risk of tipping the representation of the council to one weighted in two or three neighborhoods is increased and the notion of representation is then diminished.

    A third consideration is the decision making process itself. The current council has been bogged down by conflict. Reducing the size of the council could lead to more effective and efficient decision making and therefore a more responsive city council for the residents of Holyoke.



    Voters will have the opportunity this fall to choose people they believe will exercise the responsibility of the position (i.e. make decisions) and on the other hand, give people a voice in matters that they should have a say in (such as the size of the city council-after all the Council represents the PEOPLE). It is important to note that a change in the number of councilors would require an amendment to the charter, but would NOT require a change in the "form" of government of Holyoke, which is organized under a Plan "B" Charter, characterized by a "strong" Mayor and a City Council.

    Please refer to Massachusetts General Law,
    "CHAPTER 43. CITY CHARTERS
    -------------------------
    PLAN B.--GOVERNMENT BY MAYOR AND COUNCIL ELECTED BY DISTRICTS AND AT LARGE
    Chapter 43: Section 59 City council; number; election; tenure

    Section 59. The legislative powers of the city shall be vested in a city council. One of its members shall be elected by the council annually as its president. In cities having more than seven wards, the city council shall be composed of fifteen members, of whom one shall be elected from each ward by and from the qualified voters of that ward, and the remaining members shall be elected by and from the qualified voters of the city. In cities having seven wards or less, the city council shall be composed of eleven members, of whom one shall be elected from each ward by and from the qualified voters of that ward, and the remaining members shall be elected by and from the qualified voters of the city."
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    School Choice
    Debate continues as to whether Public Charter Schools help students or hurt the 'original' public schools. I maintain that the focus should be and should remain on the students and their literacy and competence in math and science rather than the 'school'.

    As a product of the public schools, I am a firm believer in the concept of 'public' schools and 'equal opportunity' in education. However, I am not in favor of the current quasi human service providers that schools have become. The proponents of schools providing everything from meals, to day care, to condoms and health care would have us believe that the only way these needs can be met is at school. No wonder the schools don't successfully teach the basics; they have lost sight of their mission, ..EDUCATION

    I welcome the charter schools for the following reasons:
    • They challenge the belief that poor children can't do any better.
    • They give all parents, regardless of income, a choice between a school they know is underperforming and one that has a new plan.
    • They challenge the status quo and the entitlement mentality that more money will fix the problem.
    • They focus on structure, goals, guidelines and outcomes such as going to college vs. passing the MCAS.
    This sounds like the public schools I attended! Let's see if they add value in Holyoke. After all, Charter schools are Public Schools too!
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