Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Council Hypocrisy Regarding The Landfill

The town charter is quite clear that the town council is the chief policy making body of the town.

It is equally clear that appointments to the Board of Health are made by the Town Manager with the approval of the council.

For the last week I have been engaged in a debate on the site Focused On Southbridge.

While I planned to discuss the shortcomings of the Goals and Objectives set for the Town Manager, it quickly devolved into a discussion about the town’s landfill. 

Back on June 22nd of 2015 there was a Council of the Whole meeting that turned down a proposal to build a leachate treatment facility at the landfill. Beyond that simple point, the meeting turned into a forum for voicing the opinion that the landfill should not be allowed to expand beyond the allowances contained in the current contractual arrangement. The division resulted in a final vote of two for the proposal and seven against.

At the time I expressed the view that the vote was a knee-jerk reaction.  After accepting a contract to which I was opposed, the town spent seven years squandering the revenues from the dump. Then, as we recently learned, the landfill reached capacity far sooner than originally estimated.

Nevertheless I was relentlessly attacked for expressing my view that a limited expansion should be permitted to allow reasonable time for the town to either reduce its budget or find new sources of revenue.

Then, during the course of this aforementioned discussion, Councilor Auclair informed us that three members of the Board of Health were being appointed this June.  It appears that, as a result of an error in a prior appointment, the terms of BOH members Dean Cook, Richard Cornetta and Marc Cleveland will all expire this year.

I proposed that, if the Council was serious about limiting the landfill’s expansion, all they had to do was require candidates to fill these three spots to pledge that they would oppose any additional expansion.

Suddenly I was confronted with all kinds of lame excuses why this couldn’t or shouldn’t be done. Despite the fact that I pointed out that the situation was no different than a U.S. Senator saying that they would not vote for a Supreme Court candidate unless they pledged to overturn Citizens United, people persisted in opposing my proposal.

Even with the currently depleted council membership, the vote made last June would still amount to 4 to 2.

Clearly something else is at work here.

I can only conclude that Council members felt last June that they could make a seemingly principled stand against the landfill. However, when push came to shove, they knew that the BOH would, most likely, approve the expansion. This way they could have it both ways. They could loudly proclaim that they opposed the landfill but, regrettably, they were undermined by the Board of Health. Simultaneously, they would avoid the impending budgetary crisis.

If there is another explanation that will hold water I’d love to hear it.

Otherwise the time for this hypocrisy to end has arrived.

If you are opposed to expanding the landfill, regardless of the financial implications, tell your councilors to demand that BOH candidates pledge not to support any additional expansion. If they offer any excuse, other than they need to work out the financial implications, examine its validity. Don’t accept that we need the best qualified people, regardless of how they feel. There are plenty of qualified people who oppose the landfill. Don’t accept that the proposal is just silly. What is silly about the town’s chief policy-making body setting and enforcing policy? If they say they want a medical professional, ask why. We’ve only had two medical professionals (one doctor, one nurse) on the Board since the contract was approved. 

If you really want to see the landfill expansion halted, regardless of the financial consequences, don’t be fooled again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments subject to moderation. All commenters must use their own name or a screen name. No comments labelled as "Anonymous" will be published. To use your name or a screen name select "Name/URL" from the drop down menu. Insert you name in the "Name" space and leave the "URL" space blank.