On Thursday, candidates for Town office answered questions at Candidates’ Night. I can’t capture all the great comments, so recommend viewing Southborough Access Media’s video. But I know many of you won’t, so I’ll try to summarize the highlights!
Today’s post focuses on the three candidates for Town Moderator: Desiree Aselbekian, Bill Boland, and Stephen Morreale all told the public they were running at the urging of others.
The Moderator is a one year post with two important roles. The most public one is running Town Meeting, which Morreale referred to as the Town’s legislature and part of the Southborough’s important checks and balances.
All candidates suggested improvements could be made to improve efficiency of the meeting and encourage participation. All agreed that it was important to balance allowing voters to speak and moving along the meeting.
The second duty is to appoint members to the Advisory Committee, the Personnel Board and half of the Public Works Planning Board.
In the past, those appointments have been made by what Aselbekian referred to as “secret phone calls”, which she vowed to end. Often positions have been filled without any notice to the public about openings or announcements of appointments. (It’s a process each would be familiar with, having been appointed by the moderator in the past.)
Morreale said that he would open up the process by advertising openings through the Town and going out to grab new recruits. If there were multiple candidates, he would post the names and give people a week to make comments before he made a decision. He would then follow through by announcing the appointed member.
Aselbekian went further, saying she would advertise and hold open meetings to interview candidates and allow the public to ask relevant questions. And she would set up an active account for anyone to contact the moderator. Her ideas were part of a platform that she had already outlined on her campaign website.
Boland didn’t specify his process, making no promises to increase transparency. Instead, he focused on recruiting people who could bring value to a board. He suggested that he may replace some existing candidates on boards at re-appointment time. He might tell someone who had been serving that he was “trying go in a different direction and get some diversity” on a board. (He followed that didn’t mean that he would necessarily replace someone just because they had served multiple terms.)
In answering questions on diversity, Boland clarified that appointing the best candidates was more important than having the right mix. Morreale pointed out that he always pushed to have at least one woman on the Personnel Board when he was Chair. He referred to Southborough voters as diverse intellectuals. And Aselbekian referred to diversity of opinion. She encouraged that bringing together people with differing thoughts as resulting in a better product. But she also prized relevant experience, transparency and openness in candidates.
Aselbekian and Boland defended the intensity of their desire for the post compared to Morreale who had posted signs and already campaigned at the Transfer Station. Aselbekian said she would be at the Transfer Station this past and coming weekend. But she stressed that there were other ways to run, including her website and interactions with people throughout town, seeking their opinion.
Boland implied from the start that he was running on his name and his record, stating that active voters should already be familiar with the candidates. In answering the question, he quipped “signs don’t vote”. He also explained that other commitments have kept him too busy to spend Saturdays at the Transfer Station, but that he does have a sincere interest in the post.
Morreale repeatedly told the audience that he was running on a platform of continuing integrity and independence for Town Meeting. He stressed that Town Moderators can’t be activists. They need to be neutral on matters before Town Meeting.
The remark seemed aimed at Boland and Aselbekian having taken public stances at Town Meeting and other public meetings. Aselbekian acknowledged the point by saying whoever gets the post will have to be a neutral party and “do your job”.
And all agreed that enforcing the rules was important. Aselbekian and Boland both noted their command of those rules. Aselebekian referred to her enthralment since her first TM participation as an 18 year old running for the Regional School Committee. And she noted her involvement as Chair of that committee when Algonquin’s controversial Add/Ren article was debated in front of 2,000 TM voters (the biggest turnout in Town history.) Boland said his first attendance was as a 7th grader in the bleachers. (Most recently he sat on stage as a Selectman for nine years, three of them as Chair. And previously he served on the Advisory Committee.)
Morreale has presented to Town Meeting as former Chair of the Personnel Board. But he didn’t claim mastery of the rules, instead planning to learn the rules and, if necessary, reach out to current Moderator David Coombs, who had urged him to run.
Morreale also said he was reaching out to the moderator’s association on what works and doesn’t to pursue ways to improve attendance. He would plan to form a temporary subcommittee with selectmen to work on improving attendance. It would then report out to the next Town Meeting.
Aselbekian said she would work with the Town to survey residents on ways to improve participation. She also planned to do more preparation for Town Meeting. She would look to hold a meeting with Advisory and Selectmen to work through improving the flow of articles. And she would create a 10 minute video for voters ahead of the meeting to inform them of the articles and “popular calls of the hall”.
Boland spoke about looking at on-site electronic voting to speed up voting, outlining pros and cons. He also raised possibly grouping items for quicker voting. But he reminded that some items require consideration rather than quick moving on.
All candidates encouraged voters to reach out to them in different ways:
- Aselbekian referred the public to her campaign website electdesiree.com to read her outlined positions.
- Boland said that anyone with questions should feel free to call him. [He didn’t provide his number, but it is publicly listed.]
- Morreale said that anyone with ideas about Town Meeting or the Town Moderator could email email@example.com.
Don’t forget, the vote is a week from today, Monday, May 9th.
(Look for coverage of the Planning Board candidate speeches tomorrow.)
Updated (5/3/16 12:53 pm): Inserted information that the post is for a one year term.