To the editor:
The city of Beverly just mailed out the third-quarter real estate bills. A component of the real estate tax was the amount to fund the Community Preservation Act (CPA) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The law was voted in by the residents of Beverly in the November 2013 election. Many cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts followed in similar fashion. I voted against it but only arrived at that decision in the voters’ booth on the day of voting. I was fortunate to have brought my reading glasses into the booth. I actually read the legislation for which I was being asked to vote. I read the entire content of the legislation and not just the headliner.
The CPA established a pool of funds for the purpose of undertaking projects that support open space, historic preservation, outdoor recreation or community housing. Independently, these are noble causes. Open space, historic preservation and outdoor recreation seem to fit well together and are appropriate components of a single piece of legislation. What troubled me at the time and continues to do so today is the inclusion of community housing in the legislation. In my view, the inclusion of community housing has very little to do with historic preservation, outdoor space or recreation. The way the statute is drafted, the community funds can be used for any of these purposes. I find the inclusion of community housing within this legislation troubling. It seems to me that funding for community housing should have been its own piece of legislation. In my view, the drafters of this legislation knew very well that an isolated piece of legislation that centered on the funding of community housing could not pass voter scrutiny on its own merits. Instead, historic preservation, open space and outdoor recreation were used as ornaments to disguise the intention of the statute.
This letter is not about what is good, what is just or what is noble. This letter is about transparency in legislation. It is about honest communicative vehicles that socialize the intentions of legislation, not ornamental periphery. As the city of Beverly moves forward in collecting and disbursing these funds, I would hope their actions are consistent with the headliner of the legislation, open space, historic preservation and outdoor recreation. Without my reading glasses, I certainly would have assumed these were the just causes of the legislation. I am not sure who or what organization was behind this legislation, but I doubt they were concerned with open space, historic preservation or outdoor recreation.
Mark A. Silva