Friday, May 2, 2014

Steeves Takes Scalpel To Marino “Plan”

Ken O’Brien

Gus Steeves
Local commentator, former Evening News reporter and prospective candidate for Southbridge Town Council Gus Steeves has published a new installment of his column “Earthborn” in the May 2 edition of the Southbridge News.

Titled “Red flags fly over petition” he examines what he terms “…a disturbing and potentially dangerous conflict”  in the petition designed to return Southbridge to a town meeting form of government.

Mr. Steeves elaborates on this assessment as follows:

Although some people in town have expressed concern that power is already too concentrated in the hands of the nine councilors we now have, the text specifically calls for giving five selectmen “all powers and duties” of the present council plus the ability to “appoint, suspend and remove” all town officers. Since one of the council’s powers is to act as the town’s legislative body, that phrasing could be read as negating the Town Meeting’s ability to legislate.
In fact, that power concentration is reinforced by a line in Section 2, which states, “a majority vote of the Board of Selectmen shall be required for the passage of any bylaw.” In most towns, the selectmen can only vote to send bylaws to Town Meeting, which has final approval power. That’s the whole point of having Town Meeting. If that provision remains intact, it would make the system even less democratic, effectively limiting Town Meeting’s authority to rubber-stamping the budget.

Following this deft critique, which cuts the legs out from under the central premise used by the plan’s advocates, Mr. Steeves goes on to note,
Another problem is what I call the “privatization provision.” It specifically eliminates the town’s ability to do engineering work in-house by killing the DPW’s engineering department and the requirement the director be a certified engineer, stating instead “all engineering services shall be performed by private firms or individuals.” That severely restricts the town’s ability to solve problems creatively and throws the door open for favoritism that will almost certainly cost the town more money in the long term (as privatization always does).

In addition to these faults, the author goes on to note several additional shortcomings including:
·         Reinstatement of all other town officers as they existed in 1972.
             - Several posts that are now appointed were then elected, including treasurer, collector,                    accountant and Board of Health, so what does the transition mean for the current office-                  holders?
            - Several more posts simply didn’t exist in 1972 — what happens to them?

·         The petition calls for repealing charter sections 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 to 8, but only one of those still exists after last year’s amendments.

·         Section 1 creates five selectmen, but section 7 staggers the election terms for six of them (one for one year; two for two, and three for three).

To summarize Mr. Steeves begins by saying, “I like Town Meeting and want more people to be involved”, interjects the observation “the petition isn’t as well drafted as it should be for such a serious undertaking”, and following his analysis concludes, “The more I look at this, the more concerned I am that this proposal is not about increasing democracy at all …”

While Gus and I may disagree on a number of issues I can safely say that his conclusion is certainly one which I can embrace.



  1. It's ObviousMay 2, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    You can't fix stupid. This petition is stupid and it reflects the combined wisdom of its sponsors. Get back to doing what is really important, electing something other than morons who have well-known names who know nothing more than that they can trade on those names rather than knowing anything that can benefit the town.

  2. It's ObviousMay 2, 2014 at 7:45 PM

    Where's "true believer" Janusz? How does he respond to these screw ups?

  3. A couple of years ago, in one of his blogs, Ken O'Brien was calling the Southbridge Evening News the "Lame Stream Media," and he was complaining that Gus Steeves was biased because he served on several town committees while being a reporter for the newspaper. As of today Mr. Steeves still serves on various town committees, and is running for town council, something he failed to mention in his article. Yet Mr. O'Brien saw fit to rerun Gus Steeve's "biased" opinion here. That's what Mr. Steeves article is, "biased" opinion. There is very little truth in it. O'Brien's hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  4. In other words, you are unable to respond to Mr. Steeves' analysis so your only option is to attack me for reporting it. That's what is called an ad hominem argument and has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of Mr. Steeves' critique. It is, essentially, the last refuge of the ignorant.

  5. If Mr. Steeves' article is so ridden with errors, why doesn't somebody post the text of the petition - as submitted to the Town Clerk - on line so that everyone can judge for themselves? Why are you hiding it?

    1. It's ObviousMay 2, 2014 at 9:37 PM

      Ken, you know the answer. It's like Joe Pelosi said "You have to vote for it so you can find out what's in it."

  6. I'm one that believes that only a balance of power would set the town in the right direction. Only a mayor/council form of government will do that in the long run. BUT, I'm also one that believes that this town is on life-support and needs change. Any change. Now. It's empirically proven now that this town's government and the idiots that currently run it are broken. All the data points to a "failed state". If Massachusetts were a continent, we'd be Somalia. So, any change is better. This change tears the building down in order to be rebuilt. Not patched, not mended. Rebuilt. And, quite frankly, it's a good first step.

    My other thought is Gus Steeves is not a lawyer. He should not practice law. Lawyers were involved in this petition. Not every petition or charter is perfect, which is why the Legislature has its will put on it. But since we're all throwing out our lay-person's legal opinions... the language used does not say that the selectmen have all the powers of the Towns People. Only of the former council. The legislature will sanitize their role in their version so as to not violate the spirit of the town meeting form of government. Secondly, there are Mass laws that govern even what's allowed in a Town Meeting form of government and guidelines on how it's implemented. So even if the petition wishes something, if it takes away from the People having no voice (unwillingly, I'm sure), it will be stripped. And as a last resort, and something we can't do now, is the Town's People can force a meeting to act on something, such as a repeal or revocation of an action of the selectmen. In essence, the people have the final word and are in charge at all times. Unlike the broken system we have now where people only have one day a year to effect any change and voice their will -- last Tuesday in June. The rest of the year this Titanic is controlled by the funny farm. If your will is contrary to the agenda and special interests of a few, then you are yelled at, abused, mocked with eyes rolling.

    I welcome this change. It's not perfect. It's quite flawed. But it's on the right track. It's looking for change out of a system that is corrupt and failed and beyond repair.

    1. Raciel:
      Welcome back.
      I'd like to point out that Atty. Caplette made it clear that he only edited the petition, he did not author it. That is a very tenuous form of being "involved". If there were other attorneys involved, it would be helpful to have them come forward.

      I am glad that you agree that a mayor/council form is more desirable. I cannot, however, agree that change for the sake of change is automatically a good thing, especially when people are being asked to vote for something that is so undefined in so many ways.

    2. All we need to do to get a Mayor form of Government is collect a few dozen signatures to force a Council Hearing on two changes to our current system.
      1. Change the method of selecting the Town Manager from being chosen by the Council to being chosen by the biters
      On the ballot for a three or four or five year term.

      2. Change the title of "Town Manager" to Mayor.

      3.(Options) Of course we'd have to ensure that the Mayor has lived in the Juridiction for five years, like they pretty much require for State Senate ( Require having lived in Southbridge instead of having lived in Mass)
      We'd also might want to make sure that the Council need seven (or eight or nine) instead of six votes to throw out the elected Mayor.
      This would make the Council more of a Town Senate than a Town Legislature.
      We really need to get something like this rolling because I heard some people talking tonight about the Steeves opinion column and they are going to vote for the Initiative because they like that the Selectmen can fire any of the old guard.

      And so what if Steeves didn't mention that he was runni g for Council? People will know soon enough and that would have looked self serving.
      Maybe having move rule thru Town Meetings would have worked back in the day when almost everyone here was real Americans, but if we had Town Meetings nowadays the next thing you know we will have every town document done up bi-linguistically and we'd have even more buildings in the business district painted bright colors.
      Maybe the Town can even buy a nice house fur the Mayor/ Manager the only difference is in the title and how the Mayor/ Mabager is selected.

    3. You might want to consider the draft I prepared for amending the charter to be a mayor/council form:

    4. What truly amazes me is the seeming belief that somehow different people would be elected selectmen than are currently elected to the council.

  7. One of the problems with the current system is that people believe the Council has power. The power lies with the Manager-the Council has only the power to fire the Manager. With the Initiative signed by over 700 citizen's, even if the same characters are elected, those characters will have the power, not an unelected town manager, and with warrants the Town Meeting can keep the Selectmen in check. Woe to Selectmen that refuse to support a proposed by-law supported by a good number of politically active taxoayers. I am not worried that five instead of nine people have the ultimate power to create and change by-laws. I am worried that we will get a new Town Manager that will micromanage and bully like Christopher Clark did. I really fon't get why some people fear allowing the voters to run their own town-if the Iniative passes I suspect we will see greater voter participation in the annual election, and tighter town budgets.

    If someone wants to stop the effort to bring back Tiwn Meetings they really ought to throw a petition together before Tuesday afternoon to have a special Hearing, because I think when people realize the power that they have at Town Meetings they are not going to want to give it away a second time, so if there are 3-4 dozen people that do not trust the taxpayers they better offer the alternative in the next few days because doom and gloom and picking on an eighty plus year old barber ain't going to stop the freedom train.

  8. "Real Americans"? Like I said, this town is on life-support full of small minded people with small ideas and small lives. Time for democracy. I hope having a real voice brings out the 40 % of this town that is most likely classified as those that are not "real Americans" to this individual. I hope they fill the room and drown this person's voice out.

    Every time I come to this blog I'm reminded of such small minded people. Always anonymous, too.

    1. I'm glad that you pointed this out. I let it go as an illustration of why I maintain that the real problem is not the form of government, but who is elected.

      I am somewhat troubled, however, at the implication that I am running a haven for the small-minded. Within the limits of reasonableness I try to allow all views to be expressed. I doubt that you would find the comments on the T&G very much better.

  9. How long had Gus Steeves resided in Southbridge? A fair question.
    Having submitted some truthful, lasd-than-flatteting comments regarding Steeves, it appears that the blog moderator is overtly supoortive of Steeves. Perhaps this comment will make the grade.

  10. Your other comments made vague and unsubstantiated implications that were deemed inappropriate.

    1. Ba k to the original question. . . How long has Gus Steeves been a resident of Southbridge? What are Hus credentials for this government position?

      PS - how can I send you a copy of the correspondence I process to substantiate the facts?

    2. I don't know the answers to your questions - I assume that Mr. Steeves will respond if he runs for Town Council.
      As regards your documentation, you can email it to me at along with your info so that I can verify authenticity. Your confidentiality will be respected.

  11. I sincerely hope the Steeves returns his nomination papers. That will make him fair game, and allow for public disclosure of his actions during his reporter years. I hope he's ready, and I hope this blog is ready.
    The beauty of emails, particularly in the public domain, is that they must legally be retained for 7 years. They have are very easy to attain.

    1. What does your seemingly personal vendetta against Mr. Steeves have to do with the legitimacy of his arguments? It seems that all you want to do is engage in the politics of personal destruction. I'll bet I know exactly who you are.


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