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4Wayland Voters Network Newsletter #4 April 4, 2004

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  • waylandvoters2
    Apr 4 4:27 AM
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      WAYLAND VOTERS NETWORK
      April 4, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      This is the fourth online newsletter of the Wayland Voters Network.
      If you are new to the network, thank you for subscribing. Please
      tell your neighbors and friends about us, and encourage anyone who
      would like to sign up to email us at: waylandvoters2@....

      There are several important meetings in the next two weeks related to
      the Town election (Tuesday, April 27) and Town Meeting (begins
      Thursday, April 29):

      Why Does the Nike Site Affect Your Neighborhood? Thursday, April 8,
      High School Little Theater, 7:30pm. Public forum on affordable
      housing sponsored by the Wayland Planning Board. Topics include
      funding of the Nike site (subject of WVN newsletter #3, to be decided
      at Special Town Meeting in May).

      FY05 School Budget Public Hearing, Monday, April 12, Middle School,
      7:30pm. This is the final hearing before Town Meeting on the
      proposed $25,909,202 School Budget.

      League of Women Voters Candidates Night, Wednesday, April 14, Middle
      School Auditorium, 7:30-9:30pm. All candidates have been invited (12
      candidates running in five contested races, and 15 candidates in non-
      contested races).

      Selectman's Annual and Special Town Meeting Warrant Hearing,
      Thursday, April 15, Town Building, 7:30pm. Walk through warrant
      booklet/articles with the Moderator.

      TOWN MEETING ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
      PETITIONERS' ARTICLES RE. VOTER INFORMATION/PARTICIPATION

      There are a number of articles in the upcoming Town Meeting related
      to participation in the democratic process. These articles are
      offered by petitioners, which means they are not sponsored by a Town
      board. One of them, discussed in WVN newsletter #1, is an article to
      restrict major override votes to major elections (listed as Article
      33 in the warrant). For more information, contact Selectman Brian
      O'Herlihy, 508-358-5534, btoherlihy@....

      Below we discuss five other petitioners' articles scheduled for
      Annual Town Meeting (begins April 29, then recesses during Special
      Town Meeting beginning May 5, and resumes once Special Town Meeting
      is over).

      Article 34, regarding use of Town signboards. This article requires
      that Town Meetings and Town elections be advertised on all four Town
      signboards (Cochituate Fire Station, Five Paths, Town Center, and
      Route 20 at the Weston line). It requires that the signs be posted
      at least two weeks ahead of and through the event. The petitioners
      hope that this will get more voters to elections and Town Meeting.

      Article 35, regarding publicizing elections. This article requires
      that any election associated with a Town Meeting be publicized on the
      front cover of the Town Meeting warrant booklet (which is mailed to
      every household). The petitioners aim to prevent a repeat of last
      fall's experience, in which the Special Override Election was not
      mentioned on the front cover of the Special Town Meeting warrant.
      You had to read what was, in effect, the fourth page inside the
      warrant, to find the notice about the election, and it was not
      obvious that it was an override election unless you read the question
      carefully. Petitioners see the front cover of the warrant as an
      important way to inform voters about the date, time, and location of
      elections. Selectmen have no policy addressing voter information on
      the warrant cover. This article would ensure that a policy is
      spelled out in the Town Code.

      Article 36, regarding accommodating overflow crowds at Town Meeting.
      Those who attended last fall's Special Town Meeting will recall that
      at one point the Moderator was concerned that the number of people in
      the High School Field House might exceed the occupancy and seating
      limits. Although it turned out that attendance was short of the 1800-
      person limit, it was not clear what would have happened if the limit
      had been exceeded. This article provides that the Moderator and
      Selectmen prepare in advance a contingency plan for such a
      situation. Also, whether the plan calls for continuing Town Meeting
      in a way that allows everyone to participate, or for adjourning and
      continuing the meeting at a later time with everyone being able to
      participate, the plan must be announced at the overcrowded Town
      Meeting in question.

      Article 39, regarding the publication of information about the Town
      debt. This article requires that information about the outstanding
      Town debt be published in the Town's Annual Reports, and that a
      number of details be reported by project. The petitioners believe
      that voters will be better prepared to make decisions about new
      spending proposals, if information about the current and future
      impact of past spending is readily available in the Annual Reports
      and published in a form that is complete and easily understood.

      Article 40, regarding giving taxpayers more information about their
      real estate assessments. This article requires the Board of
      Assessors to provide individual taxpayers with written explanations
      of the specific reasons for changes to assessments, whether from
      abatement requests, regular reevaluations, sales, or renovations. It
      also requires that the Assessors make two things available to the
      general public: comprehensible, summarized details of their valuation
      algorithm, and a map showing areas of different assigned land
      values. The petitioners hope that increased transparency in the
      assessment process will result in more accurate and fair assessments,
      and improved communication between the Town and voters.

      The Finance Committee has voted to recommend approval of only one of
      the five articles described above: Article 36, regarding
      accommodating overflow crowds at Town Meeting. The Finance Committee
      has voted against the other four articles, even though it would cost
      nothing, or a negligible amount, to implement each one. The FinCom
      objects to the articles primarily on the grounds that it is not
      necessary to amend the Town Code for these purposes. Given that the
      articles are in keeping with WVN's mission to inform voters and
      encourage voter participation, we see absolutely no harm in codifying
      them. Such action would ensure that these measures are implemented,
      with the anticipated results being better informed voters, possible
      increases in voter turnout, enhanced participation at Town Meeting,
      and greater transparency in the Town's finances and real estate
      assessments.

      Thank you for reading this Wayland Voters Network newsletter. Please
      forward it to your friends and neighbors in Wayland and encourage
      them to sign up for their own copies by sending a blank email to:
      waylandvotersnetwork-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Tell them to click
      reply and send when they receive an e-mail confirming their
      subscription. Or, if they want us to sign them up, tell them to
      email waylandvoters2@.... If they'd rather receive information
      from WVN by phone or regular mail, they should leave a message at
      (508) 358-9171.

      Thanks again,
      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair