Reading the articles on the warrant ahead of time is critical if you want to prevent the curbing of YOUR legislative power (the voters are the legislative body.) Attendees must come prepared if there is any hope of saving an important check and balance that the Finance Committee and “Bylaw Committee” (more explanation later) are trying to extinguish!
Click here to read the warrant and to read more on the Articles to be voted on:
Pay close attention to the Articles in red.
I can’t tell anyone how to vote, but I can share my position on these Articles. How I plan to vote is in all caps and my explanation follows.
My biggest piece of advice however is read the articles ahead of time and come prepared. To simply show up and vote yes to everything (what usually happens) is a promise to dwindle your legislative power. There is MUCH more volume to the Articles being presented at this Special Town Meeting than we generally see at the Annual Town Meeting. Be aware, be informed and please ask questions. To not vote at all is better than to vote uninformed.
NOTE: Harhay on the original set of proposed bylaw changes wanted to call it the Finance Board, not the Finance Committee, thankfully Mike Kennedy recognized at the 11-5-13 BOS meeting that Finance is not a board and Wettlaufer agreed. They are in fact an advisory committee. Boards are elected while committees are selected.
The idea of ONLY the Moderator being able to appoint the Finance Committee is partially true. The current bylaw gives the Moderator 30 from the Annual Town Meeting to then make FinCom appointments. Once the thirty days have passed, if any vacancies occur throughout the year the Finance Committee themselves have the power to self appoint a person onto the committee.
This is a very important check and balance that Harhay wants to eliminate! Harhay favors an autocratic process of appointment and is happy to have the Moderator be the ONLY person who can make a FinCom appointment. Does the word “dictatorship” come to mind? It should. Because that’s what government becomes when you take away the checks and balances.
What’s worse, the proposed bylaws change states, “The Moderator has the discretion to fill the vacancy with a qualified candidate as soon as possible, or at a later time, if the minimum Board membership is satisfied.” Discretion, qualified candidate and minimum board membership are the problem words here!
Bill Hardy insisted that I needed to have “million dollar budget experience” to serve on Finance. Shortly after he spouted this made up criteria, Andrew Harhay parroted the same words.
I asked former members of FinCom as well as past and present members from Finance Committees in other towns. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM SAID THAT YOU DON’T NEED MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET EXPERIENCE TO SERVE ON THAT COMMITTEE.
Why then do Bill and Andy think you do? How can the bylaw require a “qualified candidate” but then have no written qualifications? Moderators should come and go...it is an elected position. Does the elected moderator have million dollar budget experience himself making him able to properly discern qualified candidates? Will future elected moderators have the same imaginary discerning abilities for “qualified candidates?” Why did some members of the Finance Committee, as it’s membership stood in February of 2013, NOT have the “million dollar budget experience” Hardy and Harhay insisted was the lacking feature that they identified in my qualifications?
It was nothing more than complete discrimination!!
Behavior like this should not be made easy, nor should it be promoted by making bylaw changes.
In reality, if there are 5 seats, then 5 seats should be filled. If five filled seats is what is desirable, then shouldn’t it be the “minimum board membership?”
I think Hardy and Harhay are making it very clear, if they don’t like you for any reason, you won’t get appointed. They could in fact have a Finance Committee of ONE PERSON.... appointed by ONE PERSON, with no opportunity to change it for three years (the elected term of the moderator.) It sounds ridiculous, but with appointments to be only the moderator’s discretion, with no criteria for “qualified candidate, and no definition of “minimum board membership,” it could happen!
Another check and balance would be to change the term of service of the Moderator. Other towns that have Finance Committees appointed by a moderator, elect their moderator YEARLY, not every three years. That makes a big difference in the world of checks and balances. Changing the elected term of the moderator is not currently on the table, but it is certainly worthy of consideration if the best interest of the town is what you truly want to consider.
Before moving on, another really important piece of information the voters need to know is WHO are the members of the Bylaw Committee?
When Andrew Harhay thanked me in January or February of 2013 for pointing out the bylaw discrepancies that I had picked up on he promised to have the “bylaw committee” look at the Finance Committee bylaw which are part of the general bylaws that he blatantly wasn’t following. What Harhay FAILED to disclose to me was the fact that HE serves on the bylaw committee! He is first in line to make our bylaws say whatever he thinks they should say, and then slip the change in at a STM. The other two members are the Town Clerk and Lynn Arnold (Lynn is wearing lots of hats.... Selectwoman, Planning Board chair, Lake Oversight Committee, head of the HRA..... is there a pie she doesn’t have her fingers in?) I’m sure I won’t get any help from her in identifying the gravity of these proposed FinCom bylaw changes since she is also on the bylaw committee, and is the neighbor and friend of Harhay.) Arnold and Harhay even had a bylaw committee meeting planned for Saturday morning October 19th, but they forgot to include the Town Clerk, and they failed to give the public 48 hours notice (required by the Open Meeting Law.) Arnold frequently violates the OML. Click here, to see the Attorney General’s most recent determination, against her and Wettlauffer.
It doesn’t end here. Also proposed is that the Finance Committee drop from six 6 members to five. Yes, odd numbers are preferred for obvious reasons, that part I have no issue with. But since they are currently short a member; it would also spare them from having to include me! More importantly, I want to know if any research was done; why five and not seven? Turns out, I did the research for them. I asked two former members of the FinCom. And I called or emailed all the area Finance Committees to find out how each is structured. During budget season there are lots of meetings with different boards sometimes several nights in a row. Each person I spoke mentioned that it is hard for every person on their various Finance committees to attend every single one of those meetings in the height of budget season. So, it is obvious. More is more. With so many meeting taking place it is better to have seven to nine members serving on a Finance Committee. In fact, seven to nine is what the majority of area Finance Committees have. If Harhay had done the proper research, like I have, if Harhay had done ANY research in his capacity as a member of the bylaw committee, he would be proposing the Finance Committee increase to seven members not drop down to five.
There is more. Currently if you miss five consecutive FinCom meetings your seat “shall” be deemed vacant. Shall is an imperative. It means if you miss five consecutive meetings (except for illness) you are no longer on the Committee. Harhay wants to change this to read, “may” be deemed vacant. So in other words you don’t even have to attend meetings if you don’t want to. They will keep you on as a place holder so that there are no vacancies. They no longer have to run the risk of someone they don’t want appropriately applying to fill a vacancy. Other local town bylaws acknowledge dismissal of individuals that don’t show up for five meetings in a row.
I think it’s worth mentioning here that Andrew Harhay himself misses several consecutive meetings in a row, as I understand annually. He takes off for Florida for weeks at a time in the middle of budget season. He is writing a scenario that prevents his absence from resulting in dismissal. And, a reliable source told me that there are actually several members who have indeed missed five consecutive meetings, and should, according to current bylaw, already have been dismissed! But so far, no one has ever been dismissed as the imperative “shall” proscribes, and this rewrite to the bylaw basically makes dismissal discretionary instead of mandatory even when nearly three months of not participating occurs. Does this really seem like a bylaw change we the voters should embrace? I want elected and appointed people to show up. I want them to have enthusiasm for the job. Enthusiasm to do a job is more compelling criteria than fictitious “million dollar budget experience.”
Realize this: The bylaw committee has not done the proper research; this proposed bylaw change creates a significant imbalance of power, it eliminates an important check and balance and it is intentionally being slipped in at a Special Town Meeting where there is an anemic supply of voters. There is nothing urgent or even pressing about the proposed FinCom bylaw changes. In fact I would even insist that they are only being proposed as a tool to keep people that are not part of their inner circles out of town government. I’m sure Harhay didn’t like it very much when I proved to him he was not following the bylaws. I am sure he liked it even less when the town sought legal advice on the matter and legal told Harhay that I was right, and that it was unlawful for him to take a vote to not self appoint at a FinCom Meeting in February 2013. Later in the year in May or early June, Harhay led his FinCom to SELF APPOINT two new members..... as it was getting harder and harder with two vacancies to still not appoint me! There is still that 6th vacancy..... waiting for me to fill. Harhay hopes to just change the bylaw to be permanently rid of me since no one will ever have to be dismissed from his FinCom until such a time when the Moderator has a changing of the guard.
VOTE NO ON ARTICLE 4. There are way too many problems with the proposed changes. No changes to this bylaw are even needed, but changing them can certainly create a massive shift in power.
In my opinion this is not needed. I have never had anyone but a girl scout selling cookies or a boy scout collecting cans knock on my door (fortunately after reading over six pages of this proposed addition to our bylaws I was able to recognize they are exempt). But for those not exempt, in order to knock on your door, a person will need a permit (so a form needs to be filled out with the Police Department at least 10 days before knocking on a door.) Of course there is a fee of $20.00 to get a certificate of registration. Fingerprinting is required, that would also be for the criminal background check. Violators can be fined, $100, imprisonment $up to $500....
I have never had a solicitation knock on my door other than scouts, or kids willing to shovel. Is this necessary? And don’t forget our police force is not 24/7 so it could even add a burden which interferes with their day to day functioning. I’d like to hear from people in town who have experienced inappropriate solicitation and I ‘d like to hear if the police department do feel like the registration process, fingerprinting and background checking would be an additional burden.
The stuff mentioned about signs conforming to MUTCD rules does not need to be stated. If your signage is not compliant to MUTCD you don’t get money from the state for your roads. MUTDC by the way is the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control devices and it is the reason why when you go from town to town street signs and speed limit signs all look the same.
SOME OF THE CHANGES:
Parking restrictions for snow will start on November 1st instead of November 15 and stay in effect in both cases until March 31st.
You still can’t block a public way...yet several of the PUBLIC boat ramps in town HAVE already been blocked by abutting neighbors who erroneously claim the land is “part of their private property.” I have heard stories of the police not being able or not being willing to make people take the barriers down. The proposed bylaw does nothing to help them enforce stopping private people from claiming and blocking public rights of way. So why do we need to vote this in if it won’t open our public boat ramps? The Board of Selectmen will designate or appoint a parking clerk that is “directly responsible to the Board of Selectmen.” This parking clerk has the power to hire people to organize or contract bids for services to carry out the parking provisions. The parking clerk will review material if you challenge a parking violation and has the power to dismiss or uphold your challenge. If you don’t pay the fine you are assessed additional fees get attached. Fine me.... fine me more.... what a good idea.
This proposed bylaw pretty much sounds like an additional tax. It also sounds like it is going to cost the taxpayers more money by having to pay a parking clerk a salary, and benefits! A parking clerk that answers to the Selectmen.
I couldn’t find anything wrong with the current parking regulations that the town has in place. Why would we approve five pages of oppressive rules, that essentially will cost us money just by adding the salary and benefits of a parking clerk.
This bylaw is 3 pages long. It repeatedly refers to DOGS. It would be inappropriate to require these laws to pertain to all” domestic animals” as they are labeled in this proposed change when it is clear that these laws refer to dogs. Their licenses, leashes, shots, kennels, nuisance dogs, dogs that have attacked, at what age you must obtain a dog license and fines. I did not look to see the cost in the former bylaws of dog licenses, but I bet it has gone up. Spayed and neutered dogs will cost $10/dog (IT USED TO BE $5) un-spayed and unneutered will cost $20 each. (IT USED TO BE $15.) If this is an increase of the fee, that is a really good reason to vote NO.
High Licensing fees only deter people from ever licensing the dog. It is clear this bylaw only talks about dogs so it should not be called “Control of Domestic Animals.”
Variances can be granted if you meet specific criteria, which would be circumstances related to the soil conditions, shape or topography of land or structure and enforcing the provision of the bylaw causes a substantial hardship (financial or otherwise) then you can request a variance. Special permits are totally discretionary. Lynn Arnold claimed at the BOS meeting on 11-5-13 that the variance criteria has recently changed and therefore we need to change our bylaw wording in 7.064 of our Zoning bylaws (making cottages year round homes) from “variance” to “special permit.” This is simply not true. MGL Chapter 40A section 10 (variances) has not changed since 1976!! What is she talking about?? What is the REAL (nefarious) agenda here?
Presently there are eight zoning classifications. They want to drop it to seven which eliminates the category of Special Conservancy. But even at the Select Board meeting on 11-5-13, almost no explanation and very little discussion was generated about this seven page proposed bylaw change. They perseverated over how to zone daycares instead of telling us Special Conservancy has been eliminated, Quite honestly these seven pages are really hard to decipher. But once you start to decipher bits and pieces there are way to many things that they want to only allow by special permit. Yes, allow it, or No, don’t allow it (consistent with MGL of course) but the discretionary special permit will only be granted to people they like. People that don’t stir the pot or else…. DON’T give them this much power! It’s not appropriate! Indeed the zoning section pertaining to the medical marijuana has to be added, and I can see allowing that type of operation by special permit only. It may in fact prevent such a facility from being allowed in our community, but don’t think you can move dirt in your yard without a special permit. They have added a farming restriction, they use abbreviations like “ZBA” and “PA” that are never explained, and they made a significant change, that is not highlighted in grey as all the changes are supposed to be, to the category “Conversion of seasonal homes to year round use.” (by the way this ties into article 8 where they want to change variance to special permit which violates MGL.) In this section the old bylaw would not allow such a conversion to take place in a business, rural business or commercial district. The new bylaw, and again, this is night highlighted to draw your attention to it, would allow such a conversion in all three districts.
You MUST ask yourself here, what is the REAL/HIDDEN AGENDA?
The power of the legislative body is being usurped, unless you are a favorite of the “inner circle” and then you can get a special permit for anything you want, even to circumvent the bylaws without meeting the threshold of a “hardship.”
To compare to the old bylaws click here, for the old zoning bylaws.
November 10, 2013, Dana Manning