Letter: Refuting CPC fallacies, point by point

To the editor:

This letter responds to inaccuracies in the letter from Mr. Claude Ledoux.  We give quotes and responses.

Quote: “CPC has spent $7,680,458 on 81 separate projects.”

Response: CPC  does not “spend” funds.  It recommends projects to Town Meeting and oversees expenditures.  Town approved CPA funding for some 64 projects to date is $6 million; $2.5 million from the state match.

Quote:  “Most CPC [CPA] funds have been granted to seven entities.”

Response.: A more meaningful description of the allocation of CPA funding is as follows:  29% to affordable community housing; 20%  to sports fields and playgrounds, 13% to town owned historic buildings, documents and artifacts; 15% to open space preservation and watershed protection; and 11%, respectively, for preservation restrictions for farms and farm buildings, and for preservation and rehabilitation of private historic sites.   In other words, nearly half of the funding has been to recreation and affordable housing, which as Mr. Ledoux states “were the major justifications for accepting CPC in 2001.”

Quote: “Thousands of  ‘north-end watershed residents’ benefit little from the millions administered by CPC.”

Response:  This is a loaded and inaccurate assertion. All residents benefit from CPA projects which preserve the town’s heritage.  Property values throughout Westport benefit from the open space, watershed and farm protection, well-maintained and rehabilitated historic buildings, and playing fields.  Physical location of projects does not determine their impact town-wide.  A review of the projects makes that clear as shown on the CPC website.

Quote: “Open space funding of $2,030,000 has been excessive. CPC interactions were with only three initiating agencies.”

Response: CPA funding of open land and farm preservation restrictions has amounted to less than $1.3 million, not $2 million.  Note also this spending provides for protection of the river and our watershed, e.g., our drinking water; provision of passive recreation  and preservation of our farmlands.  A major part of the total funding of these projects has not come from your surcharge, but from several state funding sources including the state match, partnering with the Westport Land Conservation Trust, the TTOR and the town’s Agricultural Open Space Trust Fund.

Quote:  “Included in open space was continuous funding of the Estuaries Committee for a long-term “study” now $255,000.”

Response: The Estuaries Committee was not funded.  CPA funding has been directed to the state-required Massachusetts Estuaries Project carried out by UMASS Dartmouth. To date $170,000 has been approved by Town Meeting, including testing (not studying) the quality of the river north of the Head of Westport.   The purpose is to establish the maximum nitrogen loading limits for maintaining a healthy river and clean drinking water.  This benefits the entire town.

Quote: “Considering that most purchases  [of open space] benefitted wealthy landowners…”

Responses: CPA funding has not been used to purchase properties.  It has been used to purchase conservation or agricultural preservation restrictions on property so that the land will be kept in agriculture and/or will remain undeveloped in order to protect sensitive watershed areas.  The restrictions are held and administered by the town in perpetuity.   Open space benefits everyone and helps keep the town rural in character.

Quote:  “Historic -…. only $94,554 was used to fund one north-end project…”

Response: All projects serve all of Westport because they are required by CPA to serve a public purpose.  $805, 659 for town-owned historic buildings, documents and artifacts;  $18,223 for historic cemeteries  $682,585 for non-profit owned  buildings such as the Grange, historic schools and churches, and the Handy House;  $200,000 for the Oscar Palmer Farm buildings.   The insinuation that there is only one “north-end project”  is divisive and untrue.

Quote: “$415,000 was used to purchase private property to be turned over to a private organization, taking priority over development of recreational ballfields for town youth.”

Response: The CPA funding  for the National Register Handy House did not have any impact on “ballfield” funding whatsoever.  The property was brought under the stewardship of the well regarded Westport Historical Society. This unique property is dedicated to use for the public and is protected by a historical preservation restriction.  The town has first right of refusal at zero cost if the Handy House is ever sold.  The town has the best of all possible worlds – a preserved landmark of great distinction  and no obligation to maintain it.  CPA is presently funding all types of recreation.

Quote:  …”Spent in the other allowable categories:  Affordable housing $1,736,431.  Recreation. $657,000.  These were the major justifications for accepting CPC in 2001.  Both have suffered from low priorities in favor of more glamorous endeavors of agenda-driven connections.  Reducing CPC to 1% will not affect these items.”

Response: Allocations for affordable housing have been nearly $1.8 million and for active recreation $1.2 million, 29% and 20% respectively of total CPA funding to date.  In addition passive recreation is required in those properties given CPA  open space funding.   In other words,  49% of funding has been allocated to these two categories.  They have NOT “suffered” from low priority.  As for the justifications for accepting CPA in 2001-2002, the flyer that was circulated at the time stated the following goals:  “protect our drinking water supplies, preserve farmland and open spaces, develop recreational fields, restore historic landmarks, create more housing opportunities for seniors.”  It also stated “… on average, each new house that is developed in Westport costs more in services – police, fire, schools – than the tax revenue it provides.  By investing now in CPA our local dollars and state matching funds will help to keep Westport rural and keep taxes low.”  Finally, it is incorrect to say that affordable housing and recreation will not be affected by a reduction in the surcharge – all funding will be reduced.

Quote: “CPC recommendations for FY15…amount to $1,001,053…these…will be approved by Town Meeting.”

Response: CPC recommendations for projects for FY15 equal $687,000.  These may or may not be approved by Town Meeting.

Quote: “In any case none of those funds could be used for any crucial town needs and would stay in the control of the connected groups.”

Response:  The language in this statement is inaccurate, as portrayed in the data, and incendiary.

Quote:  “History has shown that a special interests majority at Town Meeting will vote to deny a ballot vote and not allow a representative vote on this issue.”

Response: Town Meeting is a representative body.  Citizens may attend and express themselves, actually listen to the arguments of others, and then vote.  People do not vote to deny a ballot vote. They express their decision on a particular matter in question.

Quote:  “Luxury taxation has replaced funding our basic needs, exemplified by this year’s override requests. ”

Response: Where is the “luxury taxation”?  The CPA surcharge and the state matching funds are used as Town Meeting approves.  In most cases, projects involve substantial added private funding and extensive volunteer work and in many cases, like the river dredging project, the private or matching funding overwhelms the CPA contribution.  However, CPA provides necessary seed money.  It assists the town to meet basic requirements like handicapped accessibility, affordable housing, and watershed and river protection, as well as preservation of its buildings, documents and artifacts.  And as the flyer in 2001 stated, it actually “helps keep Westport rural and keep taxes low.”

Peter and Joan Fradley

Janet Jones

Cukie Macomber

Betty Slade

Westport

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. calamity jane said:

    Hello all my adorable fans Calamity Jane once again to the rescue – Calamity is very dishearten with all of Betty Cole spewing of words, Hey Betty word-on-the-street is that you got kicked off CPC because you are agenda driven for only the projects your Westport Point Watershed folks want. In fact you and your friends are throwing the towns tax payer dollars at a non town firm the Westport River Watershed Alliance in the tune of 125,000 dollars, that to Calamity is just re-dic-a-lus. Calamity Jane thinks your CPC organization needs to go because you do not represent the town, you represent your buddies, and that Mrs. Cole should not be allowed.
    Bye Bye for now – Calamity Jane loves you all.

  2. Claude Ledoux said:

    Cutting thru the Betty Slade and Co. self-praise and awards passed out in the chowline.

    All amounts listed in my letter are derived from the latest; CPC Consolidated statement, CPC FY Summary, CPC project list and includes the FY 15 CPA budget Town meeting recommendations. There are 81 separate funded items listed. My numbers can be checked by anyone interested. The refuters numbers are wrong so therefore their percentage estimates are also wrong.

    Exposing a smokescreen. CPC “does not spend”, Town meeting does. What is unsaid is CPC makes all spending assignments and recommends the decisions to Town Meeting where they are approved with little discussion. The sad part is there are no other choices offered and if there were differing motions they could not be enacted without referring the changes to future CPC decisions. It’s a one-way street with expenses under CPC dictates. CPC has become a permanent over 2 ½ override except for ballot vote approvals, required for other over 2 ½ funds. Millions are spent without popular ballot vote. Elitist control of the majority.

    No CPC expenses have ever been directed to benefit the thousands of residents that live in the Devol, Sawdy, Watuppa and Fall-River watersheds. The only watersheds ever considered for funding have been part of Westport Rivers projects, under heavy influence of Westport Rivers Watershed Alliance Officers and members, some sitting on the CPC, Estuaries and other committees that receive CPC funding.

    Since 2001, CPC priorities directed to: repairs of tax exempt and private properties, unjustified funding of more open space, purchasing private property to turn over to a private organization, purchase and restoration of Head garage to turn over to WRWA, etc., have resulted in: putting off construction of recreational ball fields and affordable housing units, and repairs to our Town buildings were relegated to second fiddle. Luxury tax benefits are not spread equally.

    There has definitely been overuse of Open Space funding when considering the small amount of buildable Westport lands remaining. CPC monies used to buy land Conservation restrictions enable large tax deductions to the landowners and some lands actually become tax exempt adding to the approximate $200,000,000. of tax exempt entities. Except in very few instances CPC funding of Open Space lands would not happen without CPC funds. Is the extra tax burden shared equally?

    An obscure matter is membership of the CPC which sheds light on the committee’s decision making philosophy. CPC is appointed rather that elected, with core membership made up of 6 members from other Town committees who decide which member they elect to serve on CPC, 5 of those committees are appointed, doubly insulating CPC from electoral process. The core membership is populated by long term members some have served for 13 years of CPC existence, some are members of up to three Town committees, some are members of private organizations including in the past a paid official of a private organization. This make up essentially allows multiple votes by members of multiple committees when, one, their committee initiates funding applications to CPC and, two, when CPC decides the funding process. Most of the core members are South end residents. All this combines to minimize diverse opinions, reflected in selected priorities.
    Three minority members are appointed by the Selectmen.
    One common practice of the CPC was the failure to require a sealed bid process on funds granted to applicants, minimizing oversight of Town and State funds expenditures.
    Reduction of this tax to 1% makes sense

    Claude A. Ledoux 3-25-2014

  3. monkfish said:

    Ledoux has a long history of inventing history! The real facts are the CPA funding allows the Town to do and have all the things that enhance our quality of life that would not exist without the CPA and the CPC. And that’s what he doesn’t like. If it’s for him and his cronies it’s OK but for everyone else it’s not. Land put under protection is not forced on anyone it’s the choice of the landowner and it benefits all of us. Protected land requires no services that the Town provides. Developed neighborhoods will cost us more than the taxes they provide and that’s a fact that Ledoux doesn’t speak of.

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