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Archive for the ‘Sorry I’m So Cynical’ Category

Someone Really Wants You to Know Your Taxes “Could Go Up 7 Percent”

Posted by whforums on January 7, 2009

The question of “why is this news” was probably lost when your eyes bulged out of your head.

From an article in The Courant today:

If no programs or personnel are cut and state aid doesn’t increase, residents will likely be facing a tax hike of about 7 percent in fiscal year 2009-10.

The town council and school board will host a community summit Jan. 28 to begin identifying which services to preserve and which to cut, and to spell out what local officials can and cannot do with respect to union contracts, property revaluation and other issues.

“We think that 7 percent is unacceptable, but it’s going to take significant program cuts to lower it,” Mayor Scott Slifka said Tuesday. “The changes could be dramatic, and the community needs to be part of that discussion.” …

Hoping for a large turnout, officials are seeking participation from business owners, parents, union members, the Exchange and Rotary clubs and other fraternal groups, the West Hartford Taxpayers Association, which has opposed the last several budgets, and West Hartford FIRST, which has supported those budgets, particularly in the area of education funding.

The whole thing catches me a little bit short — the announcement of such a startling “possible” tax increase could simply be an effort to increase turnout at the January 28th meeting (to really listen to the community and to seek help from the community — a “people, help your government with this problem” moment). In that case, it’s a beautiful example of democracy. In an election year, however, a 7% tax increase seems unlikely (and we already know where some budget cuts can be made — like leaf collection). This makes the cynical voice in my head say “How do you get people to swallow a 3.5% tax increase? You tell ’em you’re going to increase their taxes 7% first.” Or maybe, since no one likes cutting programs and personnel, this is a wake up call to that necessity, or, at best, a way to make that necessity more palatable (or politically safe). Or maybe it’s just a way to ratchet pressure on the state — one of the above “ifs” is “if state aid does not increase.” This seems equally likely considering there is likely going to be state aid coming from Washington soon (though I’m not sure it will be here soon enough for the start of the West Hartford budget making season).

The WHTA is encouraging the Council to reject the new teacher contract (which ensures raises, above and beyond step increases, of 1 and 1.25 percent — which, as I figured in some post somewhere else, is about the cost of a year of leaf collection). The Council seems unlikely to do so. Asking the union to accept a pay freeze or a step freeze for academic year 09-10 doesn’t seem unacceptable to me, but there would have to be a a significant payoff (in pay or step increase) down the road. And it would be unfair to ask teachers to take a pay freeze if other town employees don’t take the same pay freeze (granted, with union contracts, such equal “treatment” of all employees is likely impossible).

So. Yeah. Your taxes “could” go up 7 percent. What’s the strategy behind news like that?

Posted in Budget, budget cuts, Crap Economy, Local Democracy, Sorry I'm So Cynical, Taxes, West Hartford | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Purchases at Ten Thousand Villages to Support HopeWorks

Posted by whforums on December 4, 2008

Because I’m a skeptical jerk, I’ve throughout my short life been sort of iffy about Ten Thousand Villages. Back in the day, when I lived in Cow Country, NY, my wife and I would wander through the store and I’d say to her “This can’t really be for real.” The idea of fair trade in an environment that seemed so fracking capitalistic (wandering through the store was like wandering through any other store) seemed so outlandish (or perhaps so hopeful) that I sort of felt like I had to dismiss it.

Since those days, my friends, my reading and my experiences have convinced me that the store and the idea behind it are both for real (that it’s not some horrific, feel-good front for exploitation), and even more, that the people behind the store have been fairly influential in the global fair trade movement. And while I still have some qualms about the store (why not sell products from Americans who need an outlet alongside products from artisans from developing nations?), it seems like Ten Thousand Villages is doing exactly what I demand other companies do — they’re engaging in a more ethical capitalism.

So what does this have to do with West Hartford? Well, if you shop at the Ten Thousand Villages in the Center between Noon and five this Sunday (December 7th), the store will donate 15% of all profits to HopeWorks. What a great chance to make your money work for the good of your global and local communities, yes?

Posted in Sorry I'm So Cynical, Things to Do, West Hartford, West Hartford Center | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

What Do You Think of the Look of PF Chang’s?

Posted by whforums on November 24, 2008

You’ll have to forgive my photo quality — I snapped it with an iPhone as my car was rolling by:

PF Chang's, West Hartford

I get that art threatens capitalism, so that when capitalism tries to do art, it can only do kitsch.  Like, Las Vegas exists, and that’s fine.  But this to me seems more like “branding on acid” than anything.   For god’s sake, people, you can make the giant horse as giant or ungiant as you want, and you can remake the exterior of your portion of the mall with height and”rich earth tones,” but none of this is going to change the fact that you’re in a mall. And, to be blunt, if I’ve chosen to spend time at this mall, why would I want to forget that in the first place?

Architecture without politics is vapid, but this is architecture in the service of the faux politics of the consumer, which is insipid …

Set to open December, 2008.  And don’t get me wrong, I’ll be there that month, and I’m sure the food will be good. And I think it’s a welcome boutique chain in West Hartford’s “boutique chain scene.”  But just like The Cheesecake Factory (and in opposition to Crate and Barrel), this place just looks like it’s trying too hard, doesn’t it?

Posted in Sorry I'm So Cynical, West Hartford, West Hartford Restaurants, westfarms | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Help Me Quaker Green, You’re My Only Hope

Posted by whforums on September 4, 2008

For “whatever reason,” we’ve been written up in “My Midwest Magazine,” the in-flight magazine of Midwest Airlines (I know, I know – there’s a Midwest Airlines?).  Focusing mostly on the Quaker Green project (though also somewhat on Blue Back Square), the article essentially argues that, in this down economy and slow real estate market, West Hartford – and Elmwood particularly –  is a boom town.

And certainly there’s some truth to this.  If you take a look at what’s being said on the Greater Hartford Real Estate Blog and in the West Hartford News, it seems like there’s good reason to believe that the real estate market in West Hartford is at the very least percolating, and certainly not as badly affected as the national market generally.  But what’s particularly revealing about this article is not its supposed shot in the dark accuracy re: our real estate market, but instead the developer infused enthusiasm  that cynically seeks to portray the 60,000 of us as either a national salvation or, at the very least, some sort of new urban, old New England utopia.

The article argues that Elmwood is undertaking a “terrific upsurge in business development, with two new national chains building “in the area” (Price Rite and ALDI).  The article also says that with “business booming in Elmwood, there may be hope in an otherwise faltering real estate market.”  (Such that: America, on bended knee, speaks to us and says:  “Help me, Elmwood, you’re my only hope.”)  And who gets the credit for this boom?  Well, according to the author, “one developer polished a diamond in the rough – and transformed an enitre section of town in the process.”   In other words, if Elmwood is the Obi-Wan of a nation’s real estate crisis, we’re supposed to believe that Quaker Green is the Obi-Wan of Elmwood’s own crisis.

And if you’re buying all the optimism, the folks at Quaker Green would like you to know that 8 out of 20 condo units – and half of Quaker Green’s townhouses – are still available.  And I’m sure all of this sounds pretty good when you’re stuck on the tarmac in Milwaukee.

But let’s just imagine you are stuck in the tarmac in Milwaukee, and maybe you’ve heard something about some square … read about it in the New York Times or on some web ‘zine or something. Well, the article is quick to point out that the spaces in BBS, “a new, high-end live-work-play development,” are mostly being sold to “empty nesters … often as second homes.”  Doesn’t sound too live-work-play, does it?

You can check out the article here.  I’d be interested to hear your reactions – and I’ll start with my own:

We must resist the flattery of capital that develops “the news” in order to portray itself as each of our salvations.

Posted in Blue Back Square, Elmwood, National News, Sorry I'm So Cynical, West Hartford, West Hartford Center | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »