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WVN #52: Second HSBC Town-Wide Mailing at Taxpayer Expense?

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  • waylandvoters2
    Wayland Voters Network December 11, 2004 Dear Wayland Voter, At their meeting Monday night, selectmen are expected to decide whether to use public funds to
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2004
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      Wayland Voters Network
      December 11, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      At their meeting Monday night, selectmen are expected to decide
      whether to use public funds to include in the Jan. 27 Special Town
      Meeting Warrant a lengthy addendum laying out the High School
      Building Committee's proposal. Details follow. But first, a few
      announcements.

      Two new ballot question committees have registered with the Town
      Clerk, to campaign for and against the Jan. 25 tax override ballot
      question for $4.2 million to design the proposed high school
      project.

      The vote `yes' committee is Building the Future, chaired by Kim
      Reichelt. BuildingTheFuture@...

      The vote `no' committee is Citizens for Sensible Planning, chaired by
      Patricia Abramson. PABRAMSON@... 508-358-2138

      Several WVN readers have offered to provide rides to the polls on
      Jan. 25 and to Town Meeting on Jan. 27. The Council on Aging is
      providing free transportation, courtesy of JFK Transportation and
      volunteer drivers. If you need a ride, or if you want to be a
      volunteer driver, contact the Senior Center 508-358-2990.

      Last, but certainly not least, we want to thank you for the generous
      response to our recent appeals for donations, which make it possible
      to send mailings to voters who are not on the listserv. Many of them
      tell us they are grateful for our efforts to help keep them
      informed. We could not reach them without your support. Again,
      thank you.

      SECOND HSBC TOWN-WIDE MAILING AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE?

      When Selectmen meet this Monday, Dec. 13, they intend to vote on a
      request from the School Committee to include in the Special Town
      Meeting Warrant a 12-page document on the proposed $57.3 million
      Wayland High School building project. Selectmen discussed the
      request, but didn't vote on it at their Dec. 6 meeting.

      Selectman Brian O'Herlihy questioned whether printing the document as
      an addendum to the warrant would be consistent with Wayland's by-laws
      and previous practice because the document has a "point of view."
      Selectman Bill Whitney said the document struck him as "clearly a
      recommendation that had a point of view," though he also said he
      doesn't know if it's "advocacy per se as opposed to a dispassionate
      analysis." Selectman Michael Tichnor said it's "a factual piece, it
      summarizes what the Town will be voting on."

      O'Herlihy pointed out that, according to Town by-laws, it's up to the
      Finance Committee to write a report for each article that lays out
      the facts and presents the pros and cons. Petitioners, whether
      citizens or governmental bodies, may include a written statement of
      up to 150 words in support of their article. O'Herlihy said usually
      the warrant's appendix is reserved for maps, job descriptions, wage
      scales and other purely factual matters.

      The 12-page High School Building Committee document, "Phase-1
      Overview," is a longer version of a full-color mailing that will soon
      go to all households at taxpayer expense (HSBC funds). Both are
      outgrowths of the HSBC's "communications plan," which makes the case
      for renovating the high school field house and replacing the other
      seven buildings with two large buildings, adding about 70,000 square
      feet. (The 12-page Phase-1 Overview is posted on the HSBC's web
      site; the town-wide mailing had not been posted last time we looked.)

      The HSBC considered giving material for its town-wide mailing to an
      advocacy group to cover printing and postage at private expense,
      because state law prohibits using public funds to influence the
      outcome of an election. But the HSBC ultimately decided to issue the
      material themselves at taxpayer expense, which they were advised is
      legal as long as it doesn't mention the tax override vote on Jan.
      25. That's why the HSBC's town-wide mailing calls attention only to
      the Jan. 27 Special Town Meeting, but doesn't mention the Jan. 25
      Special Election.

      As for the longer Phase-1 document, the School Committee, in a letter
      to the selectmen, described it as "factual" and "objective." Yet it
      contains tax impact figures that are merely estimates, and
      projections -- on enrollment growth, for example -- that have been
      questioned.

      It's not clear if the cost of printing the additional pages to be
      inserted in the warrant would be covered by the HSBC, the School
      Committee, the Board of Selectmen or another entity; regardless, the
      money would still be public funds.

      Selectman Doug Leard questioned whether proponents of other articles
      would be offered equal appendix space, so to speak, and whether they
      would have to pay for it. In addition to the article asking for an
      appropriation of $4.232 million to design the high school project,
      the warrant includes a petitioner's article calling for a moratorium
      on project spending until more is known about possible state
      reimbursement, and Wayland's ability to handle the biggest project in
      its history and still meet other significant needs.

      "Is anybody else entitled to put in 12 pages of supplemental
      information?" Leard asked. Chair Betsy Connolly said she doesn't
      have an answer, then said it could be decided on a case-by-case basis.

      O'Herlihy reiterated that if the HSBC's requested addendum is truly
      factual and useful to voters, the Finance Committee could simply
      incorporate it in the summary it will present in the warrant, which
      goes to press on Dec. 22 and will be mailed to all households in
      January.

      Selectmen also considered plans for dealing with possible overflow
      crowds at the Jan. 27 Town Meeting, and discussed the order of the
      articles. (The warrant contains five administrative articles and two
      related to the high school project.)

      The School Committee asked the selectmen to schedule the $4.2 million
      appropriation article first on the Jan. 27 agenda, but in any case
      before "any petitioner articles."

      The selectmen discussed but were undecided on whether to schedule
      relatively minor articles first, allowing time for latecomers to be
      seated before debate on more controversial articles begins.

      They also reviewed plans to handle crowds if they exceed the capacity
      of the field house. Police might allow only a certain number of cars
      at the high school, directing others to secondary locations from
      which they could be bused to the campus and seated in other buildings.

      O'Herlihy said if the two high school-related articles come first,
      then voters would be guaranteed to get through them that night. He
      expressed concern for elderly people who might have difficulty
      participating if venues change and Town Meeting runs late.

      The agenda for the next Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night
      includes Special Town Meeting, Order of Articles at 7:05, and Public
      Comment at 7:30. It's not clear if the selectmen will vote before or
      after public comment on whether to add the HSBC's document to the
      warrant at taxpayer expense. If you want the selectmen to know what
      you think, it would probably be best to call or email them before
      Monday night.
      Betsy Connolly 508-358-5749
      Doug Leard 508-655-9925
      Brian O'Herlihy 508-358-5534
      Michael Tichnor 508-358-5962
      Bill Whitney 508-358-7262
      selectmen@...

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
      friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own
      copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters@... and they will
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      waylandvotersnetwork-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Click reply and send
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      please email their name and address to waylandvoters@....

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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