By: Brian Denest – Dec. 2018
What a year it’s been in Dracut! Here’s a look back at 2018 with some heart-felt holiday wishes for the coming year…
For Dracut voters, I wish town elections would focus on the important issues. Our town keeps living up to its naughty reputation for the putrid politics of personal destruction. The race for the Board of Selectmen this year was no exception, sadly.
Just like three years ago, Selectman Joe DiRocco had to beat back election-season attacks that had nothing to do with town issues from the nothing-to-offer negative voices who were pushing his opponent, Phil Thibault. (The third candidate, John Joyce, was also under fire non-stop from the moment he pulled papers to run for the seat.)
Just like three years ago, Joe DiRocco defeated Phil Thibault, who has now lost five town elections, in case you’ve lost count. A Festivus miracle wasn’t in the cards again this year, apparently.
Whatever the season, when it comes to politics in Dracut, civility is the Ghost of Christmas Past. The ugly underbelly of town politics is the exact reason good people don’t run for office. Or open a business here. Or want to get involved at all.
Speaking of the political underbelly, for the Dracut Connection, I wish the “show” would fade to black, permanently. Let’s keep Charlie Brown and Rudolph on the air and take these silly elves off.
For town taxpayers, I wish Town Manager Jim Duggan would start budgeting for capital expenses in the town’s nearly $80 million annual budget, instead of pushing Proposition 2 ½ overrides and debt exclusions that are continuing to drive up property taxes.
Every two or three years lately, Dracut property owners have to go through this special-election-to-raise-taxes crap. Think of it as the local version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” You’re little Cindy Lou Who. But Jim Duggan isn’t going to change his mind and give you back your money.
This was the third time in six years that Dracut property owners were asked to raise our own taxes. In 2013, a whopping 72% of voters said “no” to two Prop 2 ½ overrides — $2.9 million for schools and $200,000 for police, fire and public works. In 2016, voters again rejected two Proposition 2 ½ overrides — $560,000 for additional police officers and firefighters and $550,000 to install wireless technology in the elementary and middle schools.
This year, a $4 million debt exclusion for a fire station in Collinsville and a $950,000 debt exclusion for security in Dracut Public Schools were passed. Plus, residents are already paying additional taxes above the limits set by Prop 2 1/2 as a result of debt exclusions that were previously passed for the library, police station and $60 million high school.
The fact that Dracut needs a new fire station in Collinsville shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with eyesight. What should be surprising and alarming is the lack of capital planning in recent years to ensure projects like fire stations happen within the budget, instead of through additional tax increases. Capital planning has melted away like Frosty the Snowman.
There’s no place like home for the holidays. Along those lines, for the people who live in McMansions and keep demanding that taxpayers cough up more and more funding for the schools, I wish you’d move to Lexington. Those of us in the town’s middle class, including our retirees, can’t keep up with your expectations, apparently. Not to mention that we’re sick of hearing how we’re nothing but cheap, horrible people who hate kids. In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge: “Bah, humbug!”
Last, but certainly not least, for public safety, I wish Dracut wasn’t so fired up about bringing weed-related businesses to town, especially for the retail sales of recreational marijuana.
A company that wants to run a recreational marijuana dispensary is expected to open the business on Pleasant Street, if granted a special permit by selectmen.
In June, town meeting passed three articles related to marijuana – one outlining boundaries for marijuana establishments, one restricting retail marijuana establishments to the industrial zone and one imposing a 3-percent excise tax on retail sales of marijuana.
The path was blazed for retail marijuana businesses in town last year, after town meeting narrowly rejected a temporary moratorium. ‘Tis the season to be merry, apparently.
I don’t want to kill anyone’s holiday buzz, but I’m guessing anything that could possibly go wrong absolutely will. Call me paranoid.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Brian Genest is chairman of the Dracut Republican Town Committee. A marketing and communications expert with 20 years of success driving growth, maximizing ROI and boosting profits for consumer and high-tech brands, he has developed and executed strategic initiatives for a range of disruptive technologies, including robots, mobile commerce solutions and SaaS products. Earlier in his career, Genest worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for the Dracut Dispatch, Derry News and Billerica Minuteman. ◊