Sudbury Vision

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Our political leadership struck out at Town Meeting. Here is the play by play…..

Strike One – Lack of preparedness on the budget

Strike Two – Drobinski and O’Brien blocking Haarde from assuming the Selectmen’s Chair

Strike Three – The town meeting “after party” and ensuing police involvement.

 

Strike One – the budget.

The budget discussion was very tough to follow.  Once again, voters were handed sheets of paper with revisions to the budget made just before the meeting.  Of all the budget line items in Article 4, 15 out of 16 items had changes. In other words, 93% of the budget line items in the warrant were changed with little time to review. In addition, the requested budget increased by an additional $271,605 from what was printed in the warrant.  That is real money, and in teacher equivalents, about 4 new hire teachers.

The savings realized from insurance reform, snow and ice removal among others, evaporated as once again the tax rate will increase by more than 2.5% for an actual increase of 2.99% (Town Warrant, FC-11). 

Strike Two – Selectman Drobinski and O’Brien voting to keep O’Brien as the Chair

 

Each year at town meeting, the board of selectmen rotate the chairman’s position. In fact, according to Selectman Drobinski:

 

 “It’s tradition after each Town Meeting to elect the senior member of the board who is running for re-election,”  (Wicked Local, 5/11/11 http://www.wickedlocal.com/sudbury/news/x447604224/OBrien-to-chair-... )

 

The senior member of the board up for re-election this year is Bob Haarde.  But this year, tradition didn’t hold. O’Brien and Drobinski voted 2-1 to keep O’Brien.  What makes this vote all the more stinging is that last year Haarde supported O’Brien as chair and the year before, Haarde supported Drobinski.

Why does it matter if Selectman Haarde is not the chair?  The Chair sets the agenda for the meetings.  Essentially Drobinski and O’Brien will continue to control the agenda for the selectmen censoring Haarde’s ability to ask the tough questions.

Don’t look to watch a replay of this vote on Sudbury TV, or even have time for public comment.  It happened after town meeting was adjourned, but on the stage.

Finally, if you voted for Haarde,  you should feel insulted and not represented by the insider party.  I do.  I also wonder what Haarde could have possible put on the agenda that is so alarming to the other selectmen.

Strike Three – The After Party and Police Response

 

After successfully voting Haarde down for the Chairman’s spot at about 10:45 PM, Drobinski, O’Brien, the town manager, and at least one school committee member and town employee, plus others went to  Lavender’s Restaurant in Sudbury for what Lavender’s would consider a special event. Normally closing at 10:00 P.M. according to posted hours, the restaurant which obtained a liquor license from these very same selectmen is permitted to stay open until 1:00 AM for special events.  It is not clear what the special event was.

At 1:47 AM according to the police report, the Sudbury police noticed 10 individuals gathered inside “well after closing”. Inside was Selectman O’Brien. Selectman Drubinski and the Town Manager were also present earlier, but according to O’Brien in the Patch (http://sudbury.patch.com/articles/o-brien-no-liquor-served-after-ho...), "They left many hours before and stayed for about 35 to 40 minutes. We lost track of time ... nothing more, nothing less." O’Brien went on to conclude that “the important thing is that this was not a liquor violation."

While the selectmen chair did not believe it was a liquor law violation, in a follow on notice to the restaurant from the Sudbury Chief of Police, the Chief directs the restaurant operator:

 “your establishment was in violation of the Rules and Regulation of the Sudbury Board of Selectmen relative to you license for the sale of alcoholic beverages……allowing patrons to remain in your establishment 47 minutes after closing hour is a clear violation.”

This should have been the end of the story, but it turns out police discovered the illegal gathering after they responded to a one car accident at 12:40 AM on Concord Road where they cited an operator for her third OUI offense. The operator told police that the Lavender Town Meeting after party was where she was drinking.  The identity of the OUI violator has been redacted from the police report.  Best case, if there is a best case, is the operator was a town resident attending the gathering.  If it turns out the resident is a town employee or elected official then all kinds of additional issues open up since her management chain was also present at the party.

The confluence of an OUI, the town’s liquor licensing authorities (except for Haarde), town employees, town management, a liquor licensed restaurant and the resulting police action make for a very messy situation.

So how about next year we don’t strike out at town meeting? Here are three steps to accomplish this.

  1. Town leadership needs to provide voters an accurate budget ahead of town meeting. If we can’t do that, we postpone the budget discussion.  The town warrants are supposed to be in our hands several days prior to town meeting for a reason. Re-writing the warrant at town meeting doesn’t meet the spirit of the law.
  2. We continue the tradition that Selectman Drobinski mentioned and rotate the chairman position. If we politicize the tradition like Drobinski and O’Brien did this year, we codify the traditional arrangement in an article so those of us who vote for a selectman, get to see him or her as chair during their tenure.
  3. Plan a celebration for town meeting next year.  But let’s make sure we have something to celebrate. We need to get our schools funded correctly, consolidate into a K-12 system, renegotiate the LS Regional Agreement, enact senior tax reform, and make a firm decision on town sewers.

We can do better than this year’s town meeting.

 

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