Push to Increase Board of Selectmen to 5 Members Gains Momentum
Resident Michael Troiano says he and other residents are working hard to encourage others to vote for the warrant article on Sept. 24.
June 12, 2012, may go down as an historic date for the Town of Sudbury. That was the night Selectman Chair Larry O'Brien recused himself from any discussion regarding the Lavender license violation, where he and other members of the town stayed past the allowed serving hours.
After his recusal, the remaining selectmen — Bob Haarde and John Drobinski — argued whether Drobinski should also recuse himself since he admitted to being there for a short amount of time.
Nothing was resolved regarding that night at Lavender, prompting residents to call for an increase of selectmen from three to five to avoid future roadblocks. And if that increase happens during Special Town Meeting on Sept. 24, residents will point to that June 12 date as the turning point.
"'Lavendergate' was the spark that set this off where the town was effectively paralyzed by the recusal of one selectman and the presence of two others who don’t agree," said resident Michael Troiano, who has spearheaded the efforts to increase the Board of Selectmen. "I think that caused some acute pain for some people. And frankly I think there have been other issues. Everything from the whole Johnson Farm thing, to the ongoing questions about the sewer, and even the Mrs. J situation … I think people are hungry for more voices in the decisions being made by the town, and that’s a big part of the drive to go from three to five. More representatives will give us more representation, and I think it’s hard to argue with that."
Troiano has spent roughly the last week refining the message that he and others in town want to share in why the increase is important.
"We’re trying to make sure we’re delivering our message in the same way and in different places we need to deliver it to rally our constituents and get them to the meeting," he said. "That’s what it really comes down to. It’s less of an argument about the folks that are there and more about our ability to tell all the folks who want to make this happen to go to (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School) on the 24th to make it (happen)."
In a recent Selectmen's meeting, Drobinski, who has been on the board since 1987, said he was "nervous about structural changes." The board opted to delay taking a position on the warrant article that day.
Troiano said he expects those who have been in office for some time will make it hard for this change to happen.
"I think we’ll encounter resistance from people whose power will be diluted by this change," he said. "I believe that will be our biggest obstacle because there’s precedence on past occasions when this has been brought up and each time it’s been reprimanded against and it’s been defeated."
The last time an increase was attempted was in 2010. Troiano thinks the challenges that were met then will be handled better this time.
"With all do respect to those who drove the initiative then, I think a lot of this comes down to execution of the campaign," he said. "With the addition of social media we have new tools to spread information more quickly. I think the environment of the town has changed. It’s more positive. From my standpoint, more people are open to a new approach to adding some new voices to the debate."
As an example of how he's using social media, Troiano created a special Facebook page for those who wish to discuss the Lavender issue (and others) freely without ridicule. The number of members who have joined the page is just shy of 900.
"I think our argument is compelling. If you’re a fair-minded person looking at our argument, I think it would be very hard to conclude that it is anything other than a successful way to move forward as a town and achieve the things we want to achieve," Troiano said.
And Troiano is inviting anyone who wants to join the page. In a recent post, he wrote even those who are supporting both O'Brien and Drobinski are welcome so they can hear what the drive for five is all about.
"We think more representatives will provide more representation for the diverse points of view in our town," he wrote. "And we welcome EVERYONE - INCLUDING Mr. O'Brien, and Mr. Drobinski - to the cause of moving forward as one Sudbury, for the good of the town."
Another issue that is being dealt with is voter turnout. In 2011, there were 2,967 votes cast, representing 25 percent of the town's 11,807 registered voters. In 2012, there were 3,387 votes cast, representing approximately 29 percent of the town's 11,843 registered voters.
Troiano knows getting more residents to vote could be the deciding factor.
"We’re in the process of doing that right now through a whole bunch of channels trying to get the word out," he said. "This really started like a grass-roots effort by a couple of folks who were in that initial meeting and then out of that came this 'Lavendergate' idea. And now we have a constituency of folks who feel there is a need for some kind of change in town. We’ve broken off into smaller groups and are tackling individual pieces of the puzzle. There was a group that pitched in to get the petitions done. (We got) 264 names in a little less than 72 hours without a whole lot of difficulty. Part of it now is getting another group of folks to formulate the message about going from three to five selectmen. Now we’re in the process of developing the materials and rallying the troupes."
Leading up to Special Town Meeting, Troiano and others plan to deliver their message for change through social media and politicking. Lawn signs are being developed and plans are being made to canvass certain locations in town.
"We want to let people know this is important," he said, "and if they want this change they need to join us on the 24th."
Troiano, who said a lot of thanks should also go out to resident Joel Malo in helping with the push, isn't looking to fill one of the seats should the warrant article pass.
"I’m open to it if necessary, but I feel we’ll have no problem finding qualified candidates," he said. "I want to make it clear this is not why I’ve done this. I’m involved in this because I think it’s important for the town, not because I have any political aspiration myself."