Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Endorsements

Town Clerk

The three way race to replace Jimmy Mullen as Town Clerk is perhaps the most interesting one of the annual election. The assistant Town Clerk (Susan Galvin), a long time Selectman (Marion McEttrick) and a college graduate with some years of town government already under his belt (Mike Joyce) have each emphasized strengths they would bring to the job.

However, the defining issue of the campaign has become the Clerk’s salary. Mr. Mullen received between $84,000 and $85,000. This was after 36 years of service. Most community governments and many private employers establish salary ranges for various positions, with performance and years of service dictating where in the range the salary should fall.

It is only proper that with the retirement of a 36 year veteran the salary for a new clerk should be adjusted to the low end of any salary range. Mike Joyce took the initiative, rather than waiting for the Personnel Board or Warrant Committee to make a recommendation. He stated he would request a salary reduction to $50,000 if elected. The current recommendation of the Warrant Committee to the annual town meeting is $85,989.

Mike Joyce deserves a great deal of credit for this decision. It is the right decision. It keeps faith with the public, too many of whom are cynical about government servants and their motivations for serving. Now whether $50,000 is the correct amount can be discussed further. The 2012 Massachusetts Town Clerks Association salary survey of 221 communities found a salary range of $52,530 -$130,000 for communities of 25,000 residents or more. Of course this includes some cities where the salaries are higher. The $130,000 salary for was for the City of Worcester. For towns between 25,000 and 40,000 in population, the highest salary is just over $99,000 in the town of Lexington, where the salary range starts at $71,159.

Susan Galvin, who has worked in the clerk’s office for about 1½ years, insists the current salary is deserved irrespective of the length of experience. Marion McEttrick’s response was, “well, that’s an interesting idea about the salary, I have to say.” She went on to agree that a new clerk shouldn’t start at the top of the range and that she was open to discussion. But Mike Joyce is the candidate who raised the issue, pledged to seek a reduction, and quantified the significance of the reduction. We will never know if the issue would have been raised otherwise.

Susan Galvin touts her short stint in the clerk’s office as her primary attribute for the office. But a review of the taped mytownmatters debate at Fuller Village calls into question the value of her experience. In response to a question about Milton’s redistricting and the reduction of precincts from 11 to 10, she seems to confuse the legal requirement to redraw precinct lines with the number of precincts. The link to the debate segment appears below.

Marion McEttrick emphasizes her many years of experience as Selectman and her law degree. While I’m sure the long association with Town Hall would have some benefit for a short time, it’s hard to see how the functions of the clerk’s office would require a law degree.

Mike Joyce represents exactly what we need at Town Hall and in that office. He’s a break from the past. His comment at the debate about “institutional ossification” captures exactly what happens after 36 years under the same leadership. More than the other candidates Mike Joyce has the energy, ideas and youthful perspective to bring change and to contribute to a new culture at Town Hall.

Link to debate segment:

Planning Board

Cheryl Tougias and Mike Kelly are running for the seat formerly held by Peter Jackson.

Two years ago Ms. Tougias ran for a Planning Board seat as a little known candidate and lost to a long time incumbent by only 46 votes. It’s likely her highly relevant professional background accounts for her success as a newcomer. Since then she has served on the Town Warrant Committee and has gained insights about town government only possible by such service.

Ms. Tougias has a graduate degree in Architecture from Columbia University, one of the highest rated graduate schools for the subject in the country. She’s been a practicing Architect for over 20 years. She supports a revised Master Plan process as a way to ensure that development reflects the desires of the town and to avoid ad hoc responses to issues as they arise.

Her knowledge of architectural design would be a major asset to the Planning Board when dealing with proposed development. She has a range of experience in the special permit and site plan review processes. She supports sustainable development and the preservation of what she calls “the beautiful character” of Milton.

Mr. Kelly is a graduate of Wentworth Institute and works in the construction industry as a Project Manager for JF White. He is running to preserve the town’s quality of life and to protect residential neighborhoods. Mr. Kelly does not support a new Master Plan.

In fact, Mr. Kelly made this clear at the Fuller Village debate. He claimed that a new plan could cost as much $500,000. But this is wild exaggeration. A plan can be done for much less money than this. He also objected to utilizing a consulting firm on the project, describing it as putting the plan recommendations in the hands of someone else. To say this is to completely misunderstand the Master Plan process. Most communities hire experts to manage the process and ensure that the views of all residents are taken into consideration. The consultants don’t make the recommendations, they make sure that what the residents say shapes them.

Mr. Kelly made a somewhat unusual comment on zoning. He declared his opposition to overlay districts in the town. He wants to adhere to the original, underlying zoning laid out over 70 years ago. A lot has changed over the decades since zoning was introduced in Massachusetts. The society is different and lifestyles have changed. Without overlay districts, projects like 88 Wharf Street, 36 Central Avenue, and Mr. Connelly’s proposal at the Hendries Plant site would not be possible. Nor would the cluster development proposed for the Governor Stoughton land, in order to preserve a sizeable amount of open space, be possible. Mr. Kelly is a neighbor of that property. One has to wonder if that’s his reason for running.

I hope you’ll join me in voting for Cheryl Tougias for Planning Board. Her professional skills are obvious benefits to the function the Board undertakes. I particularly hope she can lend her thoughts to the establishment of a more rigorous, standardized process for site plan review.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Joyce is the clear choice for Town Clerk. Not only will he return 40% of his salary to the office but he is the only candidate to address the Precinct gerrymandering set up by the former Town Clerk, James Mullen. Mullen dropped this bomb in Town Hall and ran out the door.
Mullen's 'don't get mad; get even' approach to government was aimed clearly at his perceived enemies in certain Precincts who didn't see his light and voted for Kathy Fagan in his last race for Selectman.
Mike Joyce has promised to restore those Precincts and a degree of sanity to the office of Town Clerk and deserves our support.
This blogger supports your endorsement of Mike Joyce for Town Clerk.

6:57 AM  

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