I wish you had also addressed the tuition costs (and, of course, fees) at our state university in comparison with other states (“Is it higher-ed’s turn?CW, Spring ’05). Perhaps then we might examine how much money it would take to help make the schools more accessible and affordable.

We might also undertake the ugly task of getting a better picture of why students do not graduate. We would discover the heartbreaking reality that too many students do not return for another semester after a trip to the bursar’s office, where they realize there is no way to make up for the shortfall in what financial aid (including loans) will cover. Ask UMass students about coming back after Christmas break to find empty dorm rooms down the hall – where “Billy” decided to “take a semester off” and save up.

As a new parent, I already am wondering if I might be better off sending my child to state schools in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Virginia, et al.- where their out-of-state tuition may match Massachusetts’s in-state tuition yet offer a higher quality, more stable education. How many times must we hear about UMass-Amherst’s library being threatened with loss of accreditation or about distinguished members of the faculty leaving to accept tenured postions elsewhere?

I have lost all confidence in my alma mater’s ability to successfully lobby for funding in order to maintain a commitment to excellence. In fact, they hesitate to summon a call to arms to the alumni- for fear that any distress call will encourage the alumni to send their own children elsewhere.

David Oliveira
Class of ’90
New Bedford



If the presidents of the United States and Russia can go joyriding together, and if Hanoi can become the new “in” tourist destination, I suppose anything is possible. So why are we surprised to see, in CommonWealth’s profile of Jim Braude (“All talkCW, Spring ’05), how the former firebrand radical has transformed himself into a respected talk-show host? In business circles not long ago, a positive article on Braude would have been met with a demand for a retraction. And for good reason: Through his left-leaning underpinnings he had been branded an “activist” on good days and a “communist” on others.

What a change a few years can make. I have to admit that today I not only have come to appreciate this old nemesis but have actually grown to like him. While I still do not embrace most of his political beliefs, I share the profile’s observations about him: that whether as a poverty lawyer, community activist, city councilor, or multimedia host, we are a richer community for having Jim Braude in our midst.

Robert K. Sheridan
President and CEO
Savings Bank Life Insurance



In his letter about towns raising taxes (“Towns know how to raise taxes without overrides,” Correspondence, CW, Spring ’05), Anthony Guaquier misstates the effect of raising the property tax rate on businesses. He cites increasing the tax rate on businesses as an income-generating source. It is not. Proposition 2 1/2 limits the total amount that a town can raise in real estate and personal property taxes- i.e., the tax levy. While a community can adopt a split tax rate to shift a greater portion of the tax burden onto businesses (and reduce the tax burden for residential property owners), doing so does not generate a single dollar of new revenue for the town. Adopting a split tax rate (i.e., a higher rate for commercial, industrial, and personal property than for residential property) does not change the levy limit.

Guaquier also lists increasing assessments as an income-generating source. It is not. When assessments rise, there is a corresponding decrease in the tax rate. Prop. 2 1/2 limits the total amount of tax dollars a community can raise from one year to the next- 2.5 percent more than the year before, with adjustments for new growth and overrides and debt exemptions. The increase in assessments that Guaquier observes is a factor of the real rise of property values, not a political tactic. Prop. 2 1/2 requires that towns assess property at 100 percent of fair cash value. (See www.dls.state.ma.us for lots of good info on municipal finance.)

I value CommonWealth magazine for its accurate, insightful, and in-depth analysis of policy issues. Printing a letter chock full of misinformation is inconsistent with the quality of your wonderful magazine.

Peter Johnson-Staub
Assistant town administrator