Hometown Weekly Weighs In on Town Manager Question

Hometown Weekly

Big Referendum Coming Up in Wellesley–Hometown Weekly.

Wellesley has always had passionate volunteers who care about their town. The upcoming March 15th town referendum on town government is no exception. Legions of volunteers will be posting signs in yards and campaigning for their side of the ballot question: Should Wellesley switch from its current town administrator form of government to a much more centralized – and less transparent– town manager form of government? We spoke to the Vote No campaigners of, a broad array of high-schoolers to 90-year-olds, environmental activists to fiscal conservatives, physicians to lawyers to management consultants.

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School Decisions and Town Manager–Citizen Involvement is Critical

Larry Kaplan, MD–Wellesley Townsman, March 10, 2016

For those Wellesley parents who are concerned about saving neighborhood schools, the proposed town manager structure is likely to create another hurdle for citizen involvement in participatory government. Under this proposal, there will be increased pressure to close schools as town government focuses more on efficiencies and cost savings than on educational excellence. As a corollary to VOTING NO on this ballot question, Wellesley residents need to elect school committee members who are willing to act as fiduciaries for their constituents rather than rubber-stamp administration decisions.

Larry Kaplan MD

8 High Meadow Circle

Wellesley, MA 02482

Change is Too Radical and Divisive

Andy Wrobel–Wellesley Townsman, March 10, 2016

“I love change – but it needs to be a change that is embraced by the many.” 

I am going to vote NO on March 15th for the new Town government structure for two reasons: it is too divisive and it reduces the power of citizens to enhance (and perhaps more importantly protect) the character of this Town.

First, I love change – but it needs to be a change that is embraced by the many.   No doubt that our current government could use some improvement but 40% of Town Meeting Members thought this change was too much change.  To change a sign law we need a 2/3 majority in Town Meeting but to radically alter the Town’s government structure we only need (and only received)  a simple majority?   This proposal dramatically reduces the influence of the boards in town and marginalizes the highly skilled and passionate volunteers that helps give Wellesley its small feel.   Most of the elected Boards in Town spoke out against this change.  Many past Board of Selectmen are opposed to this centralization of power.  This change is too radical and certainly too divisive.

Second, as a Town Meeting member,  I am sensitive to the emails I received from distressed Hardy parents who felt that the decision to close Hardy School was made by a small insider group without citizen input. I am concerned that If the town manager proposal is passed on March 15th, there will be a lot more of these closed door decisions. The Town Manager is not required to have open meetings – as the boards are.  This is the way the law is set up.  Concentrating power in one person who doesn’t have to allow a forum for citizen input on key decisions is not what Wellesley wants.  A new town manager’s strongest mandate is expected to be tighter budget management.  If you want to save neighborhood schools (which will be more expensive but help to keep our small Town feel), think ahead, get to the polls on March 15th and VOTE NO. The same applies to the fate of the North 40 and the branch libraries.  Keep citizen government in Wellesley – join me and VOTE NO.

— Andy Wrobel  TMM, Precinct G, Board of Recreation

Need for Change Exaggerated says Tom Frisardi

Thomas Frisardi–Wellesley Townsman, March 10, 2016

Why would residents who have the right to manage their own government yield a substantial part of this right to a single person, who is not even necessarily a resident of the town? Removing power from volunteer boards and committees reduces the value of serving on such a committee and will discourage citizen participation. Why would someone volunteer their time to basically act in a supporting role for someone who is earning $200,000 a year…


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The Myth about ‘The Map’: Another reason to vote no on Question 1

By Marcia Testa Simonson, M.P.H., M.Phil., Ph.D–Wellesley Townsman March 3.

It seemed that most of the audience believed the story this map was telling because in all its geographical sophistication and vivid colors, it just looked so convincing. However, neither the map, nor the story behind it, was an accurate portrayal of the real data.”

TGSC Map                                     Detailed Map

TGSC mapSWTG Map 4

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Messy Divorces–Terminating a Town Manager can be messy and costly.

Wellesley has been fortunate in having several long-serving and dedicated Executives. By contrast, the average tenure of a town manager nationally is just seven years. Termination can be contentious and also expensive, especially when legal costs are factored in. Here are some interesting articles the difficulties in firing a town manager.

Stoughton, MA

Police and Fire unions want town manager out.

Wayland, MA

Town manager abruptly dismissed

Saugus, MA

Town manager suspended

Andover, MA

Assistant town manager fired

Narragansett, RI

Costly termination pact for town manager

Around Massachusetts–Boston Globe

Firing considered “occupational hazard”

Bridgewater, MA

Issues with town manager

Cohasset, MA

Potential suspension or termination for TM

ST. Johnsbury, VT

$175k payment to fired town manager

Costly to Remove Town Manager

Winchendon Approves $300k Buyout of Town Manager’s Contract

The agreement — reached with “guidance and advice” from the town’s labor and employment attorney — said that selectmen have determined there is “no cause” for his termination and therefore, must offer him a buyout to avoid a “protracted and costly” legal battle that could expose the town to a wrongful termination suit that could cost more than $2 million plus legal fees.

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Friend of the North Forty is Concerned

“As a Friend of the North 40,  I feel strongly against our town becoming centralized under the authority of a Town Manager.  Please read Donald McCauley’s recent article if you have not already seen it (Townsman, Feb 11, attached).  What happens if members of the NRC board wanted to keep North 40 undeveloped, while the Town Mgr. wanted to build on it?  The NRC director, who would be appointed by the Town Mgr.,  would have to decide whether to represent the board members and or to favor the person that gave him a job.”

Janet King

Upland Rd

Globe West–Don McCauley on Reasons to Vote “NO”

Don McCauley–Boston Globe West  February 27, 2016

Wellesley resident, former member of the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, and the Advisory Committee

“Massachusetts permits a dizzying array of municipal structures with differing allocation of responsibilities among administrators, boards, staff, and citizens. No size fits all. There are probably 351 varieties, in a state with that many cities and towns. The task is to use the alternatives to make improvements and maintain strengths”.


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