I’ve written some hard things about City Councilor Steve Camara over the years.
I’ve nicknamed him, mocked him, goofed on him, disagreed with him, and suggested that he retire from public life before we have to give him another pay check.
I back down from none of those things. Why would I?
I genuinely like his recent refusal to put a new high school on the ballot before anyone can tell me what it’s going to cost me.
Ah yes! Me. Ain’t we all that way, us grubby, greedy little voters? Always thinking of ourselves.
Someone in a suit has the grand vision, the great idea. Our masters “form a committee.” After years of deliberation, the committee produces a report that says exactly what it is supposed to say.
“Committee Report In Favor Of New High School,” the headlines say.
And that’s it. The committee is in favor, how can anyone be opposed? For God’s sake, it’s a committee.
Are you on a committee? Is your husband on a committee? Are your kids a committee? Is your cat on a committee?
Hell, no! Shut up and do what the committee says. And, so we are governed.
Once the committee has spoken, cost becomes a non-issue. Vote first. We’ll tell you what it costs later.
While Camara’s idea of locating a new high school over by the old incinerator is garbage, and his tender concern for the Durfee bells is subsidiary to everything, his insistence that someone tell donkeys like me what I’m going to pay is genuine.
“Hard numbers are on the way,” is the response.
That’s reassuring. Hard numbers, like good times, are always on the way.
Responses to Camara’s balking are, as expected, overheated.
His refusal to vote blind is a disservice. It’s a tragedy, they say. One pictures Steve Camara holding a chainsaw to the throat of a high school cheerleader. Didn’t you read the committee’s report? Forget the hard numbers, children’s lives are in danger! Stop Steve Camara before he kills again!
Ever tell your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend you wanted to buy something?
What’s the first question?
“How much is it going to cost?”
That painful question is followed by a second question.
“Can we afford it?”
When I go to the AMVETS on Danforth Street, I sit at the bar, drink a beer and smoke a $5 cigar. I don’t smoke a $20 cigar because I can’t afford $20 cigars. I like $20 cigars, and my committee of one believes I should have $20 cigars. However my wife, fellow reporter Deborah Allard, refuses to vote for the $20 cigars.
What I should have done was ask her to approve the $20 cigars WITHOUT telling her how much they cost.
“I’m going out to buy some cigars ,” I should have said. “I’ll put it on the debit card.”
“How much is it going to cost?” she would have asked.
“Hard numbers will be available later,” should have been my answer. “After I buy the cigars.”
That’s a beautiful dream, but it’s not how the domestic economy operates. Of course, I could just buy the cigars, put ‘em on the debit card, and not tell her how much I spent.
That’ll work until she goes online and sees the bank balance.
And that’s the problem.
If the city builds a new high school, someday I’m going to get a tax bill that will be larger than the last tax bill I got. I want to know how much larger. I want to know to the penny. I want to know that before there is any kind of a vote. I am unimpressed by committees.
I may have written hard things about Steve Camara in the past, but my job requires that I neither like nor dislike elected officials. In fact, it’s not allowed. Too much of Fall River runs on personal feelings. I don’t. If I have personal feelings for anything, it’s $20 cigars, and you can see how that’s going.
People come before the City Council, people from the administration, and they seem SHOCKED that they’re supposed to have any numbers, any dollar amounts, any math.
“Numbers?” they say. “Uh, I don’t have those right now, but I can get back to you.”
How about you get the numbers BEFORE you show up and ask for a few million dollars and a tax increase?
An old man I used to know told me that, if you live long enough, everything will happen to you. Having agreed with Steve Camara, I figure the $20 cigar is probably on its way.
Marc Munroe Dion is a reporter for The Herald News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.