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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

This Blog will not fall to outside hacks from anyone, especially insecure public officials afraid of their constituents criticism.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Civics Class: Give me an "F"!


Americans are about to get a civics lesson -- and not a moment too soon.

Next month hordes of visitors will flood the National Mall to watch the swearing in of President-elect Barack Obama. Millions more will watch on television. But a study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute shows that few Americans will really understand what they’re witnessing.

ISI gave more than 2,500 people a 33-question quiz about basic historical and constitutional principles. The average score: 49 percent. By any measure, that’s a flunking grade.

Seven out of 10 Americans who took ISI’s test failed it. And a look inside the numbers is even more sobering.

* Fewer than half can name all three branches of government (legislative, executive and judicial).

* Only 53 percent realize Congress has the power to declare war (even though lawmakers have voted twice in the last eight years to approve foreign wars).

* Just 55 percent know that Congress shares authority over foreign policy with the president. Roughly 25 percent mistakenly believe that Congress shares its foreign policy authority with the United Nations.

And it’s not just the general public that lacks basic civic knowledge. Too many of our leaders fall short as well.

In ISI’s sample, 164 of the 2,508 respondents said they had been elected to government office at least once. There’s no way of knowing if this meant federal, state or local government. But it’s sobering to note that those who say they’ve held office earned an average score of 44 percent on the civic literacy test -- lower than the public they were elected to serve.

Among these officeholders, almost half (43 percent) don’t know what the Electoral College does. One in five guessed it “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates” instead of identifying its actual role: selecting the president of the United States.

This sort of historical illiteracy jumped out at me when I visited the new Capitol Visitor Center. This $621 million structure (vastly over budget, but who’s counting?) would have been a perfect way to teach visitors about our constitutional republic. Instead it misleads.

An honest Center would have explained that the Constitution laid out certain limited powers for each branch of government. Instead the center focuses on “aspirations,” making it seem as if Congress is empowered to do anything under the sun to make Americans happy. You’d think lawmakers had a blank check to do almost anything.

It’s also deeply troubling to see how the Center omits key references to our religious heritage. “Separation of church and state is vital to our liberty,” writes David Waters on The Washington Post/Newsweek blog On Faith. “But trying to scrub from American history or public life every reference to God or faith isn't just silly. It's inaccurate and misleading.”

If there’s one positive finding in ISI’s report, it’s that most Americans agree we need more civics lessons. Almost three-quarters of those who took ISI’s test said that colleges should prepare students by teaching them about American history.

This isn’t happening, though. The average score on ISI’s test for those holding bachelor’s degrees was only 57 percent. Even those with advanced degrees scored just 65 percent. Both are failing grades. That could change if universities and even high schools rededicated themselves to teaching what students need to know.

Civic literacy, in fact, is something we all need. After all, millions of inaugural viewers are about to get a valuable glimpse into our system of government. They should understand what they’re seeing.

Glimpses, however, aren’t enough. We can -- and must -- do better.


Atkinson Reporter said...

The reason this article was posted was not to launch a political firestorm, but to point out that this very same failure to educate is going on, right here, in our own Timberlane Regional Middle and High Schools!

We have read the articles of students being passed on to the next grade with straight "F"'s.

We have seen the teachers unions more concerned with teacher pay and benefits than the students education. (which by the way is their job, It is just that they profess to be so concerned with the kids, while sticking it to us and them)

We have all seen shows like "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" and "Who wants to be a millionaire?", where the questions are insultingly easy, and still the contestants ask for help.

We have heard about the studies showing that 70% of our students lie, cheat, or steal, but feel that their ethics are fine. This by the way is the attitude that has created the problems in Atkinson.

This decline in Morality, and in Education must stop, before we cease to exist as a nation. In our own backyards,we have the ability to take control, and must!

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. People are not taught about their rights in Jr. High School. Gov. did that and there is a reason for it. They want to keep people uninformed so they can BULLY them into submission when they get older.

This is going on in Atkinson and unless we get these people out of office and replaced with educated people that work FOR the people instead of AGAINST the people, they will continue to work THEIR Political Machine to our destruction. EVERYONE in this local govt. needs to be “Booted Out Of Office”! I mean EVERYONE.

We need to work toward this goal.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of booting people out of office, has anyone been following the what our illustrious Highway Dept leader is up to?

At a recent Selectmen's meeting he tried to get a 10% raise for all of his contractors (ie. this means himself as well because he is an independent contractor that provides services to the town with his trucks) even though every town employee got a zero percent raise this year.

Talk about a smack in the face to all other town employees. Also, isn't this a conflict of interest for him to be asking for a raise for all of these other alleged contractors when he is also talking about himself because he independently charges for trucks and plows and backhoes to the town at a huge annual cost?

Thank goodness the selectmen did not allow it. When asked whose trucks were put on the road first to plow, Ted bumbled and said mine, but no I mean I have to call all the other trucks first so mine are last. What I heard from a direct source is that Ted doesn't call another truck out beyond his until he absolutely has to so he can rake in as much work as possible for himself, first when it snows. I always wondered why the town was plowed so inconsistently where some roads were clear and some not touched. Until Ted is overwhelmed by the snow, he does not call for help from other contractors he is allegedly so concerned about. That is not a safe approach to plowing roads for taxpayers nor does it provide for a distribution of work to the private contractors hired by the town. Ted was acting so concerned about their pay and keeping them busy on a weekly basis but he was only trying to get himself a big raise and does not really hand out the work consistent with the way he talks.

I keep hearing on this blog what a good deal Ted is for the town. I am researching true costs on this and it appears what he charges the town on an annual basis for his backhoe, the town could pay for a new one in one year. Taxpayers are really getting porked by this guy. We need a new road agent. More details forthcoming about his practices with the brush dump and handling of funds.

Our problem is not only with the police dept, it is with other depts as well.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous December 10, 2008 1:49 PM

I agree with you. This has been going on for years and needs to stop. It's a safety issue.

I also agree with anonymous December 10, 2008 12:58 PM

Please keep everyone posted as to what you find, and encourage everyone you know to attend Town Meeting this year.

We need good people to run our town and stop the current BULLY PEOPLE from destroying it for their own advantage.

Anonymous said...

Well a USEd backhoe is $36,000
A New one is over $75,000

Lease payments on a backhoe would be $13,000 per year or so. Plus the rate of pay and benefits to the operator, plus gas, oil, insurance, etc.

Operator typically makes $22.00 per hour or so.

How much did Ted make last year for Renting his backhoe with operator to the town?

Town pays him a rate of $23.00/ hr. for both Backhoe and operator.

Town pays him $60.00/hr. for his ten wheel dump truck with sander, and operator.

He pays all expenses on truck and backhoe.

This is called a savings to the town.

Anonymous said...

Fuzzy math. Someone first needs to define the TRUE need on an annual basis for a backhoe that couldn't be handled by an $18,000 NEW tractor that could easily handle loading salt trucks and other small tasks. For those times you need a backhoe, rent it on a daily/weekly basis. Then recalculate your fuzzy numbers.

If the town is spending $20K/year for his backhoe, I can guarantee you there are 20 ways to do this more cost effectively without buying a brand new backhoe. By your own admission, a used backhoe would have a 2 year payback. Not only that, but I would bet the farm in this economy, you could get a used backhoe for 10-15K. I just went on ebay and found a whole bunch of them in minutes. for a newer model, you can get a 2006 Volvo BL70 Backhoe Loader Tractor with a BUY IT NOW price of $42K. That is a 2 year payback. Sign me up.

You didn't even address the fact Ted tried to get a 10% raise when all other townspeople got ZERO percent. What was beyond belief was his argument at the selectmens meeting to justify paying for it was that the town has all this new tax revenue coming in from a new 9 hole golf course (really? Where is the tax revenue?), new development going on there (really? show me the money), etc etc that the town could afford it. Basically, he was saying, you've got it, you can afford it. As for hourly rates as Selectman Bill Friehl pointed out there are plenty of contractors that would be glad to take the work right now at present rates.

His lack of good judgement during these tough economic times was mind boggling. We need a new road agent is what I left that meeting thinking. Ted sunk himself. If you don't believe me, why don't you watch the performance by Ted yourself. It was Selectmens meeting from a week ago, Monday December 1, 2008. Looks to me like this type of behavior is more common in Atkinson town depts than I realized.

Anonymous said...

To: Anonymous December 10, 2008 2:57 PM

Where did you get your figures and can you prove what you say?

In order to have credibility, you have to declare your source.

If you are right, thank you for your time. If you are like the Chief, your just saying so has no credibility.

Anonymous said...

Same old tactic, if you don't like the message, attack the messenger and in this case compare them to the chief. Nice. I could say the same about you but I have enough class not to resort to that tactic. I must have some type of vendetta. Isn't the V word the next posting I am going to hear?

I can also say the same about you proving your figures. What is your source? I did look on ebay as can anyone so go look for yourself about the price of backhoes. I will take you up on your suggestion and get the budget documents and show the facts as they are and if someone can prove I am wrong, I will be glad to eat crow.

MAcciard said...

According to the Town Report, on the Town website; Ted made $49K as a contractor last year. This includes the lease of his equipment, and paying him to run it. This also includes the 10wheeler for plowing as well as road work, and gravel hauling. I dont know how many hours that encompassed, but that should be easy to find out. When I was on the budget committee he was paid $21.00/hr. for his backhoe, equipment AND operator. And $57.00/hr. for his 10 wheel dump truck truck and driver. And those vehicles are at our disposal anytime we need them. No Gas, No insurance, no maintenance costs, no lease payments, no amortization costs. When we looked at this on the budget committee, buying our own equipment just didnt make sense.

Anonymous said...

As a previous Budget Committee Chairman, thank you Mark for chiming in. That's credibility.

To Anonymous December 10, 2008 4:08 PM

Didn't mean to hurt your feeling, just can not be to careful when people start throwing out figures. Too much misinformation being distributed by our Political Leaders.

Since Mark hasn't been on the board for three years, it appears your figures should be pretty close at this time. Still would like to see the actual figures to be sure.

No V word here, sorry if the bullet creased you.

If you had been the Chief, it would have been between the eyes.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to bet our present Selectmen would pass this test? If not, why are they in office?

Anonymous said...

$21 an hour for a backhoe, equipment and operator? REALLY? Only 3 short years ago? Come on.

10 years ago it was $75 just for a backhoe to show up for a test pit. And that was the standard price.

I have never heard of such pricing. Reality is, nobody could afford to charge that rate. Mark, I am really disappointed to see you post such nonsense. Come on.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last post. Come on Mark, please don't insult our intelligence with a figure that is
so far off the cow path we end up in Red China! $21.00 per hr includes tractor, insurance, fuel,
operator, maintenance, oh and let me guess, it must of included a free weeks stay ay Disney World too. Your bias towards defending your grade school classmate/best buddy destroys your credibility so badly that I have to question any information you spew. I have always looked at your posts as gospel as you always seem state to state facts as opposed to a bunch of spin. I truly have to question everything you state from this point forward. Have you not watched any of the meetings since Jack has left? Ted is being exposed on a regular basis live on t.v. as to his mismanagement and other questionable practices, yet you sit here and defend him as the best thing since sliced bread. The loaf is moldy and needs to be tossed before were all sick.

Anonymous said...

In ways I would wish I could like Teddy, but the biggest thing that bothers me is that he's a walking conflict of interest violation. Allow me to explain.

The job of the planning board in a town like Atkinson should be to preserve the rural character and property value of our homes. Instead, they almost all profit personally from development and construction that happens in town; look at the board members.

Harold Morse is the general manager for Lewis Homes; Sue Killiam develops Land in town. But what about Teddy?

He must rely on some of the same companies that work in town for his living on side jobs, but he pretends to represent the town's (our) interests. He hasn't met a developer or a project he hasn't liked from what I've seen watching planning board meetings.

Who represents preserving farms and the "country" feel of our town?

Anonymous said...

tell the selectmen, they appoint the planning board, and usually stack it with their buddies.

Anonymous said...

A right-wing "the sky is falling!" rant that attacks, deja-vu all over again. Maybe the Atkinson Reporter can hire some new writers and develop some new material for 2009? Or is conservative paranoia going to be "in" in the new year?

All those people that bash teachers; go to college, spend about $50k-$80k to get a master's degree (bachelor's degrees don't really cut it anymore under NCLB), and get in the classroom and teach. I don't have any respect for people that know virtually NOTHING about education, and haven't taken the least time to try to learn about it, but just whine and cry about the "state of education" today.

This is especially true since the biggest problem in education today isn't the teachers; it's the parents. Letting their kids work 30-40 hours a week to buy new cars (we drove junkers), falling asleep in class, and then the parents come in and complain about the grade.

Do you want to blame teachers/schools for the fact that kids are sending nude pictures of themselves to each other by cellphone, or are you ready to admit that's the parent's fault? Are you going to blame the lack of respect students have for teachers on the teachers, or do you admit that's the parent's fault? Are you going to blame teachers for allowing students to play video games all night instead of sleeping and doing their homework, or is that the parent's fault?

I'm sorry, teachers can't fix the fact that parents aren't checking their childrens' homework, aren't doing their job as parents, and want to be their kids' "friend" instead of their parent. Why don't you try being an example to your kids and taking some responsibility for your own actions, or inaction when it comes to being decent parents. It gets kind of old when you expect us to raise your children, in addition to trying to educate them.

MAcciard said...

To Anon @ 9:10 Dec. 10;

You are partially right, I did some checking, and I was looking at the wrong line in my budget notes, I apologize for the confusion.

Here are the accurate figures currently;

Atkinson pays;
$73.00/hr. for the Backhoe/operator
$59.45/hr. for the 10wheel dump/driver
$50.38/hr. for the 1ton/driver.

Surrounding towns pay, and have been paying for the last three years;
$80-$85/hr. Backhoe/operator
$65/hr. Dump/driver
$60/hr. 1ton/ driver

Price of a new backhoe: $ 93,000
Price of a new 10 wheeler: $160,000

Lease payments for both combined;
approximately $54,000/yr. for 5 years, depending upon rate.

For the above listed rates Teddy provides the equipment on a moments notice, He pays all insurance, gas, maintenance, upkeep, and driver!

Contrary to the information posted, Teddy and his dump truck are the last to hit the road during a storm. He is paid as Road Agent for the 1st hour of the storm, while he calls everyone out, helps them hook up their equipment, and dispatches their routes. He then is paid as a vendor, while he is plowing in his own truck, at his own expense.

When we looked at this on budget committee 3 years ago, the problem is that when you go to a full time highway dept., you are paying for the equipment whether you are using it or not. You are on the hook for the upkeep, and repairs, and gas!

And, by the way, a Big Dump like that with sander, and pushing snow gets about 3-4mpg. the 1ton about 7mpg. Just think about the increase in fuel costs to the town. Out of that $59/hr. for the dump you have costs of $40-$45/hr. in driver and fuel.

Oh, and the surrounding towns have 4 hour minimums, we dont.

As for the comment about renting one for each job; ECL, and M&B charge for delivery, about $100 each way, on full size equipment. And they will not rent without purchasing a limited duration insurance policy for the rental period, which can run anywhere from $600- $1000 per rental. So before you even turn that loader on for the 15 minutes job of loading a truck, you are spending more than you would pay Teddy, in two weeks.

Those are the numbers.

Anonymous said...

Just spoke with ECL rentals.Largest skidsteer loader {model 248 cat} which will accomodate loading a 10 wheeler
dump rents for $260.00 per 24hr day. Delivery to Atkinson {round trip is $60.00. {$30.00 over and $30.00 back}. Certificate of insurance must be on file. Cost zero since Town already insured.
Total cost to town $320.00 per rental. Nice try to spin the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Town is only insured for equipment it owns. second backhoe is used frequently for everything from digging catch basins, to loading trucks, to clearing culverts. sometimes for as little as 15 minutes to hours. And you are talking about an extended skidsteer, quite a bit smaller than the backhoe available to the town now. And what about the 10 wheel truck, did you get a rate for that?

Anonymous said...

Mark you seem to be the only one coming up with all of the high end estimates.

Everyone else seems to be able to find stuff for much lower costs. You need to do some shoppin and stop taking Ted's word on everything. I think he is BS'ing you bigtime. Your past budget committee experience is useful; however, that has nothing to do with price comparison shopping which any of us morons can do in a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

One point I would like to make is that there appears to be no clear requirements for how much need there is for a backhoe specifically. There are a lot of tasks a smaller machine can handle for much lower cost. Its the same reason you don't spend all the money for a specialist when a general practioner can handle it. What is the absolute requirement for the backhoe, specifically? And I mean the tasks and time needed which a smaller machine cannot handle? Loading salt into a truck must be done by a backhoe? Really? Other than Ted's BS, does anyone really know?

MAcciard said...

I came up with no "high end estimates" I just gave you what we pay, and what surrounding towns pay for the same equipment. My point was that I highly doubt Teddy makes much of a profit at those rates. The cost of the driver to run the dump, has to be $18.00-$20.00/hr. plus payroll expenses, and benes. Gas when plowing must be $15.00/hr. with the mpg of the truck. That means you are blowing $40/hr. of the $59. you are being paid, just on gas and driver. Then you have registration, insurance, maintenance, general upkeep, etc.

My point was I wouldn't start a business with those numbers.