Town Meeting: A lesson in missed opportunity and more

May 17, 2024

Town Meeting was a lesson in missed opportunity and how small but vocal groups can bully through special-interest issues. A few examples:

· Select Board missed the opportunity to lead us in disciplined spending, evidenced by its consistent support of questionable spending items over three evenings of TM.

· While FinCom provided fiscal clarity early the first evening, highlighting that dramatic tax increases will continue into the future, the spending spree ensued.

· A $50 million water plant spend and other costly articles with little detail to the urgency for the spend, solution options, or true cost all passed…

· An article to “declare a climate emergency,” a totally symbolic move that will have zero impact on this national/global issue) but will further raise housing costs and taxes, passed…

· …Yet, there was an hour-plus debate on the $120K school budget gap.

· Beyond spending, we missed the opportunity to reach a reasonable compromise on Article 22 by naming the CMS building to honor the Garrison family (or the library, for example; maybe the auditorium for Sanborn; the athletic field for Peabody); instead, a group of single-issue supporters pushed the article through, setting up continued town division and School Committee targeting.

· The lack of action (again with Select Board encouragement) on common sense improvements to TM in the form of clickers and remote voting ironically proved the need for both: A vast minority of residents carried the day against improved voter privacy and representation (these improvements should have been pursued in parallel to the pending TM Study Committee).

The fact that a wayward Select Board, small but vocal groups, and only 5% of the voting population are leading the way to these kinds of missteps and missed opportunities should be a wake-up call for change to all reasonable people.

Joe Laurin

Southfield Road