Stuck on the bottom of a small bookcase near my desk is a stack of old warrants from past Northborough Town Meetings. They provide a useful look at how we manage our town. I found that a common warrant article, usually article 9 or 10, is authorization for the Board of Selectmen to apply for Federal and State funds and/or grants and to spend any monies thusly obtained. My recollection is that this warrant passes almost automatically. Why not? It’s free money isn’t it?
Well it’s not exactly free. First remember that the Federal and State governments get their money from us. Also remember that the federal and state governments are notoriously inefficient so we get back less than we put in. And the federal and state governments can and do give more funds to other towns, states and foreign countries than we get back.
I have to believe that it would be much more cost efficient to keep the money right here in town by lowering federal and state taxes and increasing Town taxes. But that is not my most worrisome concern. Every grant has a purpose and direction. Every grant comes with strings. The strings are tugging on bits of our local control. Each string entangles itself in our liberties.
Recently our BOS along with the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission applied for a state grant of $162,440 to implement work of the 495 MetroWest Development Compact, whatever that work may be. Does anybody know what the 495 Compact is proposing? The other towns directly involved with Northborough are Shrewsbury, Westborough and Berlin. The planning group will look at our zoning bylaws, our housing needs and streamline permitting for business among other things. So now we learn that a group of people not all of which have a stake in Northborough and who get funding from the state which authenticates their work and provides direction, will change our Town and we may not like it.
The 495 Compact is interesting in itself. It is organized under the Patrick-Murray Administration. The Compact has some key words and phrases in their guiding principles such as “respectful of open space resources,” “established by the Global Warming Solutions Act,” “objectives of the Clean Energy and Climate Plan,” and the “GreenDot initiative,” and “sustainable new growth.” Of note while browsing the Compact’s website I came across a 2009 report, DENSITY THROUGH DESIGN, which recommends a push to higher density housing. Sounds more and more like Agenda 21.
This is but one example of how free money from federal and state grants can lead to conclusions that many voters do not like but often the planning and decisions are so far down the pike and the involved participants having emotional and perhaps financial stakes in enactment of the plans, that it is impossible to stop. Perhaps we should rethink our Yea votes on the annual grant warrant articles.