How to Galvinize Wakefield


Galvin Middle School - Wakefield, MAThe campaign to sell the town of Wakefield a new Galvin Middle School is already gathering steam and is likely to continue unabated through the May Annual Town Meeting and beyond.

It’s going to be a hard sell. With a $74,740,254, price tag, building a brand new, state-of-the-art middle school is going to require the town to pass a debt exclusion under Proposition 2½. That will mean a $175 bump on the average homeowner’s annual property tax bill.

But not to worry. I can offer some tried and true, surefire strategies for “educating” taxpayers and convincing even the stingiest among them to fork over more dough. Unlike building a new school, my advice is free – and I trust you’ll find it worth every penny.

First, try to state the cost in terms that even average people can understand. As often as possible, use the “It’s only a cup of Starbuck’s coffee a week” analogy, or some variation thereof. Take it from me, Starbucksnothing appeals to the taxpayer more than the old “It’s only a cup of coffee a week” routine. Hey, there’s a reason it got to be a cliché.

Accuse those who disagree with you of wanting to “throw children to the curb.”

Blame the condition of the schools on selfish senior citizens who resist tax increases. Paint the elderly as immature, ignorant and out-of-touch.

Inform your 75 year-old retired neighbor that a debt exclusion will increase his taxes only for the next 20 years. Assure him that unlike an override, it’s not “forever.”

When addressing opponents, flatter them that they raise really good points and assure them that you really, honestly, truly do understand that some people can’t afford it – and then proceed to lecture them on why they should vote for it anyway.

School hallwayRemind your opponents that, unlike them, you take pride in your community and are willing to spend money to prove it. Accuse those who disagree with you of “negativity.”

Point out to skeptics that debt exclusions and overrides are part of Proposition 2½ and were put there for a reason. Don’t mention that provisions for “underrides” are also part of Prop. 2 1/2. No sense giving them ideas.

Allow your children to get involved in the campaign. Nothing comes more naturally to middle school kids than holding political signs and composing letters. Why stand in their way?

Suggest that anyone calling for a different approach is living in the past.

Remind the voters that the state will be providing half of the funds for the new school and if we don’t approve the debt exclusion, some other town will get “our” money. It’s us or them.

I think you’ll find these time-tested strategies to be persuasive in winning the hearts and minds of voters.

No need to thank me. It takes a village, after all.

[This column originally appeared in the February 23, 2012 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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2 Responses to “How to Galvinize Wakefield”

  1. Thanks Mark. I’ve added a link to this on the website of Citizens for Limited Taxation’s Proposition 2½ section:

    Chip Ford
    Director of Operations
    Citizens for Limited Taxation

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