Voters overwhelmingly support Rooney; Cimino and Woodford also win

Paul Cimino (left) and John Rooney (right) congratulate each other
after the results were announced last night

Nearly 25% of registered voters cast a ballot in yesterday’s town election, and in the end they voted overwhelmingly for change.

In the race for selectmen, political newcomer John Rooney received 62% of the vote. Incumbent Sal Giorlandino, who was running for a second 3-year term, received 37%. Rooney came out ahead in all three Southborough precincts.

“Five weeks ago I could have guaranteed 20 votes. To get this many is overwhelming,” Rooney said after the results were announced. “It’s a credit to all the people who worked shoulder to shoulder with me.”

“It feels good,” he said.

In the race for Planning Board, Paul Cimino received 50% of the vote, compared to 32% for Andrew Mills, and 12% for Lisa Braccio. Braccio withdrew from the race last week, but her name was still on the ballot.

“I’m eager to get started representing the people who voted for me today,” Cimino said last night.

The Board of Health race was the only other contested one. Mary Lou Woodford won with 49% of the vote. Her challenger Desheng Wang received 33%.

All other races were uncontested, and there were no surprises in the results. The town has posted the complete vote tallies here (PDF). Note that results are still unofficial until certified.

Rooney and Cimino were on hand at the Town House last night to receive the election results. Town Clerk Paul Berry wasted no time, swearing in the two winners mere moments after the results were announced.

And there will be no rest for the weary. Rooney is expected to attend his first meeting as selectmen tonight at 6:30 pm at the Town House Hearing Room.

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John Butler
12 years ago

Fellow citizens. Those who supported Mr. Rooney should not assume that all will be well. Giorlandino supporters, your incumbent was set up to fail by a bad structure that should be fixed.

Although there are details of the problem that arose that cannot be explained at any higher level, there is a large problem that remains unaddressed. While we are all alert to the public sphere, we need to see our deeper problems.

As a Town we have outgrown the management design of the executive system under which we operate. Specifically the Board of Selectmen is, legally, the management, when it should be a Board of Directors. Therefore we have no Board of Directors. We should have a stronger position of Town Manager, which is legally charged with management, and a real Board. Most other communities our size have moved to this. It is roughly similar to the way we operate our Schools, as dictated by State law.

The problem with the current form is twofold. First, the job of Selectman, as currently practiced by Bonnie Phaneuf and Bill Boland, and legally encouraged by the current structure, has become intimidating. Very few people can plan to devote the endless hours to it that they do. Therefore, most of our enormously talented base of citizens will not volunteer for this job. We need more people with real executive experience willing to spend some time, but not so much, volunteering on a Board whose job is oversight, not management. The second problem is that, since the Selectmen are the management, there is no Board of Directors, no group with the distance necessary to provide guidance. This is the greater weakness of the two. No one, no matter how talented, can be both management and Board. In our present instance, if management was fevered, as ours was, by the sound of hecklers in the media, and then imagined in their midst, a Board would have counseled calm and a moderate approach. This was absent. As we have seen, in this structure, oversight rests only with the voters at large. This is far too awkward a mechanism, and is what has allowed the current craziness to have continued as long as it has.

What we need is a legally strengthened Town Manager, vested with most of the day to day management authority, and a five person Board of Selectmen that act as a Board of Directors, offering review and oversight, but not management. The positions on this Board would be far less demanding of time, but more of wisdom. This might allow us to tap into our huge base of executive talent in Town. Anyone who has seen a good corporate board in operation, knows the difference I am talking about.

A few years ago there was an attempt to create a Charter Commission here that would be empowered under State law to consider changes. The State law makes the process arduous. Voters then didn’t understand the need. The Board of Selectmen offered mostly passive resistance. It didn’t get off the ground, despite the Herculean efforts of a few. There is one other method of making such changes, a local petition to the legislature.

Both these methods need reconsideration while voters remain alert to the recent ramifications of our broken structure. At this point whatever method will allow us to fix the problem is the right method. If we don’t fix it we will continue to have more episodes of periodic insanity. We will be unable to recruit and retain the best employees because our reputation as a mismanaged Town will be well known among the community of potential candidates.

Therefore, Rooney supporters, don’t forget the need to fix the deeper problem. Giorlandino supporters, I know it may be difficult to hear my voice dispassionately now, but when time allows you a reflective mood, think that Mr. Giorlandino was a CEO without a Board, which is not a job anyone can do.

We all need to join in changing our structure, soon.

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  John Butler

I agree with John’s analysis that we have outgrown our management structure. Over the years I have approached several highly qualified people and asked them if they were interested in running for Selectman. They all quickly and firmly declined. Several cited the time commitment that was required as a principal reason for declining.

We need to move forward with a government structure that works for the future.

southsider
12 years ago

So much of a message is set by the choice of words … I think the above call out on our town’s form of government deserves prudent consideration; especially coming from such a seasoned and up-close observer of how our town runs. But soliciting the reflections of the Giorlandino supporters would probably be a smoother process absent phrases such as ” fevered … management..”, “..periodic insanity” , and “.. current craziness” used to describe the outgoing managment. I don’t know Sal well but I’d wager that he, and the rest of the Board, always tried their best to give prudent reflections to their past actions. We can agree to disagree on their methods without questioning their sanity.

John Butler
12 years ago
Reply to  southsider

Although I didn’t say exactly what you suggest, I won’t quibble. The thrust of what you say is correct now. The point is that we need to change, and toning down the rhetoric can only help. I will do my part going forward.

Paul Cimino
12 years ago

I was an active member of the Town Governance Study Committee that made its report to the Town Meeting in April 2007. Our report recommended, among other things, the changes that Mr. Butler has highlighted above (i.e., a Charter Commission, an empowered Town Manager, and a 5-member BOS). We also noted that so many other Towns around us have taken such steps despite the daunting process required by State law.

It may indeed be time for Southborough to seriously consider adjusting the structure of our Town government in recognition of the fact that, while we are still a small town, our budget and ambitions are large.

Paul Cimino

carrie alpert
12 years ago

John,
as usual your insight is so vast and i am only left to ask:
“how do we go about finding out which structured way is best for our town and how do we then go about implementing it?” The idea of a Town Manager who oversees the daily management and then a board who offers ideas and thoughts and then is not so burdened and then burned out–makes sense that there should in fact be a chain of command and thereby feelings are less likely to be in flux by the townspeople.

How do we fix the existing structure? As in is it something that is long and drawn out and is full of legal steps and is voted on at Town Meeting next year? Why does something that makes sense seem like it will be so complicated to get put into place

Al Hamilton
12 years ago

Carrie

The process is straightforward but somewhat daunting

1. 15% of registered voters need to sign a petition for a charter commission.

2. At the next general election the electorate authorizes a charter commission and can simultaneously elect 9 commissioners

3. The Commission has 18 months to make a recommendations. It submits its recommendations to the BOS and if there is a recommendation for a change the BOS places the question on the next regular election for an up or down majority vote.

4. I believe that all charters or charter changes need to be approved by the legislature under a Home Rule petition. I think in this case it is seldom denied.

John Butler
12 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

The other approach is to begin with a home rule petition for a specific change. This leaves less flexibility later, but needs to be considered since the Charter Commission mountain was too high to climb the last time.

As for how to start, that’s a good question. I will ask Clair Reynolds, current Advisory Chair if she will convene a meeting to discuss this or add it to our next agenda. No standing committee owns this question, so, although it is outside our scope somewhat, so it is for everyone. We might consider being an initial forum to discuss approaches.

Pat Quill
12 years ago

Would this change mean we would move from an Open Town Meeting to a Representative Town Meeting ?

John Butler
12 years ago

No. Those are concepts are not linked. Is true that a Charter Commission, if we went that route, could recommend anything it chose to recommend, including that, but my impression is that a Representative Town Meeting is uncommon at our size, while a Town Manager and five person BOS has become the norm.

Foolish
12 years ago

Sounds to me like a select few feel the need to run and change our Town. I now have to question my vote if Rooney/Cimino were just a puppets and there are many puppetmasters holding the strings. Can I ask Al and John, who are very vocal on this board, why neither of you ran? Also, why did Rooney/Cimino not base their campaigns on these changes and not just a vague change? I really feel like I got snookered now and and wondering if we just opened ourselves up a new can of worms.

Kelly Roney
12 years ago
Reply to  Foolish

To be fair, I don’t think what John and Al are saying is Mr. Rooney’s platform. They’re talking about steps beyond the race for Selectman to making changes in our current structure of town government.

Even though I supported Sal, I don’t think you bought this particular pig in that particular poke! (Note: Just an expression – I mean no insult at all to John Rooney, who deserves our congratulations, help, and perhaps sympathy!)

Al Hamilton
12 years ago
Reply to  Foolish

Foolish

1. I have occasionally thought about running for Selectman but the time commitment for the job as currently constituted is just too great. I have a business that I am responsible for and I can’t see doing justice to both so it is always a very short debate that never see the light of day.

2. I did not discuss the charter issue with John Butler prior to the election nor did I discuss it with John Rooney or anyone else for that matter. I believe my feeling on the need for a charter commission are well known. I supported the last effort and have spoken at town meeting on several occasions when I was Chair of the Advisory Committee about the need to address this issue.

I think John Butler was trying to harness the energy of the various parties towards addressing this issue. It is not going to go away.

Paul Cimino
12 years ago
Reply to  Foolish

Hello Foolish,

Yesterday I ran for the Planning Board. Completely separate from that, three years ago I served on the Town Governance Study Committee — my comment above merely offered my perspective from back then. The two things aren’t even remotely related.

Regards,
Paul Cimino

Mark Ford
12 years ago

…and for what it’s worth, yesterday, prior to John’s post and having no discussion with him, I mentioned the charter change idea to a couple of folks. I think given the election cycle, it’s on a bunch of people’s minds. I for one think it’s an idea whose time has come–the process is deliberately difficult so we’ll have the opportunity to hear lots of pros and cons if we decide to pursue it.

Foolish
12 years ago

I appreciate all of you taking the time to claify for me your stance on my post and since my post I have researched what you were saying and now have a better understanding. Thank you.

Steve Morreale
12 years ago

Hi John B and Fellow Blog Readers,

John, thanks for illuminating the need for study of the Town Governance and possible changes in the structure.

I think it is time for our Town Governance structure to grow with the growth and sophistication of our Town. Please be aware that indeed, this is a long process that could upwards of 3 years. The entire process is kept in check by voters at Town meeting. Each step needs to be accepted or rejected at TM. The process includes lots in inquiry, dialogue and debate over the period of years.

Back in 2007, the Town Governance Committee worked tirelessly and produced a formidable report. They also gained hundreds of signatures that were presented to the Town Clerk’s Office for certification. Unfortunately, because of legibility and duplicate signature issues, the petition was not able to be certified.

That process a few years ago was not short on enthusiasm, but could see success with focus and organization.

I began the refreh the process, by going to Town Hall today and requesting an up-to-date-the voter list and a fresh set of Charter Commission Petition sheets.

We will communicate through the blog and begin to collect signatures for the Commission petition. We will need interested citizens to collect signatures in the near term. I have established an e-mail address, if you are interested in participating or providing a petition signature in the future. The address is SouthboroughCharter@gmail.com. Let me know of your interest.

Thanks.
All the best,

Steve Morreale

Note: I provide some information below from the Town of Middleborough, MA to help understand the process. It is a time consuming that with dedication and willpower can help to insure a solid structure for Southborough in the future.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The process of establishing a formal Charter Commission could start with a vote of the Board of Selectmen to form a group of residents – or the residents themselves could form some type of ‘group’ – to collect 15% of registered voters signatures on a ‘form provided by the Town Clerk, and submit to the Board of Registrars of Voters for ‘certification of names.’
The petition would ask residents if forming a Charter Commission under the Commonwealth’s – Home Rule Procedures was something they would support.
Once certified, the ‘registrars’ would notify the Board of Selectmen (BOS), that within thirty (30) days of receipt – valid signatures exist, and that the BOS shall – by order – ‘put to the voters for the election of a charter commission.’ The BOS would also ask for residents to ‘run for the position’ and an election would be held for up to nine (9) members at the ‘next annual election for town officers.’

Nominees for the charter commission would have to obtain fifty (50) signatures to be nominated and placed on the town ballot.

Residents at the annual town election would be voting to support revising the charter – and – for nine candidates for election to the Charter Commission (the ‘Commission’). After the election:

Within ten (10) days, the elected members would meet and form. The Commission would have eighteen (18) months, as a maximum, to evaluate any potential changes to the charter and submit to the BOS – within 16 months – a draft report. The final report would be filed within another two months. The Commission would end their duties within thirty (30) days of the filling of the final report.

Funds could be appropriated for the Commission to use, and meetings would be held on regularly scheduled and posted time frames.

Charter Commission recommendations would have to be adopted by vote, at the next town elections. Then implementation of recommendations would be specified by the Commission in the final report, once approved by the voters.

The process is fully outlined under M.G.L. CHAPTER 43B. HOME RULE PROCEDURES
* * * * * * * * *

John Butler
12 years ago

I understand that an alternative, which may be easier but provides somewhat less flexibility later, is a direct home rule petition for specific changes. Given that a group here tried the Charter Commission route before, shouldn’t we at least look at the plus and minus of this option?

Karen Muggeridge
12 years ago

As a member of the original Town Governance Study Committee, having served with Paul and five others, I have located the 18 page report and recommendations that our committee made to the annual Town Meeting on April 9, 2007, along with many of my notes, reviewed studies, and other materials used in the over a year that our Committee did its extensive work and research.

As we pointed out in our report, all of the surround towns, have adopted a “Home Rule Charter” with the exception of Marlborough, which operates under a City Charter.

We are long overdue in updating to a Home Rule Charter which essentially are updated bylaws that would be tailored to the needs of our town. (Possibly timed well with the work of the Master Plan Committee and the ZAC.)

I don’t believe there has been any agenda related to this election. I just think that recent events have further emphasized the need for this!

I would be more than happy to share what I have, as well as be involved in a revived effort.

Please note, that there are indeed, many checks and votes along the way, so it is not a process that is without input from the voters of the town.

The Massachusetts Municipal Management Association was a tremendous resource then, as I am sure they would be now.

Karen

Tom Shoemaker
12 years ago

Congratulations and best of luck to the newly elected. Well wishes and thanks to those who ran and previously served.

John Kendall
12 years ago

The election is over. Time for Mr. Cimino to pick up all his signs around town and get on with business.

Mark Ford
12 years ago

Mr. Kendall,

Are you serious? The election results were posted less than 41 hours ago. I had a couple of signs posted on my property, and I had chosen to keep them up–as a reminder of democracy, and that the town just completed an important political event. I was planning on taking them down this weekend.

By the way, I just returned home to find someone had already removed the signs, so your point might be moot.

John Kendall
12 years ago
Reply to  Mark Ford

Yes Mr. Ford….as serious as a heart attack. I understand the thrill of the race and the anxiety of the election. But when it’s over and the dust settles I would like to see the signs disappear from the roadsides. They become unsightly. And yes….congrats to Mr. Cimino……from what I understand he’ll be an asset to the board.

Donna McDaniel
12 years ago

To add a bit of history on an earlier Charter Commission and a more recent attempt to create a commission.
First, just before I moved to town in 1972, a Charter Commission had completed the process and presented recommendations for reorganizing town government; the recommendations were not approved. It had become, I often heard when I first arrived, a very divisive issue, leaving, sad to say, a trail of hard feelings. Writing now, I realize I never actually researched the recommendations; I’ll take a look town reports to see what I can find. It could be worth knowing if we embark on another try. I could find not a word about the effort in our town history, Fences of Stone.
Probably more relevant is what happened in 2007 when our more recent Town Governance Study Committee (appointed by the Moderator) reported its recommendations to Town Meeting. The next step was to create a Charter Commission. To do so, the study committee (and supporters of the idea) would need to gather 1,000 signatures to place just the CREATION of a commission on the ballot; anyone wanting to serve on that commission needed 25 voters’ signatures. Their names would be on the ballot; the top nine would be commissioners who would prepare recommendations for a charter to the voters.
I recall checking in on the progress of signature-gathering from time to time but, unless I missed something along the way, the effort fizzled. I don’t think it was because of significant opposition, but rather it seems that the effort to obtain signatures wasn’t concerted enough and/or enough people weren’t engaged in it. Over the next year or more I gave updates in my columns and named who to contact to add names to the petition. For whatever reason, we heard no more, at least until now.

Steve Morreale
12 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

Hi Donna and other interested citizens.

The most recent effort yielded more than 1100 signatures and when presented to the Town Clerk’s Office, the petition could not be cerrtified because of illegible signatures and/or duplicate signatures.

I picked up the voter list today and 60 blank Charter Petition sheets. I plan to work with interested parties to organize and begin the process of collecting signatures in 2010, with the aim for a warrant article to be submitted and considered at the 2011 Town Meeting. There is no real reason for the effort to be devisive.

The process has several steps and does take time. Voters would have the opportunity to vote for/against establishment of a Charter Commission to study and recommend a different governance structure for the Town. If approved, community members would step up to be considered as candidates for the Commission and during an election would be on a ballot. The 9 candidates gaining the most votes would assume positions on a newly formed Charter Commisssion.

I plan on working with Advisory to gain input and gauge interest in proceeding. Thanks for your efforts in looking at the earlier efforts in Southborough. Perhaps history would not repeat itself this time around.

All the best,

Steve Morreale

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