Monday, February 27, 2012

“Take Back Our Town”

A Film by Paul Zotos & Mike Marketti

Southbridge residents James Marino and James Sottile discuss a petition to return Southbridge to a town meeting/board of selectmen form of government.

Following is the text of the petition:


                The undersigned voters of the Town of Southbridge petition the Town Council to submit the following measure to a vote of the Town Council in accordance with Ch. 11 § 1 and 2 of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter.

                The Town of Southbridge, acting through the Town Council and the voters, if necessary, in accordance with Ch. 11 § 1 and 2 of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter, and in accordance with the second amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, section 8, as amended by Art. 89, respectfully petitions the General Court of the Commonwealth, praying that it enact the following special law substantially as follows:


                Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Chapter 790 of the Acts of 1975 is hereby repealed and the Southbridge Home Rule Charter which was approved by the voters of the Town of Southbridge at an election held March 2, 1973, as amended by an elected charter review commission and passed by the electorate on June 6, 2003,  is hereby revised as provided in this Act. Unless otherwise provided herein all provisions of the Southbridge Home rule Charter shall remain in full force and effect, and the town of Southbridge shall be governed by the home rule charter as revised by this Act.

Section 1. The town meeting - selectmen form of government, as established under the general laws, special acts of the legislature relating to Southbridge and by-laws of the town existing prior to March 2, 1973 is hereby restored to full force and effect in the Town of Southbridge and shall be increased in number from three (3) to five (5) Selectman who shall be nominated and elected by the qualified voters of the entire town. The nine (9) member Town Council positions established by the Southbridge Home Rule Charter are hereby abolished.

All Provisions regarding the specific aspects and pertinent legal requirements pursuant to the Town Meeting: The Presiding Officer/Moderator and the Finance Committee their powers, duties, compensation, and qualifications; Time of meeting; Preparation of warrant for annual and special town meetings; Posting of town meeting warrants; Insertion of warrant article by petition, and call of special town meeting by petition, as established under the general laws, special acts of the legislature relating to Southbridge and by- laws of the town existing prior to March 2, 1973 is hereby restored to full force and effect in the town of Southbridge.

Section 2.  The general powers and duties of the Board of Selectmen established pursuant to Chapter 2, Section 5, of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter shall be expanded to include all of the powers and duties generally conferred on the Town Council including the power to appoint, suspend and remove all town officers and employees, subject to the provisions of the civil service laws where applicable, or as may otherwise be provided by the General Laws and the Southbridge Home Rule Charter.  All funded vacant positions shall be filled by the Board of Selectmen within ninety (90) days of the date the position becomes vacant.  Chapter 2, Section 5, Sub-sections 2-5-5 and 2-5-6 are hereby repealed.

Section 3.  The provision of Ch. 2, Section 7, Sub-section 2-7-4, requiring “a majority vote of all Town Council members currently in office” shall be substituted by “a majority vote of the Board of Selectmen” shall be required for the passage of any by-law or measure unless a greater number is required by the General Laws.

Section 4.  The position of Town Manager established pursuant to Chapter 4, Section 1, of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter, is hereby abolished.  Except as hereinafter provided, the duties currently performed by the Town Manager, except  for the power to appoint, suspend and remove town officers and employees as set forth in Chapter 4 Sub-section 4-4-2, which as been assumed by the Board of Selectmen pursuant to this Act, shall be performed by a Town Administrator to be appointed by and to serve at the pleasure of the Board of Selectmen.  A mutually satisfactory three (3) year employment contract shall be negotiated between the Board of Selectmen and the Town Administrator.

Section 5. The words “town administrator” shall be substituted for the words “town manager”, except as provided herein, wherever the words “town manager” appear in the Southbridge Home Rule Charter as revised by this Act.  An additional requirement shall be added to Chapter 4, Section 3, Sub-section 4-3-2, requiring the Town Administrator to qualify as a registered town voter within six (6) months of his appointment. 
Chapter 4, Section 4, Sub-section 4-4-2 is hereby repealed.
Chapter 4, Section 5, Sub-sections 4-5-1 through 4-5-8, are hereby repealed.

Section 6. Chapter 6, Section 5, of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter shall be revised to provide that the Board of Selectmen shall be the sole appointing authority for the Town Attorney.

Section 7.  Chapter 8, Sections 1,3,4 and 5, shall be revised to provide that the power to appoint and rescind appointments of all town officers, boards and commission shall rest exclusively with the Board of Selectmen.
The Board of Selectmen shall appoint a nine (9)-member finance committee. The finance committee shall review all town meeting warrants and advise the town meeting of their recommended action. The finance committee shall have all the powers available in the general laws, and those granted by town meeting.

Section 8.  In order to provide for continuity of functions and insure an orderly transition of government, the provisions provided in Chapter 12 of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter shall apply to the transitional period following the adoption of this Act except as hereinafter provided:

                                2.  The positions held by the nine (9) town councilors shall be eliminated.  At the annual town election five (5) Board of Selectmen shall be elected in accordance with the provisions of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter as revised for the following terms:  Three (3) for one (1) year and two (2) for (2) years.  It shall be the duty of officers having duties in respect to elections under the Southbridge Home Rule Charter to prepare for and conduct the first annual election occurring after the passage of this act.  At such election, officers shall be chosen to fill all vacancies in elective officers restored by this act.  The Selectmen elected at the first annual town election after the passage of this act shall take office on the first Monday after said election, on which date the Selectmen shall hold their organizational meeting, and this act shall be in full force and effect.

                3.  This act shall become effective immediately upon passage.

[For reference, here is the current town charter]


  1. "1.21 Gigawatss! Marty, maybe where you come from they sell Plutonium in the drugstores..."

    The problem with this idea? Even in the off chance that it did get through, which it won't, there is nothing to indicate that any more people would show up than do now.

    Other than the Nikolla and Clemence crowd, who, although I disagree with most of what they say, you have to give them credit:

    They do attend.

    1. Dennis,
      Please read the Worcester Business Journal again. Your present argument appears to be somewhat inconsistant with your past views. Unless there is another hidden agenda. Who are you and what have you done with my friend.
      Jim Sottile

    2. Hi, Jim,

      Not sure what you're referring to with the Worcester Business Journal or my past views?

      Please clarify.

      One thing that I've noticed is that the response to key issues (Zotos, Ann, street sweepers, etc.) seems to be passionate, yet short-lived.

      My point is and was that if not enough people, beyond the usual suspects, myself included, seem inclined to go out and vote let alone stand up in defense of something...or someone.

      If this is what you want, I wish you luck, but it's no guarantee that anything will change, and my doubts about it getting through?

      All the legalese that is involved with going Back to the Future.

      A Charter change, as we've all seen, even if it's recommendations, could change it, but why would nine cranks want to do that? It only weakens them.

      I think short-term the focus and energy would be better spent trying to figure out how to displace the three in-dumbents up for election with competent and credible people.

      If/should your efforts fail, the natural question is:

      Now what?

  2. Ken I have to disagree with what is being said, this was tried before by Joe and a group called CCBG and failed. But by going this route it at least gives people a say. I think that you idea of a Mayor form of government would have a much better chance. Something needs to be done but until the citizens of Southbridge wake up things will remain the same.

  3. I've signed their petition, even though I disagree with their plan.

    I feel that anyone should be allowed to take their proposals to the people.

    I've also posted their video and the text of their petition because, as I say at the top of The O'Zone, "Contribute An Article! - - All views are welcome."

    However, as I told them, I reserve the right to disagree.

  4. Give it a rest. At the very least the petition is a tangeable attempt at solution and not a retorical device for analysis peralisis
    Jim Sottile

    1. Jim:
      How much weight do you think that argument would carry with Republicans as a defense of the Affordable Care Act?

    2. And the point is????
      Jim Sottile

    3. The point is that your argument is saying that a change is good merely because it is a change. You have yet to show any substantive reason why it would realistically be any better than the current situation.

  5. Jim:

    I’ll elaborate on my criticisms.

    Your petition calls for a Finance committee. But it is appointed by the Board of Selectmen. How would that be an improvement over, for example, a Board of Health appointed by a town council on which the ruling coalition holds a 78% majority? If that coalition can get 7 out of 9 seats under the current charter, why couldn’t they get 3 out of 5 seats under your plan?

    You want a town meeting. But that would be run by an elected Town Moderator. If you can’t elect someone to the town council how would you elect a neutral town moderator?

    You want a town meeting. But if the ruling coalition can defeat a candidate who got over 1,000 votes in the last election, how do you expect to dominate a town meeting that would be exceptional if it got over 400 attendees?

    You want a town administrator rather than a town manager. How would a name change result in any real operational difference if the administrator is still backed up by a compliant majority on the Board of Selectmen?

    Rather than addressing the need to alter the balance of power in town government, you’re merely creating a downright silly wedge issue that will accomplish nothing. At the same time you are distracting attention from the truly consequential issue of the charter changes that are being advanced by the current council majority and the town manager that will further their interests and those of the town manager.

  6. ONE OF THE CONSTANTS IN THE UNIVERSE IS THAT ALL MATTER FALLS INTO DISORDER. We do not need to give disorder purchase to continue our downward slide anymore then we presently have with with the bickersons in our town. The government should have the ability to use expertise they need to provide an orderly stable platform to help the citizen make informed choices.
    Jim Sottile

    1. In other words, you can’t mount any kind of defense of this ill-conceived crusade.

    2. An alternative response that will only be appreciated by science nerds would be, “Entropy ain’t what it used to be and neither is Southbridge. Bringing back a forty year old form of government won’t change society any more than bringing back forty year old physics books will reverse entropy”.


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