Selectmen Candidates Q&A: Proposed Changes To The Town Charter
Part 1 in our Q&A series with the candidates for the Board of Selectmen asks for their position on the changes being proposed to the Tewksbury Town Charter.
(Editor's Note: This is the first in a four-part series in which Tewksbury Patch asked the candidates for Selectmen for their views on some of the hot-button issues residents have been talking about. Part 1 deals with the proposed changes to the Tewksbury Town Charter.)
Do you support the changes to the Town Charter proposed by the Special Act Charter Committee? Why or why not?
David Gay: The changes that the Special Act Charter Committee are proposing include the major change of eliminating Open Town Meeting. I am strongly opposed to the elimination of Open Town Meeting. Your individual vote is your most important right as a US citizen whether it is in a local, state, or national election but most importantly in a Town vote that directly affects your daily life.
Kenneth Miano: I cannot support any measure that takes away an individuals rights & voice. If this proposal should pass, what it does is to take away the power of the many and to place it the hands of the few. There is no purer form of government today, like open town meeting. I do believe that we could possibly streamline the process of open and special town meetings to possibly generate some cost savings. Maybe that should be our next step; to analyze the process. I find it very ironic that we will be heading to the polls to possibly give away, essentially voting away our vote and our voices. On another note, one cannot help but to recognize all the time and energy spent on this undertaking, but I feel it would have been better spent on finding ways to drive efficiency’s through the process currently in place.
Robert Marcin: I do not support the change to the Town Charter proposal by the Special Act Committee for one main reason. I feel that as selectmen, or any representatives of the town subcommittees, we ask for trust in our residents and value their opinions. As we run our campaigns and work towards gaining a position in the town government, we ask all of our residents to vote and let their opinion be heard. I would like our residents to feel as if their vote is valued past the election process. I want our residents to know that they have a voice in all issues that affect us as members of the Tewksbury community. Even personally I would want to know that if I am not a member of the town committee, that I can always be an active member of the community by attending town meetings and letting my voice be heard. Improving the town of Tewksbury will be a collective effort and I would like all opinions present, including our residents. I appreciate the Special Act Committee’s efforts, but I do feel as though their proposal is not one that I can support.
Scott Wilson: In June 2009, the Board of Selectman appointed a group of residents, the Special Act Charter Committee, and charged them with the task of examining our current town charter. In January 2011, I became the selectman representative and chair of the Special Act Charter Committee. After spending half a year reviewing the work the committee had done over the prior eighteen months, talking to residents about their concerns, and learning from elected officials and other communities, I support Tewksbury moving to a new form of government. I am proud of the work of the Special Act Charter Committee and am excited that my fellow residents have an opportunity to vote on an alternative form of government at the Special Town Meeting.
I recognize the fact that a number of residents see this potential change as “taking away their vote.” I can tell you that as an involved resident of Tewksbury, I would not support anyone losing their vote or the power of their voice. I do prefer to see votes at the ballot where we average a 30% turnout over town meeting where the average voter turnout is 2%.
In regards to Open Town Meeting, there is some interesting historical data. For example, since 2007 there have been 383 warrant articles submitted to town meeting by the Finance Committee and Board of Selectman. In 378 instances, the residents at Town Meeting voted with the recommendation. The five articles that were not adopted were all planning board issues which were withdrawn on the town meeting floor. Under the recommended change to Town Council, the Planning Board would still decide which issues would get voted on by a council. The benefit of the Town Council is that Tewksbury will have representatives making decisions in the context of how it impacts the entire town, instead of individuals voting for a particular issue with more personal implications.
As a current Selectman, I am glad that the process put in place to review our charter will reach its final phase, with residents having their say at Town Meeting. As a resident, based on my time on the charter committee, I hope that we move to a Town Council form of government. I am proud that our town invested in examining our current charter, began the dialogue and proposed changes to improve our current form of government.
(Wednesday, Part 2: How do the candidates feel about Question 1 on the Municipal Election ballot -- the expanded stadium debt exclusion.)