WVN #52: Second HSBC Town-Wide Mailing at Taxpayer Expense?
- 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
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
The vote `yes' committee is Building the Future, chaired by Kim
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer