Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are We Being Served? And By Whom?

An Op Ed Piece
By Larry Schmeidler, Editor

"Are You Being Served?", is a long-running and beloved BBC-TV comedy. And it's a title and semi-humorous concept that could be well be applied to the local political scene.

Here's an example that is spelled out in the "Background Material" provided in the Warrant for a Special Town Meeting in Framingham slated for Monday, September 10th, 2012.

The information contained supports two articles sponsored by Steve Hakar, a member of the Finance Committee, that seeks, in essence, to tighten controls over the use of chemicals by utilities that could compromise our drinking water sources, and also demands an end to unfunded state mandates.

Hakar reports that the stage was set for the current TM on May 5th, 2011, when members attending Framingham's Annual Town Meeting(TM) voted overwhelmingly to request its State Senator and House Representatives to file bills that would eliminate those mandates.

Framingham's Town Manager then sent a notice of Framingham's action to all towns in the state as well as to our representatives. And Hakar also claims that he received written promises of support from Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Tom Sannicandro.

The result to date? Nothing - Nada - Zilch! This is despite the long tradition in Massachusetts for its state House and Senate members to file legislation honoring such requests -- and especially when officially issued by towns, as was the case with Framingham.

All this is why Hakar said he reintroduced these requests for legislative action on the state level through action from TM, and for similar acts in Sudbury and Wayland, as previously reported by Xtra Xtra.

Telephone calls were made asking the candidates to comment. Challenger Jon Fetherston said that he was appalled, with the lack of action "typical of the representation Framingham receives". Incumbent Tom Sannicandro could not be reached directly, but his comment will be printed when received.

And then there's another puzzler. Why did Framingham's Standing Committee on Ways and Means go ahead and overwhelmingly vote against both articles on September 5th when the sponsor (Hakar) couldn't attend to explain his rationale? And in spite of Town Meeting's previous affirmative votes about four months earlier? In fact, Hakar said he was not even told of the W & M votes until interviewed by Xtra Xtra.

The paper trail of emails between Hakar and W & M chair, Audrey Hall, on why the two didn't or couldn't connect comes off as a "he said, she said" routine that does not seem to advance transparency in governance.

The traditional form of Town Meeting is now under attack by a very strong group who want to convert the town to a city form of government, claiming it would be more efficient and accountable.