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Sudbury Man Asks Residents to Vote Down Article 4 Through Email

Carl Offner says the move from 3 selectmen to 5 is 'mischievous in intent.'

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following unedited email was forwarded to Sudbury Patch.)

Dear friends--

You have probably seen these inexplicable signs around town about voting for "3
- 5" selectmen.  What's going on is this: The same crew of destructive
close-to-Tea-Party obstructionists that has been trying to take over Sudbury for
the last few years has now proposed that the number of Selectman in Sudbury be raised from 3 to 5.  This will be voted on this Monday evening (September 24, 7:30 PM) at a Special Town Meeting.

It's a curious motion.  Of course, many towns do have 5 selectmen, and there is
nothing either right or wrong about this.  My own suspicion is that by having an
election with more than one open slot, they could succeed in getting at least
one of their people elected by bulletting a candidate.

Regardless of that however, the motion as presented is strange.  There *is* a
standard way to change a Town Charter.  We did this in Sudbury in 1994, when we instituted a Board of Selectmen-Town Manager form of government.  Briefly (and it is spelled out in Article 43B of the Massachusetts General Laws), the
conventional and expected way to propose such a change is this:

a) A petition is presented, signed by at least 15% of the registered voters of
the town.

b) Following the certification of the signatures on this petition, a Charter
Commission of 9 citizens of the town must be elected.  (And voters must also
have the option to vote for not electing a Charter Commission at all, thereby
ending the process.)  If elected, this commission studies the matter at great
length and (depending on whether it agrees) drafts and proposes a Charter
change.

c) This Charter change must then be approved by a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting.

However, that's *not* what what is going on here.  The motion as presented is a "Home Rule Petition".  This requires no Charter Commission, and only a majority vote at this Special Town Meeting, which will probably be lightly attended.  It does however need to be approved by the State Legislature.

I'm opposed to the measure as presented.

I think it is mischievous in intent, and not an honest proposal for the
improvement of Town government.  I don't think that it will make town government more inclusive or efficient.  Rather, I think it is likely to make it a scene of continual fabricated accusations(*), and will bring to a standstill any attempts to rebuild our badly damaged public schools.

I do know that an amendment will be proposed at the Town Meeting on Monday to refer this motion to a special committee.

I intend to be at the meeting Monday (September 24, at the High School, starting at 7:30 PM).  I will vote *for* the amendment, and otherwise will vote against the motion.

I hope you will join me.  There is too much at stake now in our town, in our
state, and in our nation for this kind of destructive behavior.

(*)The people organizing for this have done much of it on a "Lavendergate"
  facebook page. There's no issue of public policy here. It's just that they
  lost the last election, and they're furious.

   Regards,

   Carl Offner

siobhan hullinger September 26, 2012 at 11:00 AM
SueChap - I agree. Where were these people during the last annual TM when we were all handed an amendment to budget before going into the hall. People who were not able to get to the meeting the first day would not have known. There was clearly confusion regarding what the actual numbers should be even AT the TM. The townspeople did not have ample time to digest what the additional changes would mean and how it affects and effects the town and their own budgets. THIS is what shakes my head!
SueChap September 26, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Thank you Siobhan. I find it interesting that noone is talking about Fairbanks. For years, I have heard that the newcomers to town only care about the schools and not about the seniors and community in general. The debate Monday night significantly highlighted a different tone. Those wanting more representation, which I believe was the only agenda as some refer, listened and contributed to a very interesting debate on the Fairbanks roof and the building condition of Fairbanks. Ultimately, investing in a roof where the building condition is poor was voted down in favor of studying options of improving the facility used by the broadest group of people in town. Fairbanks is a facility used by ages from 1-100. It should be one of the greatest facilities in town and its worth studying options on how we can make it better for all residents and not drop nearly $700,000 as though it's "only $11 dollars per year". For goodness sake, it's $700,000 and the loyalist to Sudbury's majority were offended that the newcomers want to see how we can spend money on something beyond the schools? Monday night was historical, I don't believe the alleged agenda on 3-5 is the real thing that irked the loyalist. I believe it is because the loyalist witnessed an awakening of the newcomers and a message was sent that this is our town, too. We, too, care about the town and some of us didn't just move here because of the schools.
Ken Rice September 26, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I have to agreee with BH and others that were uncomfortable with the 3 to 5 issue and vote. It felt to me that those who were unhappy with the outcome of the selectmen elections have tried to make an "end run" by opening the number of selectmen up to 5 and then hoping to "stack the deck" with members that will share their views. Certainly town meeting is not representative of the town's population. Since it's inconvenient to attend and runs late into the night, it's always a somewhat selective group that attends. For instance, I have noted that there is a substantial older crowd than I believe resides in the town in general, most likley because they do not have children at home and may not have work the next day or be on a business trip. I don't know just how that skews the votes. And it's always easy to overwieght attendance at the town meeting based on a particular issue. I did not vote for O'Brien and did vote for Haarde previously. But I felt that the town's vote should stand and the 3 elected officials remain intact. As one who pays attention to politics at all levels, but is very non-partisan at the town level, I couldn't help seeing this as coup orchestrated to overthrow the results of the previous selectman elections.
Mike Hullinger September 26, 2012 at 03:08 PM
This is not an effort to overthrow the results of previous selectman elections. The arguements for expanding the BOS to 5, as argued at Town Meeting were a) more representatives equal more representation, b) growth has stressed the BOS capacity to manage and created a more complex community to manage, and c) lack of accountability. Regarding the first point, in the last three contested election, the winner won with fewer than 15% of the registered voters voting for them. In two of the contested elections, a switch in fewer than 5% of the votes would have generated a different result. These results were not by an "overwhelming majority" and probably illustrate the Proponent of Article 4 asking "who represents me." The 3-5 article proponent was not one of the "loyal oposition" and quite a few people who spoke at the meeting were not from the usual cast that speaks at TM. People are waking up and speaking out, which is good for Sudbury. Regarding point "b", it is a valid point and one wonders if we would not be facing the financial impact predicaments on our schools and town that Johnson Farm, other 40B developments, and even how the Malone property may be used, will cause if there was a larger BOS capable of bringing different concepts to the table, ensuring the BOS more fully understand the long tem financial consequences of their decisions on Sudbury's taxpayers.
Kirsten Vandijk September 26, 2012 at 05:16 PM
SueChap, Just to clarify, Jim Kelly did not state that the building was in poor condition--he specifically said that it had "...good bones..." actually. The ROOF is in poor condition. It is not common practice to ignore a failing roof. I for one am not comfortable with demolishing an entire building because the ROOF needs replacing. It had a 15 year warranty and Sudbury has been extending that life for another 7 years by patching. Just wanted to clarify.....

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