Letter to the Editor: Minuteman – A Tale of Two Cars

Photo: A minivan.

To the editor:

I’m voting No on the Minuteman debt tomorrow even after DESE’s ruling. Here’s why.

Imagine you have a family of, say, six kids and you need a car to drive your little scholars to school each morning. Naturally, you buy a minivan. Then, for years, you take the kids to school, paying down the cost of the van, and of course paying all the operating expenses – gas, oil changes, repairs, etc. – as you go along.

After a while, some of your kids graduate, so you agree to take along some children from the neighborhood. You want to be a good neighbor. Besides, the van is big enough, so it’s no big deal.

While the neighbors pitch in a little for the gas, it is not as much as you do. It’s a little unfair, but you’re trying to be nice. It won’t be forever.

Are those neighbors poor? Not at all. They could pay the full fee if they had to. But it’s obviously cheaper for them to send their kids with you, so that’s what they do. You’re a bit irked, but you say okay.

Cut ahead a few years. Your minivan is crumbling, and it’s time to get a new car. Do you buy another van – or do you downsize? You only have three kids of your own to drive now, so it’s obvious: downsize.

But then you get a letter from the school. They say you have to buy another minivan – not downsize – because you have to keep driving the neighbor kids.

Say what? Those families never paid for the first minivan (you let them come with you because you had the room) and now you have to pay for another minivan? You are forced to perpetuate what had been an act of generosity on your part into an unending subsidy?

You’re understandably irritated. Now is the perfect time to change things to reflect the current reality, but it looks like you have to institutionalize a broken setup where you pay a lot and these neighbors don’t pay their fair share.

Then the school says, “Wait, we’ve thought about it, the neighbors can pitch in more or less equally to pay for the new car.” Well, maybe. You do want everyone to get to school, not just your kids.

But what about paying their fair share of the operating costs (gas, repairs, etc.). “Um, no, that you still have to subsidize.”

How is that fair?

You’re tired of all this. Why do you have to continue subsidizing these neighbors for 30 more years?

A right-sized vehicle (just your kids and no neighbors) would be okay. Or a large vehicle that is paid for fairly (everyone pays equally for both capital and operating costs) would also be OK.

But a large vehicle for which you’re still on the hook for the operating costs while the neighbors get a deep discount? That is simply unfair.

That’s the Minuteman district in a nutshell. A new building, though certainly needed, does not resolve the fundamental unfairness of the payment structure. While I’d love to get a new building, we can’t afford to be part of the district if it means paying an unfair share of the money for the next 30 years.

That’s why I’m voting No.

Lisa Gibalerio

TMM Precinct 4

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Comments

  1. tesshiva says

    I appreciated this explanation in helping me to decide my vote, The analogy seemed quite appropriate. Issues don’t need to be made any more complex than they are; Ms. Gabaliero wrote a good, evocative piece. Thanks.

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