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664WVN #493: Campaign accusation in closing days

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  • waylandvoters1
    Mar 31, 2013
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Two candidates on Tuesday's ballot have probed town and school finances and gained voter support for changes including tax relief. They are opposed by two candidates who defend the status quo. A distracting issue is being raised in the closing days.

      Establishment supporters of selectman candidate David Gordon Cliff are accusing his opponent, Tony Boschetto, of fudging positions on budget cuts.

      The matter inevitably came up during the Ask the Candidates live WayCAM broadcast on March 28. Ben Downs phoned in, asking about Boschetto statements that Downs described as conflicting. Downs has endorsed Cliff and is the husband of School Committee candidate Jeanne Downs.

      Boschetto denied that he ever recommended or supported a level funded school budget, that is, a budget that would require reducing services. He said that that he, like Cliff, supported the budget recommended by the school superintendent and invited voters to his website to view the documents cited by Cliff supporters.

      Former school Committee member Jeff Dieffenbach (no longer a Wayland resident) and Kim Reichelt of WaylandeNews, both Cliff endorsers, have publicized the allegation.

      Boschetto said he and town officials publicly analyzed a range of possible budgets, one of which would show what would happen with a 10% reduction. Nobody recommended that possibility, he said.

      Cliff countered by quoting from an email from Boschetto to Finance Committee Vice Chairman Tom Greenaway saying that efficiencies are possible in a $33 million budget.

      "I absolutely supported Dr. (Paul) Stein's budget," Boschetto shot back.

      That exchange was indicative of a contest that pits Cliff's motto of "Keep Wayland strong" against Boschetto's "We can do better and I've demonstrated how we can." Cliff, backed by many residents associated with establishment-oriented officials and the Save Our Services political action group, says efficiencies and "sustainable tax relief" (providing no details) are possible but that things are generally running well.

      Boschetto points to recent history replete with overtaxing, opaque and substandard accounting practices, and citizens demanding and achieving tax relief. He and School Committee candidate Donna Bouchard are largely responsible for voter-mandated tax decreases (without affecting services) and outside consulting that is improving accounting processes.

      Cliff made his stance clear in Thursday's TV appearance, referring to two sitting selectmen. Ed Collins and Doug Leard were elected last year without campaigning on any particular agenda or necessarily agreeing with each other on positions. Sometimes they have voted against their three colleagues, something of a novelty after years of near-unanimous votes on most important matters.

      If Boschetto is elected, Cliff told the TV audience, the majority of three will take Wayland in the "wrong direction": "For example, they could decide not to allow us to vote on an operating override, forcing us to implement cuts in the schools and other services, and the voters would have no ability to prevent it."

      The message is: don't trust Boschetto, Leard and Collins. The contested seat on Tuesday is being vacated by John Bladon, a former FinCom member, who backs Cliff.

      Asked about the composition and role of the Finance Committee, Cliff was happy with the status quo: The elected selectmen are the best officials to appoint the Committee. Boschetto referred to the many Massachusetts towns that elect some or all of such committees and recommended some variation of that in Wayland.

      Cliff would leave much of town operations in the hands of staff and relatively few elected and appointed officials. Boschetto called the contribution of the more than 300 Wayland volunteers serving in town government essential.

      Cliff said many residents express frustration at recent Town Meetings, which he characterized as marred by overemphasis on procedure, delaying tactics and incivility. Town Meeting should decide big issues, not small ones, he said. Boschetto defended legislative process by Town Meeting voters as vital.

      Cliff expressed satisfaction with the process now in place to fund Other Post Retirement Benefits (mainly health care) for employees. Problems have been addressed and now "we have appropriate controls." He blamed the now departed finance director for the problem. Current contributions to OPEB may be too small, he said.

      Boschetto, who along with Bouchard discovered the OPEB accounting problem, noted that the Finance Committee was unaware that its policy wasn't being followed and as a result there is now about $5 million more in the OPEB fund than the public was aware of. Town Meeting voters were responsible for making OPEB a separate line item to foster transparency, he said. "I have a clear plan" for future funding, he said.

      On other questions:

      -- Should the town buy the defunct Finnerty's restaurant on Main Street? Cliff: It has been commercial space for a long time and should remain so. Boschetto said he hoped for a commercial investment that will respect neighbors and their needs.

      -- How should we pay for new projects, and which ones? Boschetto: To avoid expensive mistakes made in earlier projects we need proper timing and sound fiscal policy. Debt service will drop in coming years, making it possible to build such things as a new DPW facility.

      Cliff: Interest rates are low, the high school debt is decreasing and the DPW plan is ready to go. A new Council on Aging space is needed. As for a new library, "I don't think we're ready for it."


      -- Open Meeting Law. Cliff said it's a law, and he tends to follow laws. "I'm a big supporter of anything that drives things into the public's face, so there's no suspicion." Boschetto said that the OML "is one of the most critical aspects of public office, to act openly, with complete transparency in providing information to our citizens" so they understand how government decisions are made. In 2010 Bladon and three other selectmen were filmed discussing appointment decisions made outside public view. The attorney general found them in violation of the OML and fined them.

      -- The proposed River's Edge housing project on Route 20 near the transfer station. Boschetto said he agreed with the Economic Development Committee that the proposal is good and meets affordable housing needs. But, he said, size and scale are important, and should be something for voters to decide. Cliff said, "I'm a big fan" and called for selectmen to take strong positions on such issues.

      -- Community Preservation funds. Cliff: Land conservation is one of my three core principles; Boschetto would drastically reduce the surtax.

      Boschetto: Cliff misrepresents my record; I favor acquisition (including the huge Mainstone Farm if it becomes available) but using ways to fund acquisitions that minimize long-term tax burdens.

      Campaign websites:

      www.tonyboschetto.com
      www.donnabouchard.com
      http://vote4gordoncliff.com/
      http://downs4schoolcommittee.com/

      School Committee

      During a more low-key Ask the Candidates segment, candidates Donna Bouchard and Jeanne Downs touched on a few things that went unmentioned in their Candidates Night appearance. There were no strong disagreements.

      Asked about the future of the Loker School, now being used for kindergarten, Downs summarized the work of two study committees and three possibilities for the future. Bouchard offered further details, including an architectural study and dealing with overcrowding.

      On reducing administrative costs Bouchard said, "I feel strongly that we can and that we should." She ticked off areas where town-school consolidation is possible: IT, finance, human resources, facilities, maintenance, utilities, procurement. Downs mentioned an existing regional tech consortium that saves participants money on purchases.

      Downs defended a Town Meeting proposal for the town to take control of the Wayland Cares anti-drug program for schools, which is now supported entirely by grants. It would then be controlled by the town administrator. Creating a new $100,000 department would enable the town to apply for future grants, Downs said. Bouchard said questions remain and asserted that public expenditures aren't necessary to apply for grants.


      Both candidates supported joint programs with other towns. On adult education Downs said she would be interested in proposals. Bouchard said that it would be a great benefit, noting that similar programs in Wayland are completely fee-supported.

      Ask the Candidates was moderated by former Wayland Town Moderator Peter Gossels and recorded by WayCAM. It is available at:
      http://waycamtv.pegcentral.com/player.php?video=3eca404467f22382d44d55601f777127

      WayCAM is rebroadcasting this show and the March 21 League of Women Voters Candidates Night through Monday evening. The schedule:
      http://www.waycam.tv/program-schedules.html

      -- WVN Staff

      MEETINGS CALENDAR - All meetings take place in Wayland Town Building unless otherwise noted.
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/index
      Click on the calendar date to access a list of meetings with links to posted meeting agendas.


      Monday, April 1


      Board of Assessors, 7 p.m.
      Council on Aging, 7 p.m. Facility needs, town meeting articles
      Wastewater Management District Commission, 7:30 p.m. Public hearing for FY14 budget, betterment charges and customer rates. More information:
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_MeetingsCal/S01AA5A78-01AA5FE7?formid=161


      Tuesday, April 2 - TOWN ELECTION DAY - polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voting information on the Town Clerk's website:
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_MeetingsCal/S01A7BDE6-01A7BE05?formid=161
      Seniors can reserve free transportation to the polls by calling Council on Aging, 508 358 2990.
      Surface Water Quality Committee, 7:30 p.m.

      Wednesday, April 3

      Council on Aging Expo - Simple Solutions for "aging in place," Trinitarian Church, Rt 27,
      3 - 6 p.m., free event, at least 25 vendors expected, guest speakers, raffles, etc.
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_TownNews/01AA039B-000F8513

      Thursday, April 4

      TOWN MEETING BEGINS at High School Field House, 7:30 p.m.
      Seniors can reserve free transportation by calling Council on Aging, 508 358 2990.
      Some town boards are posting to meet in the Field House in advance of town meeting.

      Selectmen - time and agenda not yet posted, Town Meeting preparation
      Planning Board, 7 p.m., H.S. Field House, Withdrawal of Finnerty's special permit application, town meeting preparation
      Recreation, 7 p.m., H.S. Field House, town meeting preparation (Loker ball fields article)
      Board of Public Works, 7 p.m., H.S. Field House, town meeting preparation
      School Committee, 7 p.m. H. S. Field House, town meeting preparation
      Finance Committee, 7 p.m. H.S. Field House, town meeting preparation

      Sunday, April 7, 1 p.m. TOWN MEETING CONTINUES at High School Field house.

      The following town boards have posted to meet 30 minutes earlier. Agendas not yet posted on
      town website: School Committee, Finance Committee, Board of Public Works

      Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday, April 10, 7:30 p.m. Town Meeting continues if necessary.

      Information about Town Meeting is posted on the town website:
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_TownNews/019E09F6-000F8513
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Selectmen/ATM2013

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      Michael Short, Editor