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

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.


   Carl Offner

BH September 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM
I had a similar experience to that of Paul. I completely understand the arguments for moving to five selectmen, and do believe that the vast majority of those who favor it have the best intentions, including Michael. However, I find it very discouraging that those same individuals who favor increased representation voted down an amendment to bring the measure to the entire town at an election. Just because the group "followed the rules" does not mean they followed the best path.
Mike Hullinger September 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM
As Michael pointed out the proper process was followed. The duly authorized legilative body of the Town empowered to debate this matter and vote was the Town Meeting last night.
Mike Hullinger September 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Sorry for the typing error, it should say "The duly authorized legislative body..."
Michael Troiano September 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM
I would support a town ballot to verify the will of the town in moving from 3-5. We've never had a problem with this... we just didn't want it used against the initiative by the people in power, either to delay closure indefinitely, or to add another step to a legal process where it was not required. Let's take the vote, and let's do it in December. In the meantime let's work together to figure out how best to *implement* this change, now that the people have decided overwhelmingly that it's time for it to happen.
Rob F September 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM
"misleading, untruthful and disparaging commentary disguised as fact": Mr. Offner presents his opinion that "the same crew of close-to-Tea-Party obstructionists that has been trying to take over" was behind this article as fact. As you heard last night, this is untruthful (the author of the article is a Democrat, as am I), misleading (the author of the article is a newcomer to Sudbury politics, as am I) and disparaging (I find the Tea Party distasteful and therefore find being called a member disparaging). "small minded and divisive": There are two legitimate ways to change the way this town is governed: a Home Rule Petition and a Charter Comission. Mr. Offner presents only one as valid. "Small-minded" is defined as "characterized by pettiness", and I think focusing only on one means of change in order to oppose that change could be considered as "petty". And certainly, any time a discussion devolves into namecalling (which Mr. Offner has done), it becomes divisive. "disparages people", "degrading and insulting", "slanderous lies": See Mr. Offner's comments about "mischievous intent" and people being "furious about losing the last election". Many of us were uninvolved in the last election ("slanderous lies") and are insulted at being associated with the Tea Party ("slanderous lies", "disparages people" and "degrading and insulting"). Clearly, these terms are not personal attacks on Mr. Offner at all, they merely identify the attacks in his letter.
Kirsten Vandijk September 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Paul, I felt an agenda show it's face when the Nixon Roof article passed and the Fairbanks article failed based on the possibility that someday it would be nice to have newer, bigger, better. The Lavendergate crowd voted against it. I am all for 3 to 5 but certainly not for demolishing a relatively newer structure in town to have "bigger and better". I and many other citizens in town cannot afford that. Sudbury needs to maintain her assets--not demolish and start from scratch. Jim Kelly presented a slam dunk pass--for the Nixon school it was a no brainer but for a structure that multitasks and has met growth issues with applaud the vote was quite different. Irresponsible. Disappointing. Revealing.
BH September 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I appreciate your willingness to bring this to a vote, but hasn't the horse left the barn? Isn't this going to the state legislature? Is there a process for getting this on the ballot?
Nanette LaRochelle September 25, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I attended last night's meeting, and enthusiastically voted to pass Article 4. I had done my research beforehand and agreed wholeheartedly that a change from 3 to 5 selectman IS in the best interests of Sudbury. I was very weary with the Amendments presented to further delay the process, and was glad to see them voted down. However, during those arguments, there was a point raised that I felt was very important and will need further action as it relates to the selectman's voting in the future. By moving to a board of 5, on issues that currently require an unanimous vote by all 3 selectman, we need to decide if that will need to be modified to a simple majority, or keep it unanimous when the board increases to 5. I don't know how many of our bylaws require this...and how modification of that is done (is it automatic, or is each bylaw brought forth and voted on to change the standard?) It was a good point brought up for further discussion and research....however, I did not agree that it was reason enough to delay passage of the original article as was suggested. On a separate note, I felt a lot of pride in that room last night....tension yes, as there deserved to be...but mainly pride, for so many to come out an get involved. This is democracy at it's core base, and to see it in action and be a part of it, was very rewarding.
M September 25, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Kirsten, Why can't we study the possibility of building a new center with private funds as they did it Concord? If it's not going to work, we can't we then approve the funding.
Mike Hullinger September 25, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Regarding potential by-law conflicts, as I recall in the past when a new state law, regulation, court ruling or local matter was passed that conflicted with the existing By-Laws, the BOS would bring an Article to Town Meeting to implement a needed By-law modification. The same process should occur here. As we work together on this moving forward, one idea to consider on current unanimous vote requirements for the 3 person BOS is to use a super majority, 4 vote, requirement under a 5 person board. It was great to see the level of involvement last night by our Citizens and I think it bodes well for the future.
SkimThreePercent September 25, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Kablack's "issue" of perceived difficulty obtaining unanimous votes with five is easily overcome. I suggest a super majority vote of four to get around the lone-wolf holdout syndrome. Really not an issue at all. Failed attempt to insert a poison-pill into the home-rule effort. Nice try. Doesn't work. Never wake up a sleeping giant which is what has happened here since the Town went into a collective comma in 1994. Remember that date 1994. Then remember last evening.
Paul Greenspan September 25, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Rob Stein I wrote, correctly, 16 years and not 16 days. 2 kids each 12 years in our schools. I read the Town Crier regularly and have never missed a town meeting nor election. So please save the sarcasm. My fundamental issue is the way this was handled. If the second amendment had been passed last night, we would have known this would go on a town election ballot. We would have gotten the change to read the "for" and "against" columns in the Crier. Issues such as the ones raised by Mr. Kablack (what happens to processes requiring majority vote, etc) could have been debated in the open. Why didn't the majority last night agree to putting this to town wide ballot? My second fundamental issue is a nagging feeling that this isnt really about whether 3 or 5 Selectmen is the right number. It seems that their is a broader set of complaints, and I would like these aired publicly. Does the group behind 3-5 have a common manifesto of some sort beyond the increase to 5? I tried looking at the Facebook group, but it appears to be by invitation? Once again, I left scratching my head and feeling like something was decided without the standard open and deliberative democratic conversation I prefer. I don't really have an opinion on 3 or 5, but I sure don't like the way this was done and something smells bad.
Robert Fucci (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 01:37 PM
You would also be able to read all of that here, too ... just sayin'
Kirsten Vandijk September 25, 2012 at 01:46 PM
M, I am not suggesting we cannot study that possibility at all. Study we must. In the meantime we have to address infrastructure issues that are in real time--not within the 20 year life span of the roof warranty. Please, I am being true to my Yankee frugal roots and trying to keep the economy and the part of our demographics--the less financially gifted--in mind. I will always try to maintain a good thing before playing with other people's money to get shiny bright new. That was how I was raised and how I have chosen to raise my children. I hope you can respect that.
Mike Hullinger September 25, 2012 at 01:54 PM
The duly authorized legislative body of this town to debate and vote on this matter is the Town Meeting. Attendance at last night's Town Meeting was large, representative of the across section of the Town's citizenry, and larger than most annual town meetings, save perhaps for one or two of the override articles in the past. Amendment proposals to study the matter further, use a different process to approve, and/or insert a ballot initiative, were considered and debated by the legislative body last night and voted down. The Town Moderator determined further debate on the main motion was unnecessary given the level of debate on the proposed amendments. Seperately, converting By-law majority vote requirements to a super majority or some other standard can be handled administratively and debated in the usual Town Meeting format used when previous By-Law changes were required due to external events.
BH September 25, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I agree with Paul that this was not handled correctly. Regardless of whether one supports the measure, and regardless of whether the "rules" allow passage via a town meeting, this should go to the full town for a vote via an election. While I congratulate the organizers for their efforts to have last night's meeting well attended, it calls into question whether the town meeting was an accurate representation of the majority's position. One citizen last night commented that this certainly is as significant as a budget override, which requires a town vote. If the 3-5 contingent is so concerned with proper representation, why don't they feel it appropriate to bring this to a town vote?
Karoles September 25, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Mr. Haarde, your words, "let the people decide". Where WERE you last night? This should have gone to ballot, some people couldn't get there. The meeting felt rushed. Article 2 was an irresponsible vote, calling for a study (hmmm, that word), and a NEW center?? Heavenly days, something is not right.
Jeff W September 25, 2012 at 07:41 PM
I was scratching my head about one thing last night - There a groundswell of support that says taxes are too high, no overrides, etc., people who felt this way seemed well-represented last night. That's fine. I respect their position. But this same group seems to be head-over-heels for a new community center, to the point that they will let the current building go to heck until the new one is built. I don't get it - doesn't a community center cost a lot of tax money? Aren't there higher priorities for the tax revenues we have (schools, downtown septic, etc?). When Mr. Haarde came out against fixing the leaky roof in favor of the dream of upgrading the building, I got, well, confused... A new community center is a fine idea, but shouldn't it be privately funded? (including funding for maintenance, so we don't have another Atkinson Pool [history lesson: Atkinson Pool was built by a developer for the town, but for years the town took a loss funding maintenance and operation]) /j
Jeff W September 25, 2012 at 08:15 PM
if so, I missed that. Good to hear. Is the effort to raise funds organized? Will it start soon? It sounded like the roof wouldn't last much longer...
JJoseph September 25, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Jeff W, I think you should look at the tapes of the meeting. Selectman Haarde specifically mentioned we should follow the Concord model with provate funding. I think the fact that nobody in the Town has even looked at this as an alternative is a missed opportunity.
Edward Stark September 25, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Personally I am NOT against overrides that add a resource or value to the town such as a new recreation center or a playground would do. I am against overrides for outrageous contracts as those which an LS School Committee lead by Jack Ryan and Mark Collins instituted which far outpaced those of a more deserving SPS Teachers Union.
Nanette LaRochelle September 25, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Ms.Vandijk, I take offense at your derogatory comment, referring to residents that voted differently than you did last night, as being "Lavendergates." I attended with every intention of voting in favor of Article 2. However, after listening to Mr. Kelly, Mr. Harde and the arguments, I changed my mind. That roof can continued to be "patched" for the short term until other options for a community/senior center can be investigated for feasibility. To invest $630K into a 54 yr old building, whose current space, layout and lack of updated amenities does not properly function for the residents it serves, is ludicrious. To claim as you did that the Atkinson building is "a structure that multitasks and has met growth issues with applaud" is quite a stretch. I have used that building regularly with my family, and it is a disgrace. It is tired, dirty and in need of serious updating (both in design layout and asthetics.) Not what one would expect as a representation of our community, or residents. I too, can be frugal, but I don't believe in throwing good money after bad. I'd rather look at the big picture, and investigate other ideas to determine if there is a better option. Finally, although I am not a "Lavendergate" as you sarcastically implied, let me assure you (as well as Mr. Greenspan) that after ALL the fiasco's of this past year, I was disgusted, frustrated and motivated enough to make certain I attended, and had my vote count in changing the situation.
Kirsten Vandijk September 25, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Nanette, I apologize if my reference to the Lavendergate crowd that voted against article 2 offended you who also voted, apparently, against article 2. However, if you are not a part of that group then my comment clearly does not apply to you but still I wish not to offend you. I stand by my comment. If article 4 were not on the agenda then clearly the group that showed up to vote on article 4 who showed up after the start of the meeting and left immediately after article 4 passed (a disrespectful practice) would likely not have been present. This is not a unique event at Town meeting but an unfortunate result of citizens showing up only to vote on specific articles. The articles preceding their chosen point of focus can fall prey to the moment when not taken as a big picture. If private funding is in place--in place--then I also would have reconsidered investing in roof replacement. Based on the suggestion a major vote essentially shortened the life span of a current asset and began making it a liability. Adaptability goes a long way to making the best of a less then "perfect" situation. Fairbanks is a building with good bones that only may need a facelift. A pretty little dame of a new building without the effects of gravity seems much more palatable for many. I don't believe making do and adapting is ludicrous. Not in this economy. Call me an idealist but I believe we will eventually ride this tide and be better for it. I just don't like the rough water.
SueChap September 25, 2012 at 11:01 PM
each year, Sudbury SPENDS millions of dollars all within the framework of the law and permissable at Town meeting. noone cares that none of this is approved by but a few hundred people and without a ballot vote. I really do not understand what the problem is with this proceeding as the law and our town charter permits, just like the insiders have been making decisions which harm those loyal to this town and without fiscal means. We are not spending money, we are not committing money to be spent, it was even done within a special town meeting that was triggered by another event. SO, WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?
Kirsten Vandijk September 25, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Nanette, Why is an older building a disgrace? Forgive me for harping on the issue but really, why the veneration for brand new? No, Fairbanks does not have exotic species hardwoods or grohe faucets or hand tinted plaster walls--it is a heavily used building built with up to the minute materials of the day. My children also have taken advantage of the building over the years and they never commented to me that the finishes were dated and not up to the minute worthy of our citizens. I am offended that you think I share the expectations that you do for the newest and finest and shiniest. I don't need that to take advantage of Fairbanks many riches. Appearances are not important to me.
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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