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|Op-Ed: Special Town Meeting Shenanigans|
|Written by William F. Zachmann|
|Tuesday, 05 March 2013 15:24|
Duxbury’s voters can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early by coming out early on Saturday, March 9, to prevent some special shenanigans in the Duxbury Special Town Meeting (STM) within the Annual Town Meeting (ATM).
The Special Town Meeting normally contains only minor, routine items. But this year it includes controversial items with big price tags: substantial extra spending for repairs to the Powder Point Bridge and to the Performing Arts Center (PAC); shifting $435,000 from the PAC and the school appropriations to build a new athletic field house; more bucks ($100,000 or so) to demolish the old police station, a whopping payment of nearly $300,000 to former Police Chief Mark DeLuca not to be our police chief; and what would have been a much bigger payment to Johnson Golf not run the North Hill Golf Course -- had a settlement been reached in the case.
For folks who are not familiar with how Town Meeting works a bit of explanation is in order. Typically, once the Annual Town Meeting opens at nine o’clock on Saturday morning, and after a few ceremonial proceedings, the meeting is recessed to conduct a Special Town Meeting .
Since STM articles are normally inconsequential, and the first ATM items are routine (and somewhat tedious) operating and capital budget discussions, attendance at the Saturday morning session is typically light -- mostly made up of Duxbury town government insiders and a few regular town meeting participants. Most voters do to show up until the afternoon session, after the lunch break. So the routine, minor items on the STM warrant are approved with little discussion and in a relatively short amount of time.
This year, however, Special Town Meeting is packed with controversial items that some insiders evidently want to push through early in the meeting, with as little notice, as little discussion, as little opposition as possible and before most voters know what is happening. And since the STM is adjourned before re-opening the Annual Town Meeting, articles acted on in the special cannot be reconsidered later in the day, no matter how awful they might be. This is irresponsible and wrong.
There is no reason these measures could not have been put on the Annual Town Meeting warrant, other than that they are proposed expenditures resulting from a) deceptive approaches to funding controversial items (e.g. the field house); b) inadequate construction or maintenance (e.g. the bridge and the PAC); and c) downright screw-ups by town government (e.g . payments to Deluca and Johnson Golf), which some insiders would like to sweep under the rug and make to go away with as little notice as possible.
So, set your alarm clock to wake up in plenty of time to get to town meeting by 9:00 AM this Saturday, March 9, 2013. Be there to participate and to ensure a full and honest debate of all 18 articles on the STM warrant. And do not hesitate to let the selectmen know you do not appreciate shenanigans such as slipping items that should have been on the main ATM warrant into the STM to get them passed with as few as possible of Duxbury’s citizens, voters, and taxpayers noticing what is going on until after it is too late for them to do anything about it.