Can you hear me now?

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Can you hear me now?

Postby swamper on Fri May 18, 2012 3:44 pm

Tewksbury rejects city form of rule
By John Laidler Globe Correspondent / May 17, 2012

Debate over a proposal to switch Tewksbury to a city form of government came to a decisive end when the plan was overwhelmingly shot down by voters.

The proposal, offered by a Special Act Charter Committee, called for a new charter that would scrap the existing Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting and establish a nine-member town council.

By a vote of 561-51, a Special Town Meeting May 8 indefinitely postponed an article calling for the town to seek a special act to make the change.

The Finance Committee, the School Committee, the Planning Board, and four of the five Board of Selectmen members lined up against the proposal.

But even opponents were surprised by the margin of defeat.

"I think people in general are satisfied with how the open town meeting works," said David H. Gay, selectmen chairman, who opposed the plan.

"They like having that vehicle if they need it," he said, "that if they feel strongly about something and want to voice their opinion, it's ready and open and accessible to them.”

Selectman Scott Wilson, who chaired the charter committee and was the sole selectman to back the plan, said he was disappointed "because I think it would have been a great thing for our town." But Wilson saw a silver lining to the plan's defeat.

"I think that this was a fantastic way to begin a conversation," he said. "We had 600 people there and they were engaged, they were curious. If town meeting were always like that, town meeting would be more effective.

"The problem with town meeting in my opinion is that people don't show up," he said. "And the people that do show up aren't representative of a community of 30,000 people. It's a small group of people who have very strong opinions about certain things. The only time other people show up is when a particular issue has their attention."

Wilson said that with key town boards aligned against the plan, "I knew it wasn't going to pass. But still it was a great discussion. I think people got educated a little. Many of them came up at the end of the night and said, 'Scott, I really learned a lot. I'm not ready for this yet, but I can see what you are saying makes sense.' They just need to be comfortable with it."

Prior to Town Meeting, opponents of the plan erected about 80 lawns signs urging residents to vote against it. The commission did not mount a similar effort in support of the plan because "We didn't feel it was our job to advocate for this," Wilson said. "We did our job getting people to think about it and talk about it."

Thomas L. Cooke, chairman of the Finance Committee, said his panel voted to oppose the article because it was not presented with any information on the cost impact.

Cooke said that based on his own research, he was concerned about the costs involved in switching to a town council. Cooke said he found that Barnstable this fiscal year budgeted $341,000 for its 13-member Town Council, while Tewksbury budgeted about $105,000 for its Board of Selectmen and approximately $10,000 for its town meetings.

Gay said he anticipates there may be renewed discussion in the future about adopting a city form of government, particularly if the town's population grows. But for now, "I think the small town feeling persists strongly. I don't think people are ready to give that up. Let some time go by is probably the best idea now."

John Laidler can be reached at
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Re: Can you hear me now?

Postby bferrari on Fri May 18, 2012 3:58 pm

Honestly our town is built out, from what land is available for building, which isn't much. Unless we decide to allow high rise buildings for some reason which would just be ridiculous.

When I see these comments like ""The problem with town meeting in my opinion is that people don't show up," "And the people that do show up aren't representative of a community of 30,000 people. " I don't get it, and I will repeat this until I am blue in the face, how can 9 councilman be more representative than 150 average....

If anything, this failed proposal did bring out the conversations and the learning, which is exactly what I said we would be missing out on should Town Meeting go away. A lot of people also realized that they almost lost something really important, so yes there is a silver lining to this.... :D
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