It is my pleasure to begin to provide an article each month geared towards those of you with a eye trained on Methuen and its politics. Look forward to brief articles touching on several topics like Council votes and other decisions and events affecting those who live here. Enjoy.
Uber ambulance anyone?
Ambulance rides are now more costly in Methuen. Early in July, the council voted 8-1 to raise ambulance rates to 300% above the Medicare Fee Schedule. As the one dissenting councilor, I felt there were several reasons to oppose such an increase. First and foremost, the practice of increasing spending and then taxes and fees to pay for it is unsustainable. As part of the most recent budget, $300,000 in fire overtime was cut in exchange for the hiring of four new firefighters. Within the month, the council was taking a vote on a resolution to raise ambulance fees that would potentially increase revenue by over $300,000. While a roundabout way of going about it, this amounts to a spending increase. I don’t fault the department for this. In fact, each department head should be expected to work to secure as much revenue flowing to their department as they can. However, while the department heads are looking out for their departments, it is the councilors job to represent taxpayers and diligently keep spending in check. If we as a council can show we are serious about holding the line on spending, we will be faced with less need to raise taxes and fees. Likewise, if we show we are unwilling to raise taxes and fees further, spending will increase less rapidly. This is not a blanket statement opposing user fees, which can be a fairer way to raise revenues in certain situations. However, in this specific instance the increase prompted increased spending without a consideration given to cost savings.
Countdown to Sept. 9th
The campaign signs sprouting up around town indicate that the season for phone calls, mailings, and personal visits from campaigners is fast approaching – and it has the makings of a bountiful season. First out of the gate is Senator Ives running for a second term representing the 1st Essex district. Her signs have shrunk since the last time she ran, much like support from the progressive wing of her party. Trying to capitalize on that is Methuen native Jessica Finocchairo. If successful, Finocchairo would be the first challenger to knock off a sitting incumbent in this seat during a primary since Councilor Jim Jajuga did it in 1990.
However, the implications of this race stretch far beyond just the general election – they will also help determine whether Dennis Marcello will be allowed to photobomb Methuen political events for two more years. Meanwhile, in the lower chamber, incumbent Rep. and Moped enthusiast, Diana DiZoglio, will be attempting to fend off challenges of her own. Hailing from North Andover, establishment darling, Phil DeCologero, and Army veteran, Oscar Camargo, are looking to defeat the incumbent using pages from Dizoglio’s own 2012 playbook. Contentious from the start, the jabs in this race will likely increase as the month of August wears on. Driven largely by the competitive gubernatorial race, this contest will ultimately be decided by which towns turn out the highest (or lowest).
Daniel Grayton is currently serving as a Councilor at-Large in the City of Methuen. He can be reached at DanielGrayton@gmail.com