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Our Town

Although inspired in part by a true incident, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.

Things are not what they seem in the small town of Hamilton, Massachusetts. With its graceful Colonials and expansive horse farms, Hamilton evinces idyllic charm. Conservative, affluent, and deeply religious, it embodies small town New England.

But all is not well in Hamilton.

Quiet, sleepy cul-du-sacs belie a town that is deeply divided by education, wealth, faith, and heritage. In one house lives an affluent, white collar family new to the area. In the house next door lives a third generation resident who secretly seethes the change that her neighbors represent.

There is the distinguished and successful couple -- loved and respected throughout the town. On the outside, they seem to have it all put together. But on the inside lies the ugly specter of domestic abuse. Sadly, she suffers in silence, as no one in town would ever think that such a scourge could strike…

Maybe we should rethink Christian missions trips

It's no secret that I've written about the church leadership at the First Congregational Church of Hamilton directly in the past, and I have blogged about them in roman √†clef as well. You may peruse the stories on this blog if you so desire. We disagree over whether it's OK for a pastor to have an affair with a woman and then place her into a position of leadership without that pastor receiving so much as a slap on the wrist. For what it is worth, you should know that the senior pastor, his staff, his board, and a particular lay lady in leadership don't think charitable thoughts of me -- at least from what I have read. And I have read quite a lot.

But all of that is water under the bridge.

I'm dipping a cautious toe in the water to write about Christian missions trips: are they relevant, are they needed, are they fruitful. I haven't written much about Hamilton Congregational lately, but this is the time of year that churches around the country are planning thei…

The Hamilton Home Auction That Never Happened - Bulletin Board - Hamilton-wenham, Massachusetts | Patch

57 Riverview Road, Gloucester, MA, 01930 - PlanOmatic

Saving the US Postal Service

Last year, the U.S. Postal service reported a $5 billion operating loss -- the seventh year in a row that the postal service reported a loss.  The service has made some progress in righting the ship: the postal service reported revenue gains in spite of the operating loss, and the yearly loss is a far cry less than the $15 billion the service lost in 2012.

The U.S. Postal service has implemented a number of cost-cutting measures to close the revenue-expense gap, including restructuring the Postal Service health care plan, lowering future FERS payment amounts to those required, adjusting delivery frequency to six-day packages/five-day mail, streamlining the governance model, moving to a defined contribution retirement system for future Postal Service employees, and reforming Workers’ Compensation.  Each of these steps have proven effective.

The  U.S. Postal Service has closed post offices, and may continue to do so in the future.  The Postal Service's customer facing-retail storef…

Saving the MBTA

I originally wrote this in another blog back in the fall of 2012, but it is still relevant today.  The MBTA holds more debt than any other public transit authority in the country.  Back in 2012, public transit riders revolted when the MBTA announced that it would institute sweeping rate hikes and cuts in service to balance its fiscal budget.  The public outcry led the State House to a one-time infusion of $51 million to help the MBTA balance its fiscal year 2013 budget, the so-called "MBTA Bailout bill."  This funding helped the MBTA meet its mandatory debt service obligations and avoided extensive rate hikes and cuts in service, but it is not a long-term fix.
The MBTA carries nearly $9 billion in public debt, and it spends nearly a third of its operating budget just servicing that existing debt.  The MBTA’s debt comes from three sources — $1.85 billion from spending since the 2000 start of forward funding, $1.65 billion that was transferred to the MBTA under forward fundin…

Special Town Meeting's Own Goal

It's been a couple of weeks now, and I still can't make sense of Special Town Meeting's vote against the purchase of the Pirie property. I think the thing that bothers me the most about the vote is that most of the residents who voted against it believed that they were acting in their own best interests while, in fact, they were not. Hamilton is a town in which many of its residents are financially well-off; however, it is also a town in which many of its residents struggle from paycheck to paycheck, or are forced to live off of modest fixed income.  The decision against the Town's plan will not save open space, will not reduce the tax burden of residents at the margins, and will only increase the potential for development that will be net revenue negative and won't guarantee the preservation of trails. The choice was not between the current state of the farm and this plan; the choice was between this plan (in which the Town maintained a reasonable amount of say an…

Why does Jennifer Scuteri want to keep Donna Brewer as Town Counsel?

No, I did not include a typo in my headline, thanks for asking.  Why does Jennifer Scuteri want to keep Donna Brewer as Town Counsel?  That is the pertinent question in light of the fact that Town Manager Mike Lombardo has decided to re-hire Donna Brewer as the Town's top lawyer.

That decision has once again roiled a sleepy town, and several residents have countered with a petition challenging Mike Lombardo to reconsider.  Among those supporting this petition is my good online friend Jay Burnham.

That petition will not succeed.  Don't get me wrong.  In my ten years of involvement in local town governments throughout the North Shore, Donna Brewer is far and away the worst Town Counselor I have ever witnessed.  Not only did she grossly exceed her role as Town Counselor, not only did she engage in repeated illegal activity in her attempts to smear and terminate a former town employee, not only did she improperly and wrongly advise the Board to conduct illegal meetings to that end, …