Let’s Keep Government in the Hands of the Citizens

Dan Kemp–Wellesley Townsman  February 25, 2016

Local democratic government based on voluntary citizen participation is one of New England’s greatest gifts to America.  For the 32 years I have lived in Wellesley, town government, executed through dedicated volunteer citizen boards, has functioned extremely well. Now, despite the long-term success of our town democracy, we have a proposal to take town government out of the hands of its citizens and vest it in a powerful, unelected town manager, who would be insulated from accountability by a multi-year contract and exempt from open-meeting laws. This would be a huge mistake for the town.

To see what happens when an unelected administrator displaces elected municipal government, look at Flint, Michigan. The state put Flint government in the hands of a series of Emergency Managers with no accountability to the people of the city. It was one of those Emergency Managers who concluded that clean safe lake water from Detroit was too expensive and that the city should cut costs by switching the city’s water supply to the toxic Flint River.

This comparison may sound far-fetched, but consider that the proposed change takes control of town staff responsible for guarding the safety of the town’s food and water away from the elected Board of Health and gives it to an unelected town manager (or an unelected assistant town manager) with no public health experience. In the interest of preserving democracy in town government, I urge Wellesley citizens to vote NO on Question 1 in the March 15 town election.

Dan Kemp

20 Lovewell Road

Wellesley, MA 02482