Voters turnout to approve Main St, reject Use Variance, and gate Flagg Rd; Controversy over Moderator’s calls

by Beth Melo on October 19, 2016

Post image for Voters turnout to approve Main St, reject Use Variance, and gate Flagg Rd; Controversy over Moderator’s calls

Above: A full room, and an overflow, voted on the Main Street Reconstruction project, with 76% approval. But controversy remains, as opponents weren’t given a chance to present their case before the vote. (photo by Beth Melo)

Last night, Southborough held the Special Town Meeting. Judging by the tone and actions of voters, the main attraction for most participants was the Use Variance bylaw.

Close to 10% of Southborough’s registered voters turned up at Trottier Middle School to make their voices heard. But there is already controversy over whether that happened or some voices were unfairly muted.

It was new moderator Stephen Morreale’s first stint as moderator. It was a bit of trial by fire with too many voters to fit in the auditorium – something that apparently hasn’t happened in many years. Morreale explained that he had a lot of guidance with learning Town Meeting rules, but was still a bit green. And some voters are already calling in to question some of the calls he made last night.

Presentation plans by organized opponents to the TIP funded Main Street Reconstruction plan were thwarted. The vote on easements was called for and supported before they got a chance to make their case.

I’ll get more into that – but first, a quick summary of the final votes:

  • Article 4: Easements for the Main Street Reconstruction project – Approved
  • Article 5 – Reject the TIP Main St project and instead “Repave and Repair Main Street” – Indefinitely Postponed
  • Article 6 – Eliminate ZBA power to grant use variances – Approved
  • Article 7 – Rescind prior town meeting votes for IDC and related financing authority – Approved
  • Article 8 – Close Flagg Road near parcels #72 and #77 – Approved

Now, a recap of the first part of the night and Main Street votes: 

Morreale announced that the cafeteria would be used as an overflow room for about 100 voters. (And the number doubled with about 680 residents in attendance.) Voters there received an audio feed and were simultaneously shown projected presentations – but they wouldn’t have a video feed of the speakers and hall.

The Moderator recruited his predecessor David Coombs to lead and help count votes in that room. (Counting in both halls for most of the articles added to the slow pace of the night.)

Real business that voters cared about didn’t kick off until almost 8:00 pm with presentation of the Main Street Reconstruction project easements.

After about 50 minutes of presentations by the Town, voters got ornery that Main St Design Working Group Chair was going well over his time. Morreale forced him to quickly wrap up when the crowd pushed for it. (The call was first voiced by Jack Barron, a proponent of Article 6 – one that brought many of the voters to the meeting that night.)

The first public commenter, Pamela Esty, asked to dismiss the article as voted on at prior Town Meeting. There was some applause in the back of the room. She was told to present a motion to the Town Clerk.

While that was in process, resident Howard Rose told voters that the state was trying to push the project to get drivers off Route 9 and the Town needed to study impact on all Main Street’s feeder roads.

Next, John Butler asked to combine the article with presentation of his article in opposition – Article 5. Morreale ruled the request was out of order. He informed Butler that there was no precedent for that. The Moderator claimed that past combined discussions had been of related, intertwined articles proposed by the same group.

Following him, resident Tom Truong spoke in favor of the project and clearly got more applause in the hall than past speakers. At that point, Esty’s motion, revised to indefinitely postpone the article without further discussion, was voted on and failed. Sensing a pro-project vibe in the room, Selectman Dan Kolenda called for a vote on the article without further discussion.

The majority supported cutting off discussion, and followed with an approval of easments by 76.3% of voters. Following the vote, resident George McClelland, a Town Meeting participant since ’71, rebuked Morreale for cutting off debate. Morreale defended that it wasn’t his call. The resident asserted that Moderators had discretion to push for more discussion to encourage informed consent before a vote.

John Butler, moving to indefinitely postpone his now moot Article 5, said it would have been beneficial to have the discussion before the last vote. And he told Morreale that his ruling against Butler’s earlier motion was inconsistent with past Town Meeting practice for the 30 years he had been involved.

Kolenda then confused some Town Meeting newbies by calling to reconsider Article 4. It was a move to put the article “to sleep” and cement its approval for the meeting. If it hadn’t been rejected by voters, someone else could have called for reconsideration later in the meeting after many voters left. Reconsideration was soundly rejected by voters eager to move on.

A question was raised about who called for the reconsideration. It was a supporter of the article, consistent with Town rules at past meetings. But Town Clerk Jim Hegarty informed the room that the actual Town Code doesn’t restrict who calls for reconsideration.

If true, Butler could have made his case for Article 5, and then asked voters to support it and reconsider Article 4. However, that wasn’t revealed until after Article 5 was indefinitely postponed. And while shooting down easements would only have required getting support from more than 1/3 of voters, reconsidering it requires 2/3 support.

(And convincing someone their earlier vote was wrong is a higher burden. Besides, part of opponents case against the Article was based on the concept that voters had already made their will known. They argued that the Town was wrong to believe voters didn’t know the impact of April’s vote or were misinformed. To make the same argument to put forth their case could have been considered hypocritical.)

I’ll share more details on the other article presentations and votes later today.

*Note: The 50 minutes of presentations doesn’t count the 7 minute interruption when a voter apparently collapsed in the back of the hall. I don’t have details other than he was taken away by EMTs and we were later informed he was conscious and appeared to be doing better.

1 Maria Cutts October 19, 2016 at 11:06 AM

Dear Moderator:
I was at tonight’s Town Meeting. I have been attending since 1978. I heard you are forming an ad hoc group to address ways to increase attendance, smooth the meeting procedures and to allow more succinct yet thorough meetings. I voted for you. I was swayed by your presentation and your throughness and intellect as a candidate. I went out of my way to introduce myself to you and give encouragement. But after tonight’s meeting, I can only say to you, don’t bother with your ad hoc group. Town Meeting will no longer be an option for those who oppose the preexisting majority opinion, It is a farce. Opposition need not attend. Your ad hoc committee is a waste of time.
Why should a citizen bother to go to Town Meeting? If you go to a meeting to listen to all the arguments on an Article and vote, but the Town governing bodies don’t like the result, then they call a Special Town Meeting in hopes of stacking the audience the second time around to bring their preferred result. The reason given: People didn’t know it was going to be voted on? People didnt’ know to come out to vote? That was the reasoning presented for the presentation of the article in a Special Meeting.
Now the meeting is underway, and you have your first attempt at being the Moderator You confess you may not be as adept at the Rules of Town Meeting as you would like, (given it’s only been 7 months since elected), but you have asked for a lot of help. Well, Sir, I submit my opinion that you failed. You threw favoritism to your long-time friend to allow him to speak too long. You used Executive Order to deny the opposition view to present its Article 4 along with Article 3, which would have combined both sides of the argument. Then you neglected to use your authority as Moderator to maintain the flow of comments at the microphone, the essential part of participation at Town Meeting, after one quick comment opposing the Article. Someone called the vote, but I believe you had the right as Moderator to hold the motion to move the vote. (You also did not call for discussion on the Motion to Move the vote.) I believe, as George McClelland presented to you, that you should have honored the letter of Town Meeting protocol, that is, to allow equal time for opposition speakers. One comment and the vote was called. After 1 1/2 hours for presentation by the Article supporters. I believe you had the right to make the better decison to present opposing views.. John Wilson would havd done that.

Why bother with your ad hoc committee? Many fewer people have faith in the process now. Why bother to go to Town Meeting? We will learn nothing but that which one side wants you to hear. Why have a moderator? You left nothing to moderate.

2 D. McGee October 19, 2016 at 11:33 AM

A little harsh criticism for a man doing a thankless job for the first time under very unusual circumstances. Also, your hyperbole of 1.5 hours of presentations is just not true. I am one of those people who wasn’t aware of the impact of the April vote, and thus didn’t attend the meeting. OK, shame on me for not doing my homework and not participating. But I have no relationship with anyone in town government and the charge that the town “stacked the audience” is simply an unfounded, reckless accusation. I supported Article 4 as the most cost-efficient, benefit laden way to improve the appearance and safety of our town, and I’m glad 73% of the attendees agreed.

3 Jack Kessler October 19, 2016 at 11:36 AM


I agreed entirely with Mr. Butler’s request (as usual), John’s suggestion would have provided the opportunity to communicate to Town Meeting a more complete comparison of the different options by individuals with alternate views. This would seem to be the point of Town Meeting.

This was clearly the first Town Meeting Mr. Morreale has provided over; I believe that he indicated as much and also said that he knew he had much to learn. In addition, Mr. Morreale follows two exemplary Moderators with extensive experience (John Wilson and David Coombs). We’ve been both spoiled and entertained by our prior Moderators.

I did not sense biased intent in Mr. Morreale’s behavior. He may have been influenced by the desire to expedite the meeting which was probably a mistake. My overall impression was that Mr. Morreale treated running the meeting more like running a business meeting where the efficiency of communication is a key goal. It’s unlikely anyone who has attended Town Meeting over the past several decades would use the term “efficient” to describe them.

I’m confident that the Moderator will learn to focus on providing a process that insures a full spectrum of citizen opinions . I hope you and others give him both the benefit of the doubt and a chance to learn.

4 Mark Ford October 19, 2016 at 11:23 AM

And I believe it was Selectman Dan Kolenda who called the vote on Article 4–which doesn’t seem in the spirit of his role, effectively cutting off an important town-wide discussion.

5 Rob October 19, 2016 at 11:30 AM

I have to agree. Although I voted for the TIP plan, the way it was handled was absolutely terrible. These were important issues that deserved respect, and a serious tone from the moderator and the attendees. The joking and lack of control in the hall was a disgrace. If I were a Main st resident effected by this I would be furious at the way town meeting was handled. Maybe town moderator should be an appointed position because our elected official is not qualified for the job. If that is offensive, too bad, its 100% the truth .

6 mark dassoni October 19, 2016 at 11:45 AM

sounds like moderator was over whelmed and was sosing at best ,citizen tax payers voters got rooked by ineptness , understanding first time but only one comment then voting-come on that nuts, article 3+ 4 botched royalty , sounds like a typical ZBA meeting which is Wednesday night at 7pm ,should be interesting to hopefully each side be heard here too. mark dassoni, I be there to know myself.

7 Tim Martel October 19, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Some facts…you may owe the Town Moderator an apology…

“Then you neglected to use your authority as Moderator to maintain the flow of comments at the microphone, the essential part of participation at Town Meeting, after one quick comment opposing the Article. Someone called the vote, but I believe you had the right as Moderator to hold the motion to move the vote.”

—Subsidiary motions supersede the main motion and must be decided before the main motion can be acted upon, by law.

“(You also did not call for discussion on the Motion to Move the vote.)”

—The subsidiary motion to call the vote cannot be debated, by law.

Unlike the above facts, the following is only my own humble opinion. Frankly, its not fair to blame the Town Moderator for the mistakes made by the Main St opposition.

1) The opposition to the Main St article (#4) made a mistake when they submitted their own warrant article (#5). Doing so effectively put them in the position where they could only make their presentation in their own slot (i.e. after the Main St article was voted upon). Had they not submitted article 5, the Moderator would have allowed them to present their side immediately after the Main St proponents (i.e. in the same way that the EDC was allowed to present their opposition to article #7 after Freddie finished her presentation in support of it).

2) The opposition made another mistake in asking for articles 4 and 5 to be joined, when precedent was against it. Instead, the opposition could have asked the Town Moderator to advance article 5 to be “moved to the table” prior to article 4. That has precedent and would have been subject to a vote of Town Meeting rather than the Moderator’s executive power.

8 Joe October 19, 2016 at 12:33 PM

I disagree, The Moderator had a few bumps in the road but all and all he followed the will of the people. We voted not to hear anymore discussion on the TIP issue and vote on the question and he followed the rules. We chose not to hear anymore not him. If anything I found some residences to be very rude by interrupting the presentation with grunts and growns. There is a Mic there for a reason and tapping it and blowing on it is very rude and immature.

9 Townie October 19, 2016 at 12:56 PM

I agree with Joe. The moderator did not decide to halt discussion, the body did. End of story. By the feeling in the room after voting down the motion to dismiss Article 4, it was appropriate to move to a vote on Article 4. The only mistakes made last night were by the opposition, most of them over talking during presentations and being out of order. I will never take you seriously if you’re out of order. They’re lucky they were not removed. I applaud Morreale for the job he did. Not bad for a first timer, and I’m sure he learned a lot. The people have spoken, voted, and learned a lesson. Don’t assume an article will be passed in your favor without your vote, show up and make your vote count!

10 mark dassoni October 19, 2016 at 1:02 PM

since I did not attend meeting ,I am going by facts by others ,mark dassoni .

11 resident October 19, 2016 at 3:07 PM

Mark, if I remember correctly, you don’t live in town. You seem to follow our politics quite a bit though. You would not be allowed to attend town meeting unless you were added to the list with the Town Clerk. There has to be a reason for you to attend. I think you have said you live in Ashland, so, no you wouldn’t have been at the meeting.

12 Joe October 19, 2016 at 9:46 PM

And I would have stopped Mark should ha have attempted to speak at the meeting. unfortunately I do not have that luxury to stop you in this blog.

13 Donna McDaniel October 20, 2016 at 10:49 PM

People from other towns, states, or countries may attend TM as a visitor. But first they must sign in with the Town Clerk who reads a list of those non-residents who wish to attend to the Town Meeting and asks if there are objections. Typically there are reporters/maybe a photographer from the local media, town officials who live out of town (they often sit in an area at the front, plus and non-resident consultants to town boards, but any interested person can visit as long as the Clerk reads the names to the TM and no one objects. (I admit I don’t recall a list from Tuesday night but I might have missed it.)
I believe an individual (not official) would be given a name tag with “visitor” — and people who speak must identify themselves and give their street address. So not much chance that a “stranger” would speak without being discovered!

14 beth October 21, 2016 at 7:44 AM

He didn’t read the list this time. He seemed to think it was irrelevant because they were booted from the room to make room for voters. However I did think they were sent to the overflow room, so I’m not sure if he should have done it anyway.

15 Downtown Resident October 21, 2016 at 8:55 AM

Joe, we use what other towns do as examples for making cases as to what is common practice. Why then should a resident of a boarding not be given voice? I finding Mark Dassoni’s interest in Southborough’s going ons to be a complement. That he should care so much in what is happening around him is a fine quality. We are not a private club. It takes but a few seconds to read Mr. Dassoni’s comments but your words are biting and mean and long lasting. Completely uncalled for and not at all neighborly.

16 mark dassoni October 21, 2016 at 1:38 PM

Thank you for your comments Down town resident , Joe out side visitors or speakers get treated same way in other towns , Mark Dassoni .

17 southsider October 19, 2016 at 1:31 PM

I think it wise to move these comments to this article. It wasn’t available this morning when I posted but I think both comments deserve the wider attention that this article and its respondents will receive

southsider October 19, 2016 at 8:33 AM

At the last Town Meeting, the proponents of the Main Street TIP project made their compelling arguments in favor of the proposal.
Many undecided were probably swayed…until the opponents had a chance to present their point of view. I know that listening to those opponents caused me to re-think my vote at that time.
Last night, the proponents were giver 30-40 minutes to again present their proposal and then our new Town Moderator allowed a motion to “move the question”.
I was shocked and disappointed. And altho I do think the Moderator should have told the motion requestor that he would not yet entertain such an unfair motion at that time, I am really disappointed in all of the very experienced politicians who were on that stage and did not try and give this new Moderator some guidance on this issue.
The vote was relatively close… more than 2/3 but less than 3/4. I wonder what it would have been if it was taken after the opposition had some chance to speak.
So sad in my opinion… not in the spirit of Town Meeting at all.

. 24 JOJAMA October 19, 2016 at 11:41 AM

Yes Southsider,

What if they were allowed to hear the impact that the Main Street Project will truly have on our rural side streets? The truth is we have now handed over our lovely little town to the state. The state (DOT) wants traffic diverted from Route 9 into the town roads, so not only will we have a mega project undertaken on Main Street we now also will have Park Central getting underway. Our feeder roads will now take the brunt of two large projects. The DOT has not been interested in listening to citizen’s concerns about the increased traffic flow on Flagg. So when this project (Main Street) gets underway the state will do exactly what they want to do with their 7.2 million dollar project. I was dismayed that the vote was called by a BOS member when opposing views clearly hadn’t gotten their fair time. In fact, it makes me leary of subsequent Town Meetings now that voter participation and comment and discussion can be allowed to be cut off so quickly. I see a trend.

18 Dan October 19, 2016 at 2:05 PM

We certainly live in interesting times and an interesting town. This was my first town meeting. I moved to town in March 2016. I went to the meeting intending to vote against Article 4 while my wife intended to vote against it. A house divided…When the opposition spoke a funny thing happened. My wife agreed with what they were saying and she decided to switch her vote to no on article 4. The impact on feeder roads and increased speeds resonated with her. It would have been nice to hear more comments opposing Article 4. Lord know the case was made in favor of Article 4. That being said, the people have spoken and I respect the decision.
I will make it a point to be more engaged and attend these meetings. I think Mr. Morreale did the best he could under difficult conditions. He was willing to acknowledge errors and I think he’ll be a better moderator for it.

19 Was on the fence October 19, 2016 at 2:05 PM

I didn’t know how I wanted to vote on main st.. I was annoyed at hearing the same pro presentation twice. What bothered me the most is that one of our selectmen Mr Kolenda would be the one to call for a vote after an hour on pro without allowing at least the 15 minutes that every other article was allowed for the opposite view.

Mr Kolenda then called to reconsider which at the time I thought was to save face. I think it makes you think about him as a leader and one of our Selectmen. Poor politics however you felt about Main St..

20 D. McGee October 19, 2016 at 2:54 PM

He didn’t make the call to reconsider to save face. Rather, it was a procedural move to put the Article to rest so that the opponents couldn’t put forth a motion to reconsider later in the meeting when the crowd had thinned, which would have been a sleazy move.

21 Steve Phillips October 19, 2016 at 5:48 PM

So the OPPONENTS of article 4 are the “sleazy” ones. Right.

22 Was on the fence October 19, 2016 at 6:43 PM

Sorry it was sleazy of him either way to call it. He is an elected official and should’ve respected both sides.

23 Joe October 19, 2016 at 9:54 PM

Mr Kolenda may have asked to pass motions but it was you the voters that actually passed it. Please keep on mind Mr Kolenda is a resident and a voter so he has that right.

24 Al Hamilton October 19, 2016 at 4:15 PM

I agree that it was disappointing that the opponents were not given more time to speak (although I am in favor of question 4). However, the opponents bear as much responsibility as anyone. They could have asked the Moderator in advance for time to make a presentation in opposition and I believe this would have been accommodated.

Instead, they chose to speak from the floor and ran the risk that someone would “move the question”. That is the way the system works. The opponents certainly included folks who were well versed in how Town Meeting works.

In the end 76.3% of the hall voted in favor of Article 4. In order for the opponents to have prevailed, 60 to 70 people would have to have been persuaded to change their mind.

If the opponents believe that they can ultimately win the day they can gather 10 signatures and place an article on the Annual Town Meeting (April) warrant to rescind the authority. This is their right, however, prior to this meeting, they had the advantage of a very low bar for success, 1/3 of the hall, the bar just got higher.

25 SB Resident October 20, 2016 at 10:44 AM

Serious question. What is to keep a question from “being moved” before any debate. If one side feels they have a majority at the start and feel some risk of losing it via debate then they have the incentive to do this. I don’t know the laws but I assumed it was the moderators job to prevent this type of shenanigans, but maybe he doesn’t have that power?

Anyway, TM shouldn’t be about playing the game. It’s meant to be for us, as a town, to get together, debate the issues, and figure out what is best. There will always be sides and not everyone will ultimately agree, but it never should be a game where town members need to be versed in the rules in order to ‘win’. The proponents of the TIP plan should want the opposing view point heard, they should want the town to agree that it is the best plan after having all relevant information heard. By resorting to tricks they are implying that in the end they in fact don’t think the town would agree that that plan is the best. Their baby is ugly and they know it. As I said, I don’t know the laws, but it seems that the point of having a moderator is the ensure that games aren’t played and that town meeting works for everyone.

As for this TM, how this should have worked if we cared about creating a fair TM would have been to consider articles 4 and 5 together, with presentations being made for both before having a vote on either. Again, I’m not sure how that could have or should have been made to happen, but to me feels like it would fall on the moderator to see the obviousness of that requirement.

26 Al Hamilton October 20, 2016 at 12:39 PM

The way the process works (at least as I understand it) is as follows:

1. A motion is read onto the floor of town meeting, typically by the motions proponent
2. The motion is seconded.
3. Presentations related to the motion are made (these can be made by either proponents or opponents)
4. The Moderator asks for the positions of the BOS and Advisory and then any other board, official or committee.
5. The Moderator opens discussion from the floor. It is at this point where questions can be asked, statements in support or opposition made and motions to amend, postpone, or move the question can be made.

That is the process. If a majority decide to cut off debate that is their right under our rules. If you see below I have a suggestion to make this a bit fairer to all but if you come to listen to the arguments you run the risk that you might not get to hear all of them depending on the will of the hall.

As for combining 4 and 5. The moderator ruled this was out of order. The rules are silent on this but his reasoning was that in past practice articles were combined for discussion (a rare act) only when all the articles were sponsored by the same party. In this case they were not.

It is my opinion that the opponents of Article 4 should have requested to make a presentation on Article 4. I believe that they would have been accommodated. But, I do not believe they would have prevailed. The opponents still have options, with 10 signatures they can bring this topic back to Annual Town Meeting but the bar is now much higher for them.

27 beth October 20, 2016 at 6:07 PM

Based on what I heard from two different sources, if you watch the video from Monday night’s board of selectmen meeting where they did their Town meeting prep, specifically the discussion around the Main Street articles, you may change your mind on part of your comments.

I won’t say more, until I see it for myself. I took the afternoon off, so that will have to be sometime tomorrow.

28 Freddie Gillespie October 21, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Watch the BoS meeting the night before Special
Town Meeting where Sam Stivers (one of the Co -Sponsors of Article 5) , was specifically given permission from the Moderator (and no objection from BoS) to present at Special Town Meeting with John Butler, after moving to combine Article 5 With Article 4 for discussion.
Starting at 5:37 on YouTube link
Also I was with Moderator on the stage right before start of Town Meeting as John Butler loaded his presentation onto the computer and again it was understood that the presebtation would be given right after the DPW and Working Group’s Presentation and before Public Comment. Furthermore Sam Stivers has stated he was told by the Moderator right before start of Special Town Meeting that they could present by combining the Articles for discussion as agreed the night before at the Selectmen’s Meeting.
And then to first time notify Mr Butler he couldn’t present when he was standing to give his presentation?
Something is very very wrong with this no mater what side you were voting for – this type of misdirection should be investigated.
If it Walks like a Duck and it Quacks like a Duck – it’s a Duck!

29 Al Hamilton October 21, 2016 at 12:46 PM

Well, I looked at the video and it does put a different spin on it. The moderators words, relative to combining 4 and 5 were “…and I am not sure I would object to that” a little vague but the opponents could quite reasonably have thought that the moderator would permit the combining of 4 and 5.

I regret that I have to conclude that this was not our finest hour. I don’t think anything inappropriate was done but neither was this done to a high standard which we should expect.

30 Al Hamilton October 21, 2016 at 12:56 PM

I do need to point out that the first motion to end debate on article 4 was made by the opponents of the question with the motion to indefinitely postpone the article. This would have ended any debate or a vote. This motion failed. Those who were counting heads (I was) saw that a very solid majority wanted to proceed.

I know that going in to the meeting there was a fair amount of pessimism about article 4’s chances among the advocates, 2/3 is a very high bar. When the motion to indefinitely postpone failed, the advocates may reasonably have inferred that the hall was with them at that moment and pushed to vote. A solid majority voted to vote.

That sort of parliamentary maneuvering is perfectly appropriate for a legislature. Had the first motion not been made, the advocates might have been more in doubt and wanted to argue it out some more.

31 Mark Ford October 21, 2016 at 1:24 PM

I watched the portion of the video Ms. Gillespie refers to (above? below?), and it’s clear that the intent was to combine the articles for purpose of discussion. What happened?

How did the “no precedent” ruling occur (this sounds like a weak rationale, btw), and why wasn’t this communicated to either Mr. Stivers or Mr. Butler? Were the selectmen aware of this change of plans prior to Town Meeting?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was predisposed to support Article 4, but… Mr. Butler is one of Southborough Town Meeting’s most persuasive analysts, and I was curious to hear his presentation. It all happened so fast there was little time to react.

I would be most interested in hearing the reasons and timing for this change, and why it wasn’t explained to either Mr. Stivers or Mr. Butler prior to the meeting.

32 Al Hamilton October 19, 2016 at 4:30 PM

I came away from Town Meeting with 3 thoughts about how the body works.

1. Any single presentation should be limited 1 to 10 min unless the hall votes to grant more time. If you cant make your point effectively in 10 min you need to work on your presentation.

2. The Moderator would be well advised to remember that the BOS or any other board or committee has no special privileges at Town Meeting. Town meeting is the towns legislature and all registered voters admitted have equal privileges (except for the Moderator). We might be well advised to have a by law requiring that all Town Meeting Members wishing to speak in favor or opposition to an article or to make a motion with respect to it must make it from the floor (The mikes in the aisles). This would give everyone an equal chance to speak or make motions.

33 Maria Cutts October 20, 2016 at 1:14 PM

Great ideas Al. I hope you give input to the Moderator’s ad hoc committee as they try to improve Town Meeting process.

34 Donna McDaniel October 23, 2016 at 9:39 PM

Quick note for Al above re calling people attending “Town Meeting Members”–“Members” is correctly applied only in Town Meetings who elect people who run to represent a given neighborhood (and thence are only ones who have right to vote). Maybe a small point but I think an important enough distinction to note.
PS I am on the Moderator’s committee and have attended all 41 Annual Town Meetings (haven’t counted–but did attend–specials). I am committed to preserving this form of government and also making it efficient and fair –reminding all of us once again of Winston Churchill’s assessment–
“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”
(An alternative without TM– would we be more pleased with a vote made by an elected council or a board–made up of five people we elected (e.g. gosh..kinda like the Selectmen)–the ONLY ones having a vote!???? )


35 Alex Neihaus October 19, 2016 at 6:21 PM

For me, the real significance of last night’s STM isn’t alleged process issues or the moderator’s decisions: it’s the turnout. For the first time since I started attending TM in 1993, there was new blood in the room. (Finally.)

As long as I’ve been in Southborough, it’s been run by a rotating-door cabal of the same 100 or so people. The serve on the BOS (sometimes more than once); they rotate to another elected board or are appointed to one. The town manager and staff kowtow to them since their careers are on the line.

It’s been an echo-chamber for at least 20 years.

One of the in-crowd’s more persistent (and disingenuous) echoes has been, “Wouldn’t it be nice if more people attended TM?” Last night, the NIMBY Main St-naysayers and anything-you-want-to-build-ZBA got an unexpected surprise: voices from outside the echo chamber.

And some posters here don’t like it. The debate here about what the moderator, proponents and opponents did or didn’t do isn’t the point.

The point is maybe, just maybe, we have turned a corner in participation and, messy as TM-style democracy is, that increased participation will be good for all of us – not just the 100.

36 Trixie October 20, 2016 at 1:23 PM

Thank you. I feel common sense finally prevailed Tuesday night. If you had been at the Spring meeting, you would never think the article would get the required 2/3 vote. I just can’t see turning down over $7M due to some vague “rural character” of the road. It is an unsafe eyesore.

And BTW after the work is done, I will still take Rt 9 and the Pike to travel. Rt 30 is not now and will not be a good substitute. I only use it if I have business downtown.

37 DJD66 October 19, 2016 at 7:32 PM

Article 8 was approved – So will flag road get gated now?

38 beth October 19, 2016 at 8:56 PM

Sorry, I’ve been too busy to post more on Article 7 & 8 yet. Article 8 is a non-binding article. So selectmen aren’t forced to follow its will. But it sends a clear message that many want the gating.

Selectman Paul Cimino followed up the vote to let the audience know why the board didn’t support the article. Selectmen are trying to resolve the issue in a different way. They voted to tell the developer that unless he finds a solution to the issue that (presumably, keeping heavy traffic off of Flagg Road), Park Central won’t be allowed to access Flagg. And they notified MassDOT that they find it unacceptable that the state would try to resolve their safety issues in a way that causes safety issues for Southborough neighborhoods.

Since the board made that vote, the developer has told Metrowest Daily News that denying him access to a street he has frontage on is illegal. So, what will happen there remains to be seen.

39 ktp75 October 21, 2016 at 1:54 PM

I have taken this quote from an earlier article on mysouthborough. Just so you know that all selectman aren’t on board with this and have already voiced their opposition.

“Selectman Dan Kolenda, worried about the effects on the future residents. He suggested it was unfair to those school kids that they have to travel Rte 9 West, to the 495 loop, back to Rte 9 East, to Rte 85 towards Main Street, so that they can get to Trottier. He preferred to delay action to account for future residents’ needs.”

This is very troubling to me that a selectman is worried about the interests of future residents of a yet to be finalized development and who have yet to pay one penny of taxes. I think the concern should be on the current tax paying and voting residents of this town.

40 DJD66 October 25, 2016 at 1:09 AM

Dan Kolenda is worried about how closing off Flag road will effect the “future residents”? That’s insane. It’s like if we were to secure the Southern border (us/Mexico) and being concerned how this might negatively impact future illegal immigrants!

41 ktp75 October 25, 2016 at 8:12 AM

That’s how I felt. Kolenda also took issue with removing members and not placing members on the zoning board of appeals who have development interests in town (btw, I consider someone who does business with the developer a conflict of interest as well). The compounding issues on Park Central were created by the use variance. (most people DID NOT know that). See quote below:

“In pointing to bad uses of the Use Variance, Gillespie highlighted Park Central. Bartolini argued that removing Use Variance is irrelevant to Park Central. Changing the bylaw won’t prevent another large 40B project.

[Editor’s Note: That’s an argument that people who have been following the Park Central saga know isn’t on point. 139 of the homes at the site were approved under a Use Variance. And it was the Use Variance that was used to waive the Planning Board’s oversight of many details related to the project and its egress.]”

The voters fixed that by stripping the ZBA of its ability to issue use variances.

But again, this is another position that is troubling to me. Its obvious what the issues are and where the people in town stand. Who interests is he representing here?

42 DJD66 October 25, 2016 at 11:44 AM

The question is KTP – how the hell did we get here? How is it that Leo Bartolonni (part of of family of developers in town) became the head of the ZBA, and for that matter even got on the ZBA considering all the conflicts of interest. Yeah, I’m new to town (been here for 13 years) But I’ve been living in the USA all my life. Some of the stuff that is going on with the ZBA, Bartolonni, Kollenda, Park Central stinks to high Heaven. There is no way anyone can convince me that adding 1000’s of trips on Flag Road will be safe for the current tax paying residents of Southborough.

43 Joe October 19, 2016 at 9:56 PM

No, that vote was a suggestion.

44 EH October 19, 2016 at 11:02 PM

I recently moved to Southborough and was determined to attend this meeting, so my husband stayed home with our baby. (Sadly this means our family gets one vote, not two.) I was surprised that I was one of the youngest in the audience. Admittedly, I was relieved when the meeting was expedited, as I — and likely for a lot of others, cannot spend 3+ hours into the late evenings. I would hope the meetings would begin more promptly and not run an hour behind (although I understand the overflow may have caused this). I hope these meetings and other town matters will attract a broader, more representative audience. With that being said, as a first time attendee, I was not impressed and shocked by the behavior of the opposing side. That is not the way to get what you want and persuade the audience. If anything it likely has a negative impact. You lose credibility — your shouts may sound like conspiracy theories and “what ifs” to some. Did the opposing side have facts to share and solutions that have been blessed by engineers and other professionals? Unfortunately it didn’t seem so with the first speaker being so opinion-based.

45 Maria Cutts October 20, 2016 at 1:49 PM

EH, Welcome to Southborough and thank you for attending TM. The annual TM in April was attended by a more diverse audience as there were more diverse articles and a Town budget to vote on. It is a regularly scheduled annual event and well published and available ahead of time.

This meeting was controversial from the beginning because it was a do-over of the article and presentation of last Spring’s meeting. The Main St proponents had not done a very good job on their presentation and now had a second chance.

I believe the shouting was due to two things (I for the record did not shout and don’t condone it.). One, it “appeared” that rules of order were not being followed and it was more of an alarm to stop proceedings. If more acknowledgment would have been given to those at the microphones, perhaps this could have been curtailed.
Second, I think the shutting down of opposition’s voice caused great frustration. Yes they did have facts. They had opinions as shown in the more orderly Spring Annual Meeting. They were not given a chance to voice them.
I have been attending since 1978. I am familiar with Roberts Rules of Order but Town Meeting Rules, somewhat guided by a state group of towns that hold town meetings, is not completely the same as Roberts. Most of is in Town don’t know them exactly. You saw even the Town Clerk pointed out that we have been doing some things wrong for years. It is the Responsibility of the Moderator and the Clerk and even Town Counsel to keep us on track. This was one of the most disorderly and unfair I have attended.
We have all learned some lessons and hopefully it will improve
Thanks again for your participation.

46 Carl Guyer October 20, 2016 at 8:32 AM

Here is a suggested headline for the planned improvement of Main Street.

“Town Meeting Approves Plans to Expedite Climate Change”….

Bigger and better roads to faciliate increased use of fossil fueled transportation is something you should explain to your children….

47 Resident October 20, 2016 at 9:12 AM

Climate change is a global issue, not a local one. Even if you believe the argument (which I don’t) that this will lead to more cars coming through town instead of driving on Route 9, the overall number of cars on the roads will not increase as a result of Southborough adding turn lanes.

It seems to me that automobile emissions will actually drop as less time is spent by vehicles idling in traffic waiting to get through the light.

48 Carl Guyer October 20, 2016 at 11:06 AM

First, Global Warming and the resultant changes to our environment is not a belief system. 2016 is on target to be the warmest on record, another of a series of years breaking old records. Like politics, all Climate Change is local.

49 Resident October 20, 2016 at 12:44 PM

You misread my comment.

I did not say global warming was a belief system. I said that the assertion that traffic in town would increase as a result of this project was a belief that I did not agree with.

50 Carl Guyer October 20, 2016 at 4:18 PM

No wonder I was confused by your comment, it does not make any sense. Of course an “improved” road will bring more traffic, it always does. The improvements proposed are to allow for more traffic flow.

51 D. McGee October 20, 2016 at 9:30 AM

That’s an odd angle…

First, you assume that by the time the work is done, the roads won’t be dominated by electric vehicles.

Second, I guess I would prefer to show my children that headline as opposed to “Southborough School Bus Swallowed by Giant Sinkhole.”

52 Trixie October 20, 2016 at 1:16 PM

This blog needs a “like” button.

53 Rose Mauro October 20, 2016 at 9:01 PM

Full disclosure, I have supported fixing Main Street for a couple of years, simply because I have to drive through that intersection every day and it is *not* safe. Someone almost hit me there on the morning of town meeting!

Carl, I really appreciate your commitment to the environment. But my question for you is, why is it OK for a Southboro resident to drive through Marlboro on the way to Sudbury, but it’s somehow less “green” for a Westboro resident to drive through Southboro on the way to Framingham? Both of them seem to me like equivalent examples of energy-consuming, car-dependent suburban sprawl. I think if we were really committed as a town to reducing vehicle admissions we would want to change things constructively, rather than insisting that everything in town has to stay the same forever.

54 Carl Guyer October 27, 2016 at 9:08 AM

You are correct, it is not OK to encourage more commuting in fossil fueled vehicles. My comment here was a reminder of the paradigm shift that is going to be required if we hope to avoid the consequences of climate change. FYI : I hope you understand how far we are from even coming close to addressing this problem.

55 Southvillian October 21, 2016 at 12:11 AM

Carl, I must be out of the loop on the Main St Project.

Can you please explain how, the day of the year that the new road would re-open, that more total vehicles would simultaneously appear in the state of Massachusetts?

An updated road doesn’t change the direction of someone’s daily commute, or allow a family to buy a second vehicle, or make an auto company to turn their production into overdrive. In fact, a new intersection that is efficient in easing congestion would get people home sooner without wasted time idling. Some new and updated sidewalks would perhaps promote more walking and biking.

As for climate change, while we are stewards of the earth and should always do our due diligence to protect and care for it, I am resistant to any “holier than thou” banter that is meant to guilt others into thinking they are the problem – or at least until there’s a “Global Warming” summit where people show up via bicycle and not private jet.

56 Carl Guyer October 27, 2016 at 9:03 AM

First, you are making a poor assumption. The impact will not be simultaneous. It is just a natural process. As time passes, individuals will plan where they live and where they drive based on the path of least resistance. If you increase the available volume the driving route through the center of Southborough can support, these individuals will plan accordingly. When I was commuting to Boston, Waltham, etc… I did exactly that, why would others do something different.

57 ktp75 October 27, 2016 at 1:46 PM

I don’t think it’s a poor assumption at all and comparing that to what you did in Boston/Waltham is apples and oranges. Do you think that fixing that dangerous intersection is going to make it soooo much better that hundreds of additional cars are going to come through there? I don’t think so. The only thing that will make that type of change would be a massive development that didn’t take into consideration the infrastructure, but our town gov’t would allow that….. oh wait a minute?!?

58 D. McGee October 27, 2016 at 4:02 PM

Couldn’t agree more with ktp75. Carl, while I appreciate your sensitivity to lessening the world’s carbon footprint, your position on this is ludicrous. It’s just silly to suggest that people in neighboring towns would say: “Wow, they have this wonderful newly-paved road with NEW TURNING LANES in Southborough…I think I’ll change my driving habits just so I can use it, even though there’s no change in speed limit!!”

As for people “planning where they live” just to use our wonderful new 1 mile stretch of road through a school zone, traffic light and “downtown”, those (insane) people would presumably be moving into homes that departing residents are selling, suggesting a net zero population increase (there isn’t much undeveloped land around here).

Plus, unfortunately it looks like Park Central is coming. Would you prefer to see the inevitable increased traffic traveling on unsafe roads and through unsafe intersections, making it even more dangerous for our children walking and on bikes? I don’t.

59 Mike Fuce October 21, 2016 at 10:00 PM

Carl , do you ever stop? honestly you hurt the cause of conservation because you use every single “demon behind every bush” to spout off with the green $$ agenda. Perhaps start with putting a limit on the square footage of homes? do your rich democratic liberals really need 80,000 square-foot homes, does Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio really need to fly around the world in there carbon footprint laden Jets? I mean your hero Al gore you could put 10 houses of mine and his. All they’re talking about doing is repaving an existing dilapidated road. I don’t think you’re a little Prius could travel very far without gasoline and most certainly would not travel over unpaved roads ( BTW Carl is your driveway paved? If you weren’t being self-righteous and preaching to everyone else, you would have pavers or loose gravel driveway so the Rain wouldn’t cause run off and kill all the salamanders in your backyard) . People are not talking about putting two and three lanes through the center of Southborough. Keep the relevant Carl, you hurt the cause.

60 Carl Guyer October 27, 2016 at 8:57 AM

To answer at least one of your questions, yes my driveway is paved. The pavement is 30 years old and is the same as when I bought the house. If I do have the driveway “fixed” in the near future, I will reduce the size of it and if possible allow for move water infiltration. Yes, I do practice what I preach. Just to let you know, I am a member of a solar collective which will result in my not only running my electric appliances with solar power, but I will also be heating my home with solar energy. You can stop by an see how this is done if you like.

61 Publius October 20, 2016 at 11:13 AM

Thanks to Mr. Morreale for doing a thankless job. Too many are quick to criticize and so few willing to serve. Hopefully this project will facilitate both traffic and safety. As far as the peculiar reference to “climate change”, the climate has been changing since the damn of civilization. The oceans and mountains being one visible manifestation of that. But to those truly concerned lead by actions, get off the grid, including the enormous power used to manufacture and operate computers and smartphones.

62 Carl Guyer October 20, 2016 at 11:13 AM

Electric vehicles are not in themsleves a solution to ever increasing levels of CO2. Like solar and wind they are a hope that someone is going to find a technological solution to social and economic issues. We know how to reduce carbon emissions, we just don’t like the consequences.

63 D. McGee October 20, 2016 at 12:36 PM

Carl…You can’t have it both ways. You mentioned climate change specifically as it relates to Main Street in Southborough! If there are more electric cars traveling on Main Street, then there are less CO2 emissions emanating from Main Street…simple fact. If you want to have a more esoteric discussion of how to reduce CO2 outside of Main Street, I would suggest this is not the forum.

64 Carl Guyer October 20, 2016 at 4:22 PM

It remains to be proven electric cars reduce CO2 emissions. Have you considered the source of the power. Right now it is almost all from fossil fuels and they are shutting down the only nuclear power plant in the area.

65 Susan Bates October 20, 2016 at 2:01 PM

I, and the people sitting next to me, were shocked how the Main Street article was handled. The proponents were allowed over 45 minutes to make a presentation, but NO counter presentation was allowed, from Mr Butler and others, on an Alternative plan. (All later Articles had equal time, 15 minute presentations, pro and con).

We came to learn the facts on both sides, before voting. But instead we witnessed a fast, deliberate power play, to prevent meaningful discussion. It was blatantly unfair and undemocratic.

In particular, it was shocking to see a Selectman (Mr Kolenda) make the motion to end debate so quickly. Obviously he didn’t want voters to learn anything from opponents. Also, he loudly butted in, without waiting in line to be recognized.

Not a good way for voters to make informed decisions.

66 Al Hamilton October 20, 2016 at 5:06 PM

The “Rules” such as they are were followed. It is important to note that Town Meeting is a Legislature and members are there to legislate. It is not a debating society. Anyone attending who thinks there is an important issue to decide would be well advised to do some homework in advance because there is no guarantee that there will be a full debate. If a majority decide it is time to vote a vote must be taken. That is how most legislatures in free countries work.

Our Town Meeting has been legislating for nearly 300 years. It is older than Congress or the State Legislature. Because we have open town meeting, we each have the privileged of legislating but we are not guaranteed the privileged of an exhaustive debate on each topic.

67 Mark Ford October 20, 2016 at 6:03 PM

Thanks Al. I was surprised that the opposing view to Article 4 wasn’t given–really any–time to make its case. There were some veteran town meeting folks behind Article 5, and again, it surprises me that the merging article/sufficient time to present issues weren’t worked out ahead of time. Such is often the case with town meeting, even coordinating media, etc. I was leaning towards supporting article 4, but would have liked to have heard Mr. Butler’s presentation. I find it hard to believe that it would have moved enough town meeting members to change the outcome, but procedurally it would have felt better.

And there’s likely precedent here, but to have a selectman so quickly move the question seems inappropriate, even though legal.

68 AEP October 20, 2016 at 9:51 PM

I know the moderator had a difficult job, it was the biggest town meeting in some time with several ‘hot’ issues requiring a vote, but he should have been more prepared and more strict enforcing the agreed upon meeting rules and guidelines. So much time was wasted, and several presenters had little regard for following their allotted time.

Because of the late start (30+ minutes) and excessive extra time taken for 2 proponent presentations of article 4, meeting attendees were understandably frustrated and wanted to move on with a vote of article 4 before both sides could be heard. I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome, we’ll never know.

As difficult and under appreciated as the job may be, the moderator failed by not enforcing agreed upon timelines for 2 proponent presentations so that both sides could be heard. It’s unfortunate that someone (selectmen?) chose to put a new and inexperienced moderator in this very difficult position. It was an important meeting and probably should have been moderated by someone with more experience.

69 beth October 21, 2016 at 7:41 AM

Actually, the moderator was chosen by the residents of the town in the town election held in May. It was a contested three-person race.

70 southside resident October 20, 2016 at 3:58 PM

The point I have not seen anyone discuss here is how a Flag Road gate will increase traffic on Main Street. It seems to me to be the major cause of any increased traffic- far more than adding those turn lanes. Why aren’t the Main Street residents up in arms about the gate? Clearly that has an immediate and well documented impact on traffic volume.

71 ktp75 October 20, 2016 at 9:56 PM

That’s because it wouldn’t have any effect on main street. That traffic that would end up on clifford and deerfoot. Think about it. Instead of going Flagg to Rt 9, you’ll just go Flagg to Clifford to Rt 9. Instead of going Rt on Flagg off 9, you’ll go Rt on Parkerville to Clifford. Also, the general consensus is that it would that is the lesser of two evils as thousands of additional cars coming down Flagg from Park Central would be far far worse. The people on Main St probably have that figured out. Also remember, it just gives us an option at this point. Just in case this absolute disaster comes to fruition and thousands of additional cars a day are routed down cart paths.

72 Donna McDaniel October 20, 2016 at 10:26 PM

Excellent point! I’ve asked same question. The traffic on Rte. 30 is already “steady” (mild description) and backs up at the Rte. 85 intersection. Some of that keeps going on to the turn onto Boston Road and then to the light at the road over the reservoir and that is a real traffic nightmare morning and night … cars backed way up at least the end of East Main Street or farther.
During the discussions of traffic from Madison Place (other side of Rte. 9 from Park Central), the travel people suggested the way to avoid the backup going east on Rte. 9 would be to cross over Rte 9 and get onto Flagg Rd. to Rte. 30 and thence east to 85 and take that down to Rte. 9.
Worth noting the effect all this will have on the existing traffic lights just east of Flagg used to do a U-turn for those coming from the west to get to Flagg–meaning all those cars going to Park Central.
And p.s. don’t forget the plans for more apts., a retirement community, and a hotel at the same location as Park Central!

73 Joe October 21, 2016 at 11:59 AM

I am not 100% convinced we as residents can put a gate up on flagg rd. Like speed limits it may need state approval. Someone with more knowledge about the process will need to answer that.

74 mark dassoni October 21, 2016 at 1:46 PM

Yes state approval ,DOT weighs in also ,selectmen as road bosses get vital vote in a public meeting by all five agreeing ,Mark Dassoni .

75 Young Resident October 21, 2016 at 10:28 PM

Let me start by saying this is my first and more than likely my last time writing on this blog. I am probably one of the youngest residents who follows town politics and attends every Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting. Steve Morreale is one of the nicest gentleman I know, and for me to sit here and read sixy eight comments, most of them bashing him and bullying him, for something so very silly is absolutely insane to me. Not only did he take his own personal time to campaign for this position, the towns people voted for him. This was his first town meeting as being the Moderator, and it was an intense one. Who cares if there were some slip ups, did all of you excel at your job day one? Did you all have to stand in front of 680 people that live in your town and try to keep everyone in order? I don’t think so. This is something small that happened, is it really affecting your life that much? Is it really bothering you to the point where you need to bully someone in town who is trying to help and took on a role I am sure not a lot of people could do? “Why bother to go to Town Meeting? We will learn nothing by that which one side wants you tot hear. Why have a moderator? You left nothing to moderate.” What gives you the right to say that? What would your children think to see these harsh things that you are writing about someone?

Mark Dassoni- Who are you? You do not even live in town. Please stop bashing people and issue you know nothing about. If you want to become part of our town politics, move to Southborough.

In the words of Thumper, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

76 southside resident October 24, 2016 at 10:06 AM

Thank you Young Resident. Well said. The moderator’s job is to moderate. The job is more than making announcements and calling on people to speak. Let him do what we elected him to do. He was not elected to be a puppet.

I also agree with the comment on Mark Dassoni. We have plenty of highly educated and very experienced folks in Southborough who express strong opinions and relevant input. We are not hurting for well argued discussion participants. Other than the pure entertainment value of poking your nose into another town’s decision making, why do you spend so much of your own time on this forum? Perhaps you should run for office in Ashland where you could actually make a difference? You seem to have plenty of time on your hands to throw in very marginal commentary here. Use it for something fruitful!

77 southsider October 24, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Young Resident, I don’t think most of the 68 commentators “bashed and bullied” the Moderator but I do think many were right to call out not just the ( inexperienced) Moderator but also the much more experienced other officials on stage that night.
It’s politics and sometimes politicians need to learn the hard way. I think one of our much more experienced Selectman took a harsher hit.

78 Resident October 25, 2016 at 8:51 PM

It seems to me, in watching the video and reading through these comments, the opposing side did not follow the correct process in their effort to make their presentation. It also seems this is an issue that has been discussed at a prior town meeting. 73% is decisive. It’s unlikely the result would have been different had The Moderator made a different call.

While Morreale is certainly green – and admits as much – he appears to be working on behalf of the community to make Southborough the best it can be. He is a longtime resident, and cares about what happens in and around the town. Although some may disagree with his decision, it sounds like there is a lack of understanding of meeting rules by those in attendance. There is structure and there are guidelines. If they are not followed by those attempting to make a presentation, it is The Moderator’s responsibility to the town to make the call within the parameters of Town Meeting Rules as well as precedent. This was his first meeting as Moderator – attendance and emotion were high. Shouting, moaning, groaning, huffing and puffing are juvenile and have no place in this venue.

79 Mark Ford October 26, 2016 at 9:09 AM

I’m inclined to agree with everything you said, but…did you watch the pre-town meeting run-through video, or were you at that meeting? This exact process was discussed and agreed upon. And immediately prior to town meeting, Mr. Butler was allowed to upload his presentation, and Mr. Stivers was given assurances that the protocol agreed upon during the run-through would be followed. From my perspective, they were blindsided, and there’s been no explanation of how that happened. Regardless of the outcome, and my individual opinion (I was likely to vote for the Main Street expansion), this bothers me. And that a Selectman would “jump the line” to move the vote seems entirely inappropriate. It was a tough meeting to run, no doubt.

80 southsider October 26, 2016 at 11:29 AM

Wow! This information from Mr. Ford makes me even more disappointed in those seasoned officials on the stage who allowed this to happen.

I was at the original TM where this proposal was defeated and I am positive that it was only defeated after the opponents were given a chance to present their side. Everyone’s all for the state giving us millions to do work that needs to be done. It’s a no brainer if the opposition never gets a chance to speak. I’d guess that the needle moved by more than the needed 7% in the Spring Meeting after the opponents presented their side. I know they changed my vote.

81 Resident October 26, 2016 at 8:08 PM

Mark, my understanding – and I could be incorrect – is during the pre-meeting, the intent to request Articles 4 and 5 be combined was not disclosed. If that is in fact the case, I have no issue with the moderators decision. I agree all information should be presented, but it should be presented within the rules/guidelines set forth.

82 beth October 27, 2016 at 7:30 AM

Incorrect you are. I wrote an entire post on the fact that it was all completely outlined in the pre-town meeting on Monday night. (and shared the video capturing the conversation.) The moderator was fully aware and indicated he would support it. And he purportedly continued to to indicate that on Tuesday night just prior to opening the meeting.

83 Resident October 27, 2016 at 4:38 PM

I think there’s a pretty strong misunderstanding of intent here, as I don’t at all believe The Moderator did any of this to be underhanded – he has stated (as I did previously) that he is green, and as others have pointed out, this was a tougher than usual meeting to moderate. This was on video, and he’s well aware that blogs such as this one exist, where a mistake is played out for all to critique. Coupled with it being his first time, I think folks are being a little unfair and/or quick to imply he’s not acting with integrity. That’s simply not the case. Some are disappointed with how he handled the situation – I am disappointed with the reaction and accusations of many here. He deserves better than this – he has shown his dedication to the town and community numerous times over the course of nearly 30 years . Implying otherwise is disingenuous and irresponsible. Let’s all hope the next meeting runs smoother, from all angles.

84 Mark Ford October 28, 2016 at 8:55 AM


Again, have you watched the pre-town-meeting discussion? I don’t know about underhanded, but clearly something happened between that meeting, when the process of combining the two articles for the purpose of discussion was explicitly discussed and agreed upon, and the town meeting. As I understand it Mr. Stivers had a direct discussion just prior to town meeting with the moderator, and Mr. Butler was allowed to upload his presentation…yet it was not allowed on town meeting floor. So what happened? I have more respect for the moderator than to say it was simply that he was “green,” since common courtesy would have him telling the affected parties that the agreed-upon process would not be followed.

‘Nuff said. But if Mr. Butler and Mr. Stivers, or anybody else, can figure a way to bring it before the town again, I would support that.

85 Al Hamilton October 28, 2016 at 2:08 PM


I share many peoples concern that the opposition was not given adequate notice that their motion to combine would be denied given the prior days discussion. But, the vote was properly taken, and no one has suggested that there was any inappropriate behavior that would threaten the legitimacy of the vote.

Mr Butler and Mr. Stivers or any other citizen has the right have the right to bring this topic up as many times has they can get 10 signatures. The big difference is that now they will have to convince a substantial majority (Probably 2/3) that the vote was in error. The meeting was adjourned and there are no “do overs”

86 Mark Ford October 30, 2016 at 5:28 PM


Thanks. It’s too bad…the threshold has changed for them quite a bit–from a 1/3 to a 2/3 vote needed. And then there’s also the notion that those with a microphone (selectmen, advisory, etc.) queue up in front of waiting-at-the-hall-microphone townspeople to speak, make motions, and the like. I certainly remember the many times on Advisory that you made the “great circle” route from the stage down to the line for the microphone. That’s more than symbolic; it’s fair.

87 Resident October 28, 2016 at 12:08 PM

I am sure the Moderator would support that as well.

88 YY October 26, 2016 at 9:27 AM

You do realize this requires 67% so 73% isn’t “decisive”? Maybe a difference of 30 or 40 votes or so would have meant this didn’t pass?

Also, even if it wasn’t proper procedure, the moderator seem to have agreed and if he found that to been in error at a later time, the moderator’s job should be to make sure voters give informed consent and as such should have notified opponents and worked with them on the proper way to have them present before voters decide.

89 beth October 21, 2016 at 12:33 PM

As promised, I have looked into this. My post confirming your comments will run by 2:30 today.

90 Freddie Gillespie October 21, 2016 at 1:13 PM

I suggest this rates a new story as a stand alone issue. This is more than a story about the Main Street vote but rather on the manipulation of Town Meeting. No matter how one voted, every citizen who spent their time attending Town Meeting was impacted by not being allowed to hear all sides.

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