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Lessons from the Fairbanks Roof

The failure to pass the Fairbanks roof article at the “rancorous” town meeting last month provides some potential insight about improving town meeting.

The failure to pass the Fairbanks roof article at the “rancorous” town meeting last month provides some potential insight about improving town meeting. Selectman Haarde’s inspirational goal to have a community center worthy of Sudbury deserves investigation before we sink $600K into today’s less than ideal building. The defeat of roof repair in my opinion was the right decision and does not rule out voting again in the spring when more information should be available. But how did we get to this decision?

Despite some insightful and critical questions from many in the audience, the article still seemed destined to pass early in the discussion. A single question from the hall, however, changed the debate. A resident asked to hear the one dissenting opinion on the board of selectmen. From this one question, the hall learned a lot.

Selectman Haarde had opposed the roof repair a year ago at a board meeting. The other selectmen heard his objection, but pushed forward anyway. With this new information, many of the comments previously made in the hall made sense.

It turned out that not all the tenants of the building were happy, parents were not thrilled with the condition of the facility and more importantly, there was no long term plan for the community center as Haarde reminded us in his presentation.  

Yet this information never would have come out had that one request to hear the minority opinion not been made. Essentially, the minority doesn’t have a platform to easily voice concerns to the town’s legislature. Town meeting is designed to spoon feed us the majority opinion. This needs to change.

At town meeting, we should hear dissenting opinions from FINCOM, the Board of Selectmen, and on school matters, the school committees. Listening to minority opinions helps everyone solidify their position. No one in the hall should have to use their limited ability to ask questions just to get a dissenting opinion. If the Supreme Court can issue rulings with both majority and minority opinions, we can do it in Sudbury.  

Minority opinions voiced clearly at town meeting will enable us to arrive at better decisions. A good lesson learned from the Fairbanks roof.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Thanks for having the courage to voice your opinion. I respect your desire to stay anonymous. This will ensure that if you have one, your business in town won't be boycotted!
Sudbury Citizen October 12, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Kirsten, no one is boycotting your store. They just don't like what your selling.
siobhan hullinger October 12, 2012 at 12:43 AM
@sudbury citizen. Personally, I like her store and I have incredibly beautiful floral arrangements from her as well.
Ralph Furley October 12, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Anonymous, you bring up an interesting point. The woman who asked the question was Tammie Dufault, a former FinCom member. And while Bob Haarde has done some good things for this town and is really on an island with the current BOS, he likes to grandstand. He couldn't wait to make his views known about Fairbanks. And while he undoubtedly swayed the crowd, it wouldn't surprise me if he had something prearranged with Tammie to open up that discussion.
Anonymous October 12, 2012 at 01:52 AM
This is off Bryan's original point, but what about o'brien's first response to her question?! He said "you heard me, it was 2 to 1". My goodness that was a shockingly rude way to speak. Just wanted to say that, I know it's not really relevant to much.
Anonymous October 12, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Ok suechap, what you describe sounds like it wasn't a plant and I feel better about that.
SueChap October 12, 2012 at 05:03 AM
I don't recall her name but I really don't think she knew. We were talking during the debate and she seemed really surprised when finding out it was Bob. She did seem like she knew Bob Haarde but seemed surprised that it was Bob Haarde as the dissenting voice. I don't understand why it wasn't in the article, isn't that one of the warrant purposes, to give residents opinions on where the elected officials are?
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 10:42 AM
Sudbury Citizen, Robert Stein, a member of Lavendergate/OneSudbury threatened to use the "power" the group has to put me out of business. This is a serious threat and is likened to blackmail. More than one person has suggested I print out his little Patch contribution for future "use". What a proud moment that must be for the OneSudbury group!
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM
SueChap, Do you not think it sufficient to inform the residents of either a unanimous or majority supported position? Minority reports, if submitted, can be obtained from the Selectman's Office for review, duplication and/or distribution. With a new 5 member BOS it is very likely that an existing minority position will be the norm and that is a good thing--it suggests thoughtful debate and broader representation. But the general consensus of the individual Boards, their recommendations as appointed or elected officials, is what is of import at Town Meeting. Extrapolation of the democratic process suggests just this. Many residents of Sudbury for very many years have been faithfully attending Town Meeting from start to finish in order to voice their opinions, often minority ones. Faithful attendance and participation is at the heart of success. If you really wish to know the minority positions then go to Town Hall and request that information--if foresight were involved there should be reports in existence.
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Bryan, The first sentence of your third paragraph "Without a formal way....." concerns me. Isn't the basis of democracy a consensus of "We the People?" Do you believe that this implies that everyone should have One Voice, or to go a step further, that all of the various residents of Sudbury from all of the different backgrounds and opinions should be considered ONE SUDBURY? If the reason for the original Lavendergate mission (to determine what happened May 8 and 9) morphed into a drive drive for transparency that morphed into a change in our Town charter and now seemingly wants to change how the Town Meeting is run, well, I'm just getting dizzy trying to figure out what really is your directive with so many transmutations we have all witnessed. No one that has faithfully attending Town Meeting for years has been trying to ".....blow off the opposition." The choice of words you are using demonstrates a combative stance. THIS is what many are having a problem swallowing--the combative approach. Not what you have to offer but the combative approach. The ONE SUDBURY methodology is not easy to digest. Sort of like pickles and pudding.
siobhan hullinger October 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM
I don't really care if she was a plant or not. The warrant should have had the opinions printed. I'm glad that she did ask the question. How else would we know that the topic was brought up and not investigated or studied? Quite frankly, do you really think the people who tried to stall the vote and/or kill it were independent? If so, I don't think you have been paying sufficient attention to the inner workings of this town and the people who have raised concerns repeatedly.
Edward Stark October 12, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Plant or not don't we have the absolute right to hear the opinions of all three selectman that we elected? Come on now people, Sudbury is a very smart town, nobody was "duped" here. Democracy spoke and the roof was voted down, time to move on now. Let's do what Bob Haarde wanted to do and see if a new community center is feasible and if it's not then we will revisit the roof again at town meeting. I believe that all Haarde was saying is that we should have had and should be having the discussion. Never once did he say it was a done deal or that the taxpayers should bear the full burden. Kirsten I think it's great that you are willing to voice your opinions under you real name being a business owner in town and personally would not boycott your business based on anything that you say. That being said let's be reasonable here, there are some that will. Look what some did to Chick Fill A when they made certain political comments. I'm not saying that your comments are anywhere near that controversial and like I said I actually enjoy a lot of your comments and commend you for putting yourself out there. That being said you do run a business in town and one would be naive to think that at least some who may not agree with you will boycott.
Pat Brown October 12, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I'm still considering the difference between a 'minority opinion'--Bryan's words in the article--and a 'minority report'--Kirsten's words in the comments. I would expect a minority opinion to be voiced, as Selectman Haarde's opinion was noted in the May 2, 2012, Selectmen's minutes, but I wouldn't expect to see a written minority report unless a majority report was written also. If the price of any dissent on a volunteer (that is, unpaid) board is the requirement to write a report explaining that dissent rather than simply explaining the dissenting position in open session, I think that places too great a price for independent positions upon our officials. I want members of the Board of Selectmen, the Fin Com, the school committees, and other bodies to feel free to voice opinions without generating a raft of paperwork that anyone could, but precious few would, visit town offices during working hours to read.
Bryan S October 12, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Kirsten –My writings are my own. For an opinion of how the members of the OneSudbury facebook group feel about my blog, I would post something in the group and see what people say. I joined the group after it was formed as did many others and have been fascinated to watch it. But I don’t lead the group or speak for it or write for it.
SP October 12, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I voted for the Nixon roof and against the Fairbanks roof. I voted for Nixon because there is an external time pressure in that the vote needs to be approved swiftly to take advantage of the state grant program. I voted against Fairbanks because it became clear that there are going to be separate articles submitted for each of the various failing roofs around town. I am not in favor of this approach, and would prefer that town officials be more proactive and present a warrant for a roof fund that would cover all anticipated repairs and give the facilities manager the flexibility to schedule them as needed. In addition, I would prefer to see a long-term plan for the town buildings rather piecemeal requests for hasty patches. My votes were consistent with my view that Sudbury needs better town management - and therefore, my support of additional selectmen - but were based on the information gleaned at Town Meeting and not any prior discussion.
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Edward, One thing is to personally decide not to frequent a business. The Editor of a Patch Website decided to allow to be printed a direct threat--blackmail essentially--in the discussion forum. This when added to the pot that the Editor has pulled or not at all published comments directed as personal attacks, well, you be the judge here. Does Robert Stein's comment published by the Sudbury Patch Editor calling for the Lavendergate group to put me out of business qualify as a personal attack? Again, you be the judge. I asked the Sudbury Patch Editor a direct question TWICE and instead of objectively answering them he claimed I was attacking his reporting and never answered my question. Never. Very professional and unbiased.... I simply wanted to know if he was aware of the Online retail store called OneSudbury.org owned by Michael Troiano--this store sells logo clothing and so forth--which the Editor published. Where is the transparency, Edward? I only went on Patch yesterday out of curiosity as I decided never to go there again. What a mess!
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Pat, Respectfully I think having the foresight to document a minority position is mutually exclusive of a written Majority Report. Documentation, paper trails, is essential in matters of Town Governance and can act as "proof" of due diligence. When minority opinions are documented, thus becoming minority reports, then they can be referenced for future decision. I don't consider having a minority opinion as expressing dissent. This is at the core of debate and Democracy. It is the responsibility of the responsible citizen to be proactive in his or her pursuits. Just as it is the responsibility of the elected and appointed volunteers to serve the people to the best of their ability and indeed that includes some paperwork. If this is beyond the scope of reasonable expectations then indeed I am in the wrong country.
Pat Brown October 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
The report on town roofs is available here: http://www.town.sudbury.ma.us/documents/download.asp?id=7347 The report does contain recommendations from the consultant about how roof repairs should be scheduled. This doesn't include any of the other capital projects under consideration by the town.
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Just to be clear, although Bryan writes in the first paragraph of this article "The defeat of roof repair...." he is incorrect. The article was for roof REPLACEMENT. Big difference. Your idea for a roof fund is fabulous!
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Bryan, Thank you for the clarification. But might you be inclined to answer my first question?
siobhan hullinger October 12, 2012 at 01:41 PM
With all due respect - the warrant article was for partial replacement AND repair. Only one section of the total roof was to be replaced.
siobhan hullinger October 12, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Yes, SP, that was how I viewed my votes as well. We have a capitol improvement committee but we do not have an adequately funded capitol improvement fund. I agree, this article highlighted improper management of current and future capitol needs.
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Mr. Stein, Perhaps it is time that you considered, seriously considered, the responsibility and role you have as a member of FinCom. One could conclude, based on your actions past and present, that you are not keeping this role in mind when making personal attacks on residents because they do not agree with you 100%. Just as Edward Stark pointed out, it is naive to assume that all people will be able to separate the person from their "business, in this case, your position as a member of FINCOM for the Town of Sudbury. Your often irrational actions and words leave many with a most unpleasant opinion of you and I hear it voiced almost daily. I have always considered politics a sport of sorts. When athletes compete internationally they represent their country. When you engage guerilla tactics in matters of Sudbury politics, you make Sudbury look bad. I am a voice for the truth and transparency. I want questions answered. Supposedly this is what the Lavendergate group was all about yet when questions are asked of them by me they go unanswered, ignored, and worse. This is called hypocrisy. Not respect for a differing opinion--the very respect they are fighting for.
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Good observation, Siobhan!
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Re-read my last post. Do you understand what I just wrote? Yes or no? Now stop blogging BS and get to work helping make the Town of Sudbury a more financially sustainable place to live.
joanne October 12, 2012 at 04:23 PM
ok- kids, lets all try and play nice in the sandbox. @ Mr Stein, will there be pastries with the coffee?
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I like lemon poppy seed cake. What about lemon poppy seed cake? And I prefer tea over coffee. Chamomile actually.....what about chamomile tea? Are there chairs in this barn or just stalls? Is the floor clean? Do I need to sign any release forms? So many questions, so little time. Thanks for the brakes, Joanne. You are a voice of reason for a tired friend:)
Thrice Rusty October 12, 2012 at 10:24 PM
It's important to note that Bob Haarde actually went home after town meeting while our other two Selectman went to Lavender after posted closing hours. One went on to stay 30 minutes after the town allows any restaurant to be open, while the other went missing. Both were present when a town employee left drunk on way to her 3rd OUI offense. Then ensued a cover what which sparked the whole "Lavendergate" group. Whether you like Bob Haarde or agree with him on his stances, you certainly cannot knock his behavior. For that reason I have gained a large amount of respect for him and consider him Sudbury's best Selectman.
Kirsten Vandijk October 12, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Hi Thrice, Believe it or not I actually like Bob Haarde,too, and think his actions regarding the handling of the events of May8-9 exemplary. I am being forward thinking in my desire and belief that we all need to document our positions in the information age, especially the members of the BOS and other Town Boards and Committees that are making important decisions with taxpayer dollars. Bob unfortunately presented his opinion regarding the desire to have a new community center sometime in the future (specifically privately funded) but had no supporting documents to suggest the feasibility of this proposition or the history behind it. His popularity and majority support for his position swayed a vote that really should not have been a victim of the power of the people. This is just my opinion, Thrice. But I am pretty certain I am not alone in this belief. Again, I am able to separate the individual from the actions of the individual. I may really like someone as a person but find difficulty accepting or endorsing particular actions. My lack of control today or my "Patch-ionate blogging" is not acceptable to me! And thanks for the comment.
siobhan hullinger October 12, 2012 at 11:49 PM
I believe what Selectman Haarde said was that he brought it up with the two other selectmen to look at it and/or study it but he was declined. Who will commission the study that will produce the documentation if it is shot down? I think it was telling to the populace that the other two members weren't even interested in exploring it. Just another reason for 3-5. It was clear that evening that this crosses all generations and that is an important realization.

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