Moderation of a different sort

I’ve been the moderator of Charlton’s Town Meeting for the past three years, which has been an enjoyable experience. But I was asked to moderate a meeting of a different sort on this coming Saturday: a candidate debate for the local candidates of the Town of Southbridge. As I told the Southbridge Evening News, “local politics is important,” and I look forward to being an impartial party helping the people of Southbridge choose their leaders.

Elections in Charlton 2011 Summary

I’m always a little confused when people call a year an “election year”. Every year is an election year for something. Charlton has quite a bit happening in a short time:

April 12, 2011: 6th Worcester District State Rep. Special Election Primary

May 7, 2011: Charlton Municipal Election

  • Board of Selectmen (seat 4): Incumbent Scott Brown is being challenged by Brent Sellew and Joseph Safarowicz
  • Board of Selectmen (seat 5): Incumbent Kathleen Walker is unopposed.
  • Town Clerk: Darlene Tully, who was appointed to the position after Sue Nichols retired, is being challenged by William Guy.
  • Tree Warden: Incumbent Todd Burlingame is being challenged by Dennis DiPierri
  • Dudley-Charlton School Committee (1 year): A 4-way race between Elaine Rabbitt, Joshua Evans, Deborah Marquis and Robert O’Brien.
  • And running unopposed:
    • Moderator: me
    • Cemetary Commission: Donna Neylon
    • Assessor: Patricia Gill
    • Board of Health: Matt Gagner
    • Planning Board: John McGrath
    • Water-Sewer Commissioners (vote for 2): Robert Lemansky and Joe Haebler
    • Library Trustees (vote for 2): Richard Whitehead and Karen Spiewak
    • Recreation Committee (3 years): Warren Snow
    • Recreation Committee (1 year to fill vacancy): Linda Bellows
    • Housing Authority: Carol Smeltzer
    • Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School Committee: Olaf Garcia
    • Dudley-Charlton School Committee (3 years): Ray Chalk
  • And there may also be a Prop. 2½ debt exclusion on the ballot, if the selectmen choose to put it on there.

May 10, 2011: 6th Worcester District State Rep. Special Election

There are many, many interesting contests unfolding over the next couple months. Should be fun to watch and participate in.

Charlton Election Results

Board of Selectmen

Candidate Total Precinct 1 Precinct 2 Precinct 3
Peter J. Boria 627 212 193 222
Joseph J. Szafarowicz 233 66 102 65


Candidate Total Precinct 1 Precinct 2 Precinct 3
Peter S. Cooper, Jr. 423 151 133 139
Joshua Evans 137 49 40 48
Carl Kaliszewski 251 60 108 83

Constable (2 seats)

John P. McGrath was on the ballot and won the first seat with 614 votes. Richard Fiske Jr. won the second seat with 10 write-in votes.

Voter turnout

Total Precinct 1 Precinct 2 Precinct 3 Total Number of Registered voters in town
868 (9.59%) 279 300 289 9053

T minus one day

Tomorrow’s the big election day. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. I plan to be standing outside at the polls (Heritage School) for most if not all of the day, holding signs and greeting voters.

This week’s Charlton Villager (6.3 MB PDF) has an article on the race, with our file photos above the fold. I’m not sure my explanation of why I voted on the police issue really gets through right (I could see the “I’m not supposed to be a robot” line being taken the wrong way), but in general it seems alright.

Plus, elsewhere in the paper they finally announce that there’s an opening on the Finance Committee, which was good to see.

Elected Non-policy positions

I’m curious what people think about pros and cons of electing positions that aren’t policy-setting. For instance, Charlton currently elects its Town Clerk, and used to elect its Town Tax Collector and Town Treasurer. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elects its Auditor and Treasurer. I’m not sure how policy-setting the Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth are, but they’re elected too and might fit in this category.

Many of these positions require specialized knowledge and training, and it’s not clear that voters always know who would actually do the best job. Although, it’s not always clear than an appointing authority (in the executive branch, say) would do the best job either.

Just wondering what people think about it.

Upcoming Town Meeting Articles

Articles likely to be of the most interest at Charlton’s May 17 Annual Town Meeting (that I’ll be presiding over if I win the election on May 1):

  • Articles 11–15, 17: The Budget and other expenditures (always fun)
  • Article 16: Acquisition of Water Lines in Charlton: It’s not entirely clear to me what this is for, but there was something in the papers recently about Southbridge being a bit upset at the “eminent domain” language in the article. This may just be taking money that the Water department has made and using it to improve the water infrastructure, or there may be a bit more going on. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.
  • Article 19: Accept MGL c. 32B § 20 relating to a Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund: I’m not quite sure what it is, especially as the state’s online copy of c. 32B doesn’t include a section 20. So, presumably it’s a fairly new law that can be accepted. It looks from the article that this may just be trying to restructure the Town’s pension fund liabilities in some fashion.
  • Article 20: Accept MGL c. 152 § 69 relating to Workers Compensation: Again, I’m not quite sure what this is. It sounds like the Town’s finally deciding to offer some sort of Workers Compensation to its employees, which sounds odd since it seems unlikely that there’s nothing in place now.
  • Article 21: Accept MGL c. 64L Local Option Meal Tax: This is the local option to increase the state meals tax from 6.25% to 7.00%, with the additional 0.75% going directly to the Town. This wasn’t on the warrant in prior town meetings, but the Finance Committee has chosen to ask the selectmen to put it on this warrant. There are still some questions to be answered as to how much revenue the town could get from it from the Mass. Pike rest area that’s physically in Charlton, which would hopefully be the bulk of the collection. It’s possible that by May the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee will vote to oppose it, but it’s possible that they might be for it. I predict that if they’re against it, it will be defeated rather quickly, but if they’re for it, it might be quite an interesting debate.
  • Article 23: Purchase of Prindle Lake Dam: At a prior Town Meeting, The Town asked the state legislature to pass a law allowing Charlton to purchase and maintain the dam, but be allowed to assess betterments to those properties that would benefit, rather than assessing it as a general tax to all the town. Now that that law has been passed, here’s the article with the question of actually what should the town spend for what, and how should the cost be assessed.
  • Article 25: Change Town Clerk from being elected to being appointed: The ballot question related to this was defeated at the May 2009 town election. That was about changing the office to being appointed by the Town Administrator. This proposal would have the office appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Complications with the prior proposal may have included the fact that our Town Administrator’s husband is the Town Clerk of another community. If this proposal passes at town meeting, it will also need to pass at a ballot question at the May 2011 election.

The Charlton Town Moderator Race

The race to be Charlton’s next town moderator is now a three-way affair, with me being challenged by Joshua Evans and Carl Kaliszewski. The deadline for getting nomination papers in with signatures is today, although the Town Clerk’s office isn’t generally open on Fridays. As of Wednesday morning, neither of them had submitted their papers yet, but I assume that they have by now.

Campaign signs have started popping up around town this week, so we started deploying our signs as well.

I’m definitely looking forward to an interesting race. Hopefully a newspaper or school or someone puts on a candidate’s night.

Charlton Town Elections

I made a phone call to the Town Clerk this morning to see who’s taken out nomination papers so far.

Joseph Szafarowicz took out papers to run for selectman against Mr. Boria. He’s the person who ran unsuccessfully for selectman against Mr. Swensen last year.

A Joshua Evans has taken out papers to run for Moderator against me.

I expect to turn in my nomination papers to the town hall this evening. This could be a very interesting ballot in May.

Edit: fixed Mr. Szafarowicz’s last name

Random Life Update

  • Well, 2010 hasn’t been much kinder in the health department so far. A few weeks ago, Hannah, Jessi, and I were sick with something for a couple days, and this week my wife and I have had a cold/cough/sore-throat that hasn’t been fun.
  • On the plus side, last week Peter decided that he would start breastfeeding regularly after all. This is very good news.
  • This week, I officially took out nomination papers to get elected as Moderator at the upcoming May 1 election. I have about a month to collect 44 signatures from registered voters of Charlton. I’m also contemplating officially creating a campaign committee, but I may wait and see if the race will be contested first.
  • This weekend, for our Valentine’s weekend date, my wife and I will be attending a Magic Judge draft. The premise is that some people will be playing and some will be judging, and the people playing are going to try to cheat in various ways to see if the people judging can catch them. It’s a training exercise that sounds like a lot of fun.
  • And speaking of judging, I’m definitely looking forward to judging at PAX East. Tentatively, I’ll be on the evening shift on Friday and Saturday. I should have some time there to enjoy the rest of the show when I’m not on duty, too. I only wish that my wife could come.

More News Coverage

For those who see when I mentioned it on Twitter, I made the front page of this week’s Charlton Villager (9.1 MB PDF) due to voting at last month’s Town Meeting.

Basically, the Moderator generally only votes if his vote would change the outcome. (Since if it wouldn’t change the outcome, there’s no point in making an appearance of being non-neutral on a vote, since the Moderator should moderate impartially.) But, the Moderator is a registered voter just like everyone else, with just as much of a say.

In this case, since the motion required a ⅔ vote to pass (meaning the number of Yes votes must be at least two times the number of No votes), and it would have been 85-42 without my vote (and would have passed), I voted No, making it 85-43 and thus not passing. Now, it failed because 43 voters in the room voted No, not just because I voted No. Any person changing their vote could have swayed it in either direction. But because I’m in the front of the room, it becomes news that I voted.