Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Referendum Proposal Is Just Plain Sloppy

Ken O’Brien

Proponents of the referendum question that would return Southbridge to a town meeting/selectmen form of government are indeed outspoken in their support of the proposal.

However, their shrill proclamations on behalf of the petition shy away from dealing with the specifics of their proposal.

Rather, they resort to two forms of response to those who provide specific criticisms of their plan. Either they provide generic tracts extolling the virtues of town meetings in general or they engage in personal attacks denigrating their critics.

Unfortunately, they cannot escape the reality that voters will be confronted with a specific proposal on the June 24th ballot. 

Despite years of advocating this idea, the core sponsors have produced a sloppy piece of work. If one needs proof of just how slipshod the effort behind this document is, one need look no further than the provision for the initial transition to the proposed Board of Selectmen.

Article 10.1 states, “Upon adoption of this act, the first annual election shall occur on the second Tuesday of April and subsequent annual town elections shall occur on the same day thereafter. Annual town meetings shall occur on the first Monday in June. At the first election five (5) members of the Board of Selectmen shall be elected in accordance with the provisions of the Southbridge Home Rule Charter as revised for the following terms: One for one (1) year, two (2) for two (2) years and three (3) for three years.”

According to that section the 5 selectmen, in the first year this petition takes effect, will be elected as follows:
1 for one year;
2 for two years; and
3 for three years.
And that folks is how we'll elect all 6 of the 5 selectmen.

This is only the most glaring shortcoming contained in the proposal. The sponsors refuse to confront criticisms head on. That is not merely an insult to their critics. It is an insult to all the voters of this town that they would be asked to vote on such a flimsy excuse for legislation.

The sponsors respond that any problems will be fixed by the legislature. Is that, in any way imaginable, consistent with the idea of “Home Rule”? Isn’t it, in fact, an affront to the legislature to expect them to do most of the work that should have been done before this was even put before the voters? Isn’t it just one more case of making Southbridge an ongoing joke?

If a Charter Commission produced something of this nature they would be roundly ridiculed - and rightly so. Do the creators of this sloppy screed deserve any less? 

The fact is that the proposal being put forth and the attitude of its advocates exhibit nothing less than contempt for the voters. It should be treated with a commensurate response when the public goes to the polls.

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  1. The greatest irony of all is that Joe Marino would put his trust in the Democratically controlled legislature to fix any problems with his petition. He has been relentless in his contempt for the Democrats in Boston.

  2. They can't count to five, but they will fix our tax rate and our water and sewer bills. RIGHT!

  3. A lot has been said about the petition, mostly put downs on Mr. Marino, and I have often disagreed with him myself, but even a broken clock is correct twice a day and on this issue Joe Marino is spot on. Will I vote for him for Council? Well, depending on the debate I admit he might be my third choice.

    Who I will vote for doesn't matter. What does matter is who will get the credit if the petition passes, and the hard truth is that the credit will go to some of the not so cheerful faces of the Council and Chris Clark, the proverbial Captain that abandoned ship when he got wind that the petition may be on its way.

    On an unrelated matter, God Bless Councilor Moriarty for attempting to purchase only one Police Cruiser instead of two, and Kudos to the three others that joined him in trying to save us money. How many cruisers would we be getting if a Town Meeting decided?

    1. And how much more would Buzz be getting from all the parents convinced that their kids would get a better education if we gave the schools everything they "need"?

    2. No way all those parents in Section 8 housing would raise their property taxes and water and sewer rates jus ... oh forget that.
      But all those elderly would worry about their property taxes and water and sewer rates in the high rise ... oh forget that too.
      Well, all those people are grateful to Good Ole Joe who has chaired the housing authority for years.

  4. Cops for Kids is becoming a cop for every kid. Reckless spending. Joe might be a nice guy, but the petition is poorly written, and you can't revert to a something that doesn't exist. Even though it won't count, I'll be writing in three people. Very dissatisfied with all of the choices. Lastly, all of the criticism is well deserved. Had they thought this through, they could have done simple math. Well, maybe they couldn't.

    1. You're not alone in being unhappy with the field of council candidates. A lot of us would welcome other choices. Who do you have in mind? Maybe we could draft some worthwhile prospects. Ideas for school committee would also be welcome.

    2. Wook what they did at Town Meeting in Charlton this week-despite a horrific house invasion, the reduced the size of their Police Force. If the voters of Southbridge decide to have Town Meetings, they will start cutting our Policemen, loyal workers at Town Hall, and some of our hard working DPW staff.

  5. How about Dennis Martinek, Ken O'Brien, and Bob Clemence?

    1. I've supported Dennis Martinek in the past and would be inclined to do so again. I would consider having a husband and wife both on the council somewhat problematic. As for myself, I think my background and experience could be better used running the Economic Development and Planning Dept.

    2. Given my experience working with him on the Charter Review Committee and being familiar with his work for the Lion's Club, I'd like to see Gary Fontaine on the Council. I also think Steve Lazo would be a worthwhile person to return to that body.

    3. Sandy and her staff are an excellent example of loyal town employees that are doing their best to save our Council and their livelihood. If those Tea Party oriented "reformers" weren't wrapping themselves in their theories about democracy we wouldn't have to worry that the first Town Meeting will close the Economic Development Department.

  6. Gary Fontaine would be a very thoughtful hard working Councilor. He probably doesn't want to work so hard at getting elected for what might only be a ten month term. Maybe he is going to be one of our first Selectmen.

    Steve Lazo gave the town the shirt off his back, then he lost his shirt. The dirty campaign tactics used by a former town manager and his Chumd were so despicable that I can not imagine why Steve would put himself through another Council race. Rich Logan was also very unfairly characterized by the same mud slingers that cherish the consolidated power. Six Councilors required to fire, only five to hire? Who dreamed that one up?

  7. Hi, Ken...well, it's been a while since I visited a blog! As I mentioned in my email to you this morning, I heard from a friend that someone was nice enough to float my name on your site--I guarantee it was not me. It's very nice that someone would suggest that, but as I told you earlier, I don't believe that anyone can win a write in for Town Council (although you're right that someone did win for SC), when I was on the ballot, I lost twice, so not being on the ballot wouldn't help.

    At the moment, aside from assistant coaching Little League, working full-time, and being about a third of the way through my Masters in International Business Administration (MIBA), I'm content with life.

    No, I'm not content with the direction of the town, but at this point I see the definition of insanity in action: doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of change. I think it was Sherman who said "If nominated, I will not accept; if drafted, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.”

    This town has seen a lot of elected and non-elected candidates (Rich Logan, Gary Fontaine)...so the way I see it is that although I agree this is a weak field, people get discouraged, and rightfully so.

    I'll conclude by saying that I've tried to reach out to Amelia, as an example. I voted for her to be a Town Councilor. I know she has personal issues, but...if you can't serve, you step away, resign, work on what's most important (herself and her family) and let someone else serve. I didn't vote for "empty seat" or "not present" or "excused". That's the part of politics I can't stand. I wish her well, but I wish she'd resign...or get back to work. Holding a seat hostage?

    It's just not right.

    I know, I know, people will slam me for saying that, but in fairness, I didn't vote for non-representation, and it's not fair to the people.


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