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Voters Distracted From Board of Health and Housing Authority Races

With higher-profile races and a critical referendum on the ballot, a large number of voters didn't bother with BOH and Housing Authority.

In what was a frantic election day, the contested races for Board of Health and the Housing Authority positions fell through the cracks in the eyes of many Tewksbury voters.

The lack of awareness provided a much higher percentage of ballots left without a vote in the races compared to the more publicized races such as the which had only 256 voters abstaining, and , which only had 143 ballots without a vote for at least one candidate.

In particular, when it came to incumbent 2365-1507 victory over challenger in the Housing Authority race, most voters were too caught up with the myriad of other things the ballot to give it much attention. Ultimately, 793 Tewksbury voters didn’t bother to fill in either candidate’s name, a figure much larger than any of the other contested races on the day.

“I haven’t even followed it at all, I’m sorry to say,” said local resident Barbara Hague, who headed into the public library to vote on Saturday afternoon.

Hague’s indifference on the Housing Authority race was echoed by many other voters such as Ernest Lorenz, who couldn’t remember who exactly he voted for upon leaving the polls.

“I voted for the incumbent, I guess,” said Lorenz.

For the few voters that were keeping a close eye on the race, the main issue appeared to be keeping affordable housing available rather than reforming the system.

“I don’t think it’s proper to cut services,” said Sandra Jones. “People that benefit from public housing are on a fixed income as it is.”

Although neither of the candidates had a significant presence outside the polls in comparison to some of the higher races and other items on the ballot Saturday, DiFruscia held an advantage in terms of visibility outside the polls.

O’Neill credited this to a differential in spending during the campaign, although DiFruscia also was able to garner volunteer support from people like fellow Zoning Board member Rob Dugan, who turned the front of his plow into a sign for DiFruscia as a symbol of his believe that the incumbent should keep his position.

 “This is what he does. He’s been doing this his whole life, and it’s what he knows,” said Dugan, who lives down the street from DiFruscia. “He’s the right man for the job.”

In the Board of Health race, there was also a fair amount of indifference in 2373-1794 victory over , with 504 voters deciding not to cast a vote for anyone. However, among those that did have an opinion, a general consensus emerged that a gulf in experience on certain issues such as sewerage affected their choice.

“It sounds like (Roux) knows what he’s doing, he’s in the sewage construction business, so I think he would be the best choice for that position because he’s in that business,” said Bob Jones. “I didn’t really hear much from (Brothers), she seemed to be silent in this race. I’m not sure she has the experience, especially with new things the town has to deal with like the sewerage system.”

None of the candidates could be reached for comment on Sunday morning for reactions on results of the two races.

Kathleen Brothers April 04, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Thanks Patch for the pictures of our "big" election team. I didn't think I had been silent during the elction at all. Evidently Mr Jones doesn't read papers or maybe he didn't pick up his mail with my mailings. Or see my signs. It is quite obvious that he did not attend Candidate Night. I was very dismayed at the number of people who didn't bother to vote in the BOH race. It has always been hard to compete with a contractor in this town and Saturday just made that more evident to me. I would say that Mr. Jones was a good friend of Mr. Roux. I would ask the both men when the last time a sewage issue came before the BOH ?
Jennifer Nagle April 04, 2011 at 05:32 PM
What a REAL shame. In case some folks are not aware, the Board of Health has, essentially, the most power of any Board in Town. Boards of Health were set up in the days of rampant disease. The point of a Board of Health was to protect each community from disease. IE - If Scarlet Fever was running rampant in a Town, the BOH was enacted with the power to quarentine those in the community to keep the disease from spreading. This is long before the days of automobiles and a trip from Central Massachusetts to Boston to request acceptance of quarentine took days, and possibly would affect the outcome of hundreds of lives. The City of Boston enacted each Board of Health to do what it felt necessary to protect the health and lives of it's residents. Unfortunately, even in this age of technology, where everyone is a click or a phone call away, the Boards of Health still carry the power they did over a hundred years ago. They do have authority to close a business, SET NEW BYLAWS, consider someone / something a nuisence, etc WITHOUT THE VOTE OF THE COMMUNITY IT SERVES. With the power enacted to this Board, I believe that the community should be EXTREMELY careful with the type of people that are elected to this position. And for the Housing Authority... this person is elected to take care of our elderly, disabled and poor (for the most part). This should be a person who is voted in for his / her compassion while handling the budget afforded to them with due diligence.
Melissa Gleaton April 04, 2011 at 06:16 PM
I find it sad and disconcerting that many voters turn out for one issue, or for one candidate, and don't hold much knowledge about the other issues or races on the ballot, and that they don't seem to care. People need to be informed and involved. Candidates in any race can do only so much to be accessible and forthcoming with their message without being a nuisance (Governor campaign ads, anyone??). Voters need to seek out information on their own.
David Gay April 04, 2011 at 06:38 PM
I was impressed at the level of communication from the candidates in this election. I was out of town for Candidate's Night but the written recap and the video clip gave a great overview of where each candidate stood. Many people don't really understand that it is their immediate local election which affect their lives the most. The voter numbers are always much higher when state or federal campaigns are on the ballot. It was an exciting election day and the coverage during the day from the Patch was fantastic. Congratulations to all the winning candidates!
Mary Ellen Fernald April 04, 2011 at 08:42 PM
In the past two years that I have been on the board, I have never seen anything about the sewage come up.
Melissa Gleaton April 04, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I hope that the Board will take measures to address the issue of underage drinking going on in this town that has been front page news lately. I know that was a major concern of Mrs. Brothers.
Rob Dugan April 04, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Some of the DiFruscia fleet was out in force. Great job Patch.
Mary Ellen Fernald April 04, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Having had worked in a substance abuse hospital and had alcoholics as young as twelve years old.. This is a very important issue to me. I agree with Melissa and Kathleen, something should be done.
Kathleen Brothers April 06, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Cathy, I may be misunderstanding your point, but Ms. Clement's job is the Director of the Board of Health and because of that she is expected to be at every meeting. Please tell me what that has to do with the sewage issue brought up by Ms. Fernald?
Mary Ellen Fernald April 06, 2011 at 09:27 PM
Ms Clement in the director of the health dept. The Board of Health is her boss. Yes, if Ms Clement is not at a meeting, the meeting is cancelled. If there is not three members of the BOH in attendance, the meeting will be cancelled. She brings up the things we have to vote on. I still have never seen anything about sewage. The minutes of all the meeting are available. Read them. I have been at every meeting except for two. Those nights I had a class and couldn't get back in time.
Kathleen Brothers April 06, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Cathy, You seem to be very angry. What Ms. Fernald is saying is that at the BOH meetings that she attends every month that a sewage issue concerning tie ins have never come before the board. I would ask you what the other 3/4 of the BOH job is? And if you read what I wrote at the beginning I never said sewage wasn't connected to the BOH. I just asked when the last time a sewage issue had come before the board? I attended quite a few of the meetings and other than Restaurant issues Sewage tie ins were not mentioned. Calm down....your guy got in there is nothing to be upset about.
Kathleen Brothers April 06, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Thank you very much for all your corrections. You certainly have spent your afternoon confusing me! Thank you very much for your vote. But aren't you glad that I didn't get in? By the way, I am hitting submit!
southie April 06, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Cathy. town engineer handles almost all sewer connection issues. step 1. community dev. for application step 2. plumbing inspector comes to your home step 3. plumber gets permit step 4. select a drain layer to connect to your home step 5. water dept. marks services step 6. engineer inspects connection along with plumbing inspector step 7. engineering dept. signs off. along with plumbing inspector dont't for get health dept. is in the same area as the engineering, building,plumbing, community dev. offices. they post everything together on the same pin board. not much of an issue (if any) with the board of health.
Jennifer Nagle April 06, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Cathy, I think you have accidently clicked on the wrong website. TI is where people go under anonymous names to berate other people even when the anonymous poster doesn't have all the facts. Just trying to be helpful. :)

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