I was upset when reading the article “L’Italien opposes Andover retiree reform, angering selectmen” in the May 27 edition of The Eagle-Tribune. I have sent an e-mail to Sen. L’Italien outlining my opinion, as follows:
As an Andover resident and our representative to the state senate, L’Italien should be well aware of the issue of post-retirement pension, health and welfare benefits, and the overwhelming amount of public discussion on the topic in Andover.
The post-retirement benefit issue has been largely ignored at the state and federal level as it applies to state and local municipalities. Municipalities are allowed to accrue enormous unfunded future liabilities that will ultimately fall on one group, the property owners of these cities and towns, and state taxpayers. Anyone with financial acumen can see that the growing liability is a crisis that needs to be dealt with.
I was lucky to grow up in Andover, and have been equally lucky to return to raise my family. I have developed the immodest expectation that the town of Andover should take the lead over other cities and towns, and tackle difficult issues such as OPEB reform. This is especially necessary due to the lack of progress at the state level. I was very proud of the diligent process that Andover undertook to address this crisis. I don’t believe that anyone has won in this process, as the cost of health and welfare benefits continue to increase at unsustainable levels, as do many of the related liabilities to cities and towns.
What is most disconcerting to me is that Sen. L’Italien’s amendment sets out to subvert a process that has been thorough, locally driven, well documented, and publicly transparent. In your article which alerted me to this amendment, Sen. L’Italien said her support stems from a groundswell of calls and emails she has received from retired employees worried about the financial hardship increased premiums will place upon them. These concerns have been discussed in numerous public hearings hosted by our local OPEB Committee and our Board of Selectmen. During those discussions, comments have come not only from retirees, but also from some of the concerned taxpayers and 30,000-plus residents of Andover who will be obligated to pay the liability.
Sen. L’Italien posts regularly on Facebook and Twitter, but I saw no mention in those mediums that she was seeking public comment regarding an amendment that she was planning to co-sponsor. That makes her process neither public nor transparent. If it had been either of those, she may have received a “groundswell” of calls and emails from others with different opinions.
Sen. L’Italien should withdraw her support for this amendment in further proceedings at the state level, and work for her constituents whose wishes were ultimately made clear through a transparent, public process. I hope that in the future she will support our community and her constituents as Andover town representatives take the lead in addressing issues which the state legislature seems indifferent to.
David E. Workman Jr.