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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.)

 

jo March 20, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Although one might view it as a good sign that the town meeting voters tend to be in agreement with the finance committee and others I do not want to lose the right to vote. I am not confident putting the future of the town government in the hands of a committee made up of some individuals that have had made some questionable decisions that had, in my opinion, an impact on numerous groups of people including school personnel and youth basketball participants. Yes, these people put in time in developing this proposal, however they chose to do that. They can be as proud as they want to, I will not support a charter change. The process is fine as it is.
Bruce Panilaitis March 20, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Open town meeting is a wonderful form of government for a very small community. We are not that and it is time that we had a form of governance that was appropriate for the size community that we are. Thank you Scott for ask your work on the charter and I hope we get the votes.
Bob Rauseo March 20, 2012 at 07:25 PM
The Finance Committee is an independent fiscal watchdog representing the taxpayer. I believe that the very knowledge that Open Town Meeting voters will vote on the Finance Committee's recommendations acts as check on expenditures. I believe that Open Town Meeting gives the Finance Committee their power. Under the proposed format, the Finance Committee will become "financial advisors to the Town Council." No vote by town residents. No power for the Finance Committee. A toothless watchdog.
Jake P March 20, 2012 at 07:59 PM
A question for Mr Miano and Mr Marcin: Have either of you been regularly involved in attending and voting at the town meetings? I'm not sure I recall either of you being present, maybe just once but I may be mistaken.
Bob Ferrari March 21, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Thank god that there is only one Selectmen running that believes in removing your voice by removing Open Town Meeting. Has anyone heard of a single reason why replacing your voice at Open Town Meeting with nine councillors is ANY BETTER than what we have now? I haven't heard a single reason other than "other towns of similar size" have switched". Of course Andover and North Andover are doing quite well with Open Town Meeting thank you very much. Webmaster - www.TewksburyIssues.org
Jade March 21, 2012 at 02:40 AM
It seems that only one of the candidates running for a seat on the Board of Selectman (Scott Wilson) is in favor of a Town Council form of government. Voters of Tewksbury: Don't let them take away your opinions and finally your vote. Vote NO to the Town Council. Let's keep things the way they are. We will never get our voice if the Town Council form of government makes it in.
Jim Wentworth March 21, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Hey Bob, Selectman Wilson provided some pretty compelling data about Open Town Meeting. I know that the other candidates didn’t present any other alternative. Tewksbury has an average of 30% of registered voters voting at the ballot, but 1.9% of registered voters voting at special and open town meetings. That is over 6,000 residents voting at the ballot on the future of Tewksbury versus 380 residents at Town Meeting. Every warrant article that was presented to the residents at Town Meeting was approved....save for the 5 that were withdrawn because of Planning Board issues. So, we approved warrant articles that were approved by the 9 people on FinCom and the 5 Board of Selectman. So, 100% of the time, the 1.9% of registered voters that came to Open Town Meeting approved the budget of 14 people.... 9 non-elected FinCom members and 5 elected Board of Selectmen. Bob, Selectman Wilson didn’t set out to be part of this committee but presented with the opportunity, he didn’t shy away from it. Instead, he decided to be part of the solution. Jim
Bob Rauseo March 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM
I remember an instance just over five years ago when the voters at Open Town Meeting rejected the ENTIRE town budget. The ENTIRE town budget. Town meeting was adjourned, the BOS made some revisions, a group of private citizens developed an alternative plan, and there was a second town meeting. Ultimately, the BOS revised budget was accepted at Open Town Meeting. This was clearly a case where a large number of townspeople were unhappy with the proposed budget and made their voices heard and their votes count. I believe the memory of that event has had an impact on the budgetary process. Voters at Open Town Meeting have approved the Finance Committee recommendations almost 500 times in a row. The key words here are "WE APPROVED" . When the voters agree with the Finance Committee recommendation, we let them know. When we don't agree, as in the case several years ago, we will let them know. We will make our voices heard and our votes count. Open Town Meeting is the best way to make that happen. As I stated above: Without Open Town Meeting, the Finance Committee becomes a toothless watchdog.
paul jackson March 21, 2012 at 05:47 PM
It is the same group trying to push the charter through that runs everything else in this town. Look at the names on the committee to change the town meeting to a charter, Look at the names on the Town Democratic Committee. Look at the names that have held public offices in past years. Look at the names clumped on lawns together. This group sticks together like glue. It is easier to control 9 people than it is to control the Town Meeting, although I have seen them stack that in their favor too. We need to begin to think as individuals. Anyone associated with this power block should be dumped. They have been running us for 30 years and look at the mess we are in.
Bill. S March 21, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Jim, how about some stats on towns that have switched, how do they compare population wise, How is their budget, schools ect. In other words, if Scott wants this, then he needs to show it working for other towns.

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