Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Changing of the Guard

Kathy Fagan’s utterly exciting and necessary victory in yesterday’s Selectman’s race is being described by the Boston Globe as an upset. I suppose the outcome fits the conventional definition of an upset. But what occurred yesterday is merely the culmination of a process that has been underway for some time now.

Marvin Gordon got it right in his comments at the beginning of the election coverage on Bernie Lynch’s show: Milton has been undergoing a transformation in its makeup that is affecting the political landscape. Twenty years ago, ten years ago, perhaps even five years ago, there would have been no upset.

For many of us who have been working on campaigns in the last decade this process has been apparent. Successful attempts to build new schools and renovate our library, long neglected town assets, were signs of movement. It was also clear that the change was systemic and thus inevitable. What wasn’t clear was the timing. When would we reach the tipping point? I believe we have. It’s arrival may have been hastened by our good fortune in having a candidate like Kathy Fagan; a decent, capable and respectful woman with the heart of a lion.

It now seems clear, based on the last three town-wide elections [June 2006 override, November election, and yesterday] that when the voters turn out in good numbers, say 45% minimum, there is a majority for what I would call a progressive agenda. There is nothing radical about this agenda. It does recognize, however, that the status quo is dangerous to our town’s future. It understands the need for investment in our infrastructure. It clearly sees the threat from a systemic fiscal problem that is likely to increase our taxes significantly, or force severe service cuts, or possibly both. It embraces our growing diversity and values people for who they are, not how many generations their families have lived in town. And it appreciates the history of this town. Indeed, ensuring a future that is as good constitutes the entire foundation of this progressive agenda.

As I looked around at the 200 or so people gathered last night to celebrate a campaign victory, I made note of the group’s composition. What a collection of creativity, talent and energy. A true juggernaut. There were long time Milton residents in their 60’s and 70’s. A significant number of baby boomers. And a large contingent of 30 somethings, many who played lead roles in the campaign. It was a microcosm of Milton progressives, some of long standing, and many having been here long enough to decide that they could shape events, not just be affected by them. Once a majority recognizes its new status, it’s next to impossible to keep them down on the farm.

Limburger and Lilacs

Limburger to the current Selectman whose behavior on last evening’s broadcast of election results was very revealing, and no doubt will be remembered by many for a long time.

Lilacs to James Mullen who came to the Fagan campaign party to congratulate his victorious opponent.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't lived in Milton all that long so I have no vested interest in protecting anything having to do with the perks that go along with that pedigree. I supported the building of the new schools. I felt it was a disgrace our library was so antiquated. Anyone with any sense of civic calculus knew, looking at Milton ten years ago, that the town had been neglected. It was green and close to Boston. But it had become a bedroom community of the highest order. To keep taxes low, the core infrastructure had been allowed to languish and rot.

Still, Milton is hardly out of the woods. This just concluded campaign was mean and rancorous. Jimmy Mullen wouldn't know me from John Adams but, from afar, I have observed him to be a decent guy who loved his town. He made many mistakes, not the least of which was to attempt to make the awkward assertion that political animus was akin to racial, religious or ethnic hatred. Talk about not knowing when to keep the pie-hole latched. But I think he might have been on to something and the rapacious fervor of some of his detractors is unsettling. A few Fagan sign holders loudly derided Mullen as they went about their hackery. Embedded between the lines of the second Globe story was the inference of Irish racism and bigotry. Negative campaigning has to begin somewhere. And from my vantage, Mullen didn't initiate it.

There is the growing possibility that Milton is woefully mismanaged. One wonders how that could be with so many many skilled and talented residents on its tax rolls. Or maybe the situation -- the lack of commercial taxes, the desire for premium services -- is simply untenable. Maybe the finances, the civic calculus, won't function properly until we've commercially developed every available parcel of land in town. If Fagan actually does have a solution, one that residents can rally around, one that has a chance of working, I'll be the first to endorse it. On the other hand, if her aggressive campaign to unseat a conservative selectman turns out to be more about her dislike for his politics and less about resolving Milton's looming financial morass, perhaps the No Place For Hate agenda should be revised to include Mullen's ill-advised complaint.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Whether Mr. Mullen loves the town, or some abstraction or memory he holds of it is an open question in my book. It's also neither here nor there.

You'd be hard pressed to support your notion that the campaign was negative, or mean, or rancorous. The official conduct of a politician, his actions, his views and his policies are the only thing that a campaign should be about. Not how long he's lived here, or the self-proclaimed emotional attachment to the town.

If you really believe that a campaign should consist merely of ads that say "You know where I stand", then you have a different notion about the information with which voters should make decisions.

Every campaign has supporters who go too far. Having said that, I'm not aware of any Fagan supporters who did. I've done a lot of sign holding over the years and heard lots of nonsense. And virtually every campaign is a mix of supporting the virtues of your candidate, and opposing the sins of the opponent. This campaign certainly had both.

I find your comment about the article by Matt Carroll of the Globe to be, frankly, ridiculous. You seem to be captive to the idea that this was some conservative/liberal battle. Certainly Mr. Mullen, with his version of a "no new taxes" theme, seems to think so also. In fact, it was about competent, respectful government.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a "newer" resident to the town of Milton (just three years), I feel that the town has much too offer, but it has been hostage to a mentality that no change/status quo is good.

You know what? Change is hard, but it is also necessary. When the education of our children is affected, when public services begin to erode, and when roads start to crumble and no alternatives are presented, something is gotta give.

I supported Kathy Fagan for so many reasons, that enumerating them here would take long. But, I can sum them all up by saying that she is willing to take on the town's establishment and understands that we need to be more creative to bring change to the town--a change that is positive and respects the fabric of the generations that have built this great town. Her leadership is like fresh morning air, and I look forward to support her as she faces all the challenges that we, as a community, have ahead.

God bless Kathy and all of us, Milton residents.


10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During my time as a Milton resident I have seen a very vocal and elitist set of individuals overtake our community.

Simply listen for discussions that include the latest buzz word: “progressive”.

It’s being bandied about as if by disagreement, with the ordained “progressive” solution to a problem, an individual is somehow not trying to improve our community.

To those who perpetrate this on your fellow citizens, think about it for a minute and you might just realize how condescending that type of comment is.

There’s also been a fair amount of talk about “building bridges”.

Strangely no one seems interested in asking who burnt the bridges or why. No reflection on how anyone contributed to the animosity, just move along and ignore the unsavory behavior that got folks elected.

Now that the election is over and it's time to do something other than complain and cast aspersions, it seems "building bridges" has become a euphemism for consolidating power and a convenient excuse if Milton isn’t “fixed” as promised.

The following quote exemplifies this…

“Limburger to the current Selectman whose behavior on last evening’s broadcast of election results was very revealing, and no doubt will be remembered by many for a long time.”

That’s not building a bridge, that’s pouring gas onto a burning one.

If overzealous supporters weren’t burning bridges, with the complicity of the candidate(s), a connection to the presumably "unprogressives" that make up the other 49% of the vote wouldn't need rebuilding.

Regardless of the opinions passed as facts, there are quite a few Milton citizens convinced our new selectman is not any better than the one she replaces. The razor thin margin of victory, 164 votes, substantiates this.

The “unprogressives” that are looked down upon hope for Milton to become a better place; try not to use them as an excuse for failure.

We all deserve better.

Despite the empty promises I have read, I am left with the unsettling impression this election has exchanged one bellicose group of politicians and supporters for another.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I think your fears of being "taken over" simply reveal your desire for no change. Was the town "taken over" by the non-elitists? Or is that only true when your views are not the majority view?

Progressive is hardly a recent buzz word. More to the point, I gave a fairly clear definition of what I meant by that term in the context of Milton. There is nothing necessarily condescending about describing what I think is a pretty clear distinction.

I don't know who you think burned the bridges. There is difference between pointing out a politician's weaknesses and the carrying on of the Selectman on last night's television show. Unfortunately for the town, that individual is a divider of the community, and there is no reason why his inexcusable actions should be tolerated in the pursuit of bridge building.

I'm sorry that being on the losing side of a political contest makes you feel looked down upon. I've been on the losing side before. The answer is to do a better job of making your case. Given the direction this town was headed in, Mr. Mullen didn't have much to work with.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Lilacs to James Mullen who came to the Fagan campaign party to congratulate his victorious opponent."

Phil, no one like a boastful winner.

This is only intended to denigrate a man who was humble in loss.

Apparently you never learned to be a gracious winner.

Coming from the person who wrote "It's In Your Hands" two days ago, which essentially engaging in character assasination, your lack of sincereity is quite obvious.

This quote is nothing more than a pathetic ploy to subdue the supporters of the very people who you've railed rather nastily against.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Praising James Mullen for being gracious enough to congratulate his opponent in defeat is hardly attempting to denigrate someone. In fact it was highlighting humbleness in defeat. So your comment is rather odd.

The comments made in the post you refer to are factual. Elected politicians are supposed to follow the law. Perhaps you think your candidate was above the law?

I am nothing if not sincere.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This campaign boiled down to the fact that Mr. Mullen committed public acts as a leader of this town that will be seen as questionable. His public bullying last fall was sad. Let the record show that what he did last year is not what a leader should be doing. Also, trying to garner support as a town employee, although in his eyes might be seen as innocent, cannot be tolerated in this era. There are ethics in this world and standards that we should hold our leaders to.

Mullen's mistake was to not publicly apologize for his actions. I believe that if he did he would have won the election rather easily. His other mistake is that there are a lot of Boston Globe employees who live in Milton.

Finally, I wish this whole tone of negative campaigning stops. I heard too many rumors from Mullen camp about Fagan that made my stomach turn. But kudos to Fagan for not complaining about it. She stuck to the issues and was a classy person the whole way. People should at least give her a chance. She might surprise you.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I too find it hard to believe you’re sincere about "praising" a politician you just implied breaks the law. It seems more likely a ploy to curry favor with his constituents (i.e. the 49% who disagree with you). With a 164 vote gap, the new administration will have a tough time increasing taxes to the extent I suspect needed to pay for and/or force their will on segments of the community that aren't interested in the new dogma without padding their razor thin victory.

Character assassination is the art of using gossip to undermine credibility. Whether or not the gossip turns out true is not important.

Since you only deal with facts, please refer us to the court case that made this finding of guilt.

Failure to do so would be indicative of the type of politics I think most people are sick of and tired of at the National level. It is very sad indeed to see “Rovian” methods used at the local level. The intense polarization that occurred during the most recent Bush campaign, where dissent was portrayed as unpatriotic under the auspices of being "…a uniter not a divider", comes to mind.

It’s quite stunningly arrogant of you to use a strawman argument to suggest dissenters support criminal activity in our elected officals.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I'm not responsible for what you claim to believe. I praised him for doing the gracious thing. And in case you haven't noticed, I don't curry favor.

That Mr. Mullen caused a letter of support to be circulated among town employees at the town offices during business hours is not in dispute. In case you missed it, both he and Kevin Sorgi discussed doing so. Three of those employees have told a selectman they felt intimidated into signing. These facts more than substantiate my statement that "This would appear to violate conflict of interest laws...".

There was nothing "Rovian" about this campaign. There was discussion about the views and actions of the candidates. Apparently you don't like the result.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please refer us to the court case that made this finding of guilt. Or are you now the keeper of justice in Milton.

It’s quite stunningly arrogant of you to use a strawman argument to suggest dissenters support criminal activity in our elected officals - Textbook "Rovian" behavior to try to distance yourself from it when called to task for doing so.

Apparently you like to sling mud at anyone who has the gall to disagree with you.

"And in case you haven't noticed, I don't curry favor."

Making assertions isn't a compelling argument's the lack of one.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

The guilt is not determined by a court. The violation will be ruled on by the State Ethics Committee. And since I never said there was such a ruling, your question merely ignores the inconvenient facts that have been laid out for you.

Pointing out that some supporters of Mr. Mullen seem quite ready to ignore this act, as well as the illegal Executive Session he held, is simply accurate. Why aren't you bothered by these actions?

Apparently you like to cover up people's actions with false charges of mud slinging.

That I do not curry favor is clearly attested to by my public writings over 2 years, writing which I put my name to, by the way.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it bothers you so that people elect to write anonymously using the option offered on your own blog, then remove that option. Make it mandatory that they use their name. See how many responses you get then.

And by the way, there are more than one respondants on this comment thread.

I am neither a Mullen supporter nor a detractor. We are fortunate that some citizens have the desire to participate in local politics. We need people to serve in those capacities. I appreciate Jimmy Mullen's service to the town of Milton, though I believe his record, particularly as of late, is mixed.

I hope that Kathy Fagan is successful in her term as Selectman. To wish otherwise would be counter-productive and silly. Our town needs leadership, whether old guard or new. We're desperate for solutions to problems that are universally anticipated and understood. Milton will need new sources of revenue going forward. And we must determine whether we can spend what we already have more efficiently. Tax overrides have been approved more frequently in Milton than in any town in this area. At some point, the public will begin to reject those initiatives.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You weren't pointing out "some supporters" support criminal activity - you suggested I did.

Here's the direct quote...

"Perhaps you think your candidate was above the law?"

Furthermore, he's not "my" candidate. For the record, I didn't particularly like either choice ...but why let facts get in the way of a good mud slinging. I am somehow the "enemy" and must be crushed - very "Rovian" behavior.

Adding insult to injury you imply I'm complicit in illegal activity (i.e. covering up a crime is, in itself, a crime).

Here's the quote that does so...

"Apparently you like to cover up people's actions with false charges of mud slinging."

A simple apology would have sufficed. Instead I get another bellicose response.

That you wish to know my name is suggestive of a desire to ratchet up the personal attacks. The issues don't need names; they need solutions which will require a civility I find disturbingly absent.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous John Varghese said...

I am a new resident of Milton (less than 1 month). Unfortunately we learned of the election too late for us to re-register. It disappointed us, but we are happy with the outcome.

We moved to Milton because we heard great things about the people, liked proximity to the city and heard about the great schools (no children yet though).

After moving to Milton we certainly saw room for improvement - The traffic congestion or lack of traffic safety has been a major concern. The trash fee (which is not tax deductible) is a shock, but manageable. And the lack of viable restaurants or shopping areas disappointed us.

Bottom line, we are looking forward to change with some reservation. We hope the new leaders will initiate change slowly and openly, allowing all residents an area for open forum and plenty of time for discussion before decision. We moved to Milton because it acts as a small town that’s very close to a big city. We would like to have the option of visiting area restaurants and businesses, but we really hope that there isn’t this influx of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, etc…. I hope it is limited to the current business areas and traffic pattern is taken into consideration while planning it.

In addition, I hope the new leaders will do something about keeping the parks and public areas clean. I live near Kelly Field and I constantly find myself picking up after others and it seems to me that strategically placed trash cans will solve a majority of the problem, provided they will be picked up without needing a trash sticker.

Good luck new leaders and please visit the neighborhoods. And please make an effort to meet all the residents of Milton. Don’t wait for us to come to you. One thing that disappointed me about this election was that it was obvious that all positions were contentious, but I never personally met any of the candidates. My wife and I regularly were in East Milton and other neighborhoods. Not once did I ever see a single candidate make a proactive effort to meet with me or my neighbors. It gives me the impression that politicians in general are not that different. I hope my parlance will cause the new leaders to show more concern about meeting more residents/voters


12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The result of Tuesday's election truly saddens me. A good man, Jim Mullen, went down in defeat after a caustic and mean-spirited campaign in which he and other long time Milton residents were derided (I know this from friends of mine who have recently moved to Milton and were approached as likely supporters) for everything from their hard Boston accents to their purportedly intertwined Irish heritage and bigoted racial views to their educational backgrounds. This type of character assassination was carried out under the guise of a progressive, good government agenda. As a couple of uncles of mine who faced down the "goo-goos" in many Massachusetts elections used to say, they're only good to each other. Look out John Shields! I'm glad I'm not around to see people like Jim Mullen, who made the place I am so proud to be from what it is, attacked by so-called progressives. But I'm sad that my friends, who stayed and are now raising families in Milton because of their own childhood experiences, live in a place they are finding increasingly unrecognizable.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Milton of the past is it you are so eager to recognize? The one with schools falling apart, without smoke alarms and kids learning in bathrooms?

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting Milton dosen't have an iota of a "good" past?

Were the Milton schools somehow magically transformed by the final talley of votes?

They look rather the same to me as they did last week - especially the newer ones.

Inflamatory comments like the above insult large swaths of the electorate.

Either they were incredibly ignorant or were for all the negative things mentioned. If not, they would have change it. A classic straw man fallacy.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Anonymous 2 levels up (no other way to identify anyone on this board) - I get the sense, when you say you're not around to see it, that you no longer live in Milton -- so your experience of the campaign is secondhand, as in, passed along via your friends? I only ask because while there has been much chatter about a negative campaign, there isn't really much evidence of one.

Ms. Fagan ran campaign ads in which what were probably the harshest thing she said was that she wouldn't hold illegal meetings -- an assertion made originally by Marion McEttrick about the meeting Mr. Mullen held behind closed doors with the pastors, and which is currently under investigation by the Attorney General. Harsh, yes. But fair? In the eyes of the beholder, I think. The remainder of her messages were about how she would conduct herself in office and what she hoped to achieve.

Mr. Mullen ran fairly typical ads accusing Ms. Fagan of wanting to raise taxes, and as with most such ads, made the most of each situation, construing it to evoke maximum worry among those concerned about rising taxes.

When it comes to whispering campaigns, supporters of Mr. Mullen gave as good as they got -- my favorite was the "She's just a housewife" effort, which in fact, was originally a quote from Mr. Mullen himself. (I won't repeat the assertions about Fagan tactics as they seem to be well-covered already.)

My only point is, the public campaigns were fairly mainstream as political ads go. And the off the record campaigns by candidate's supporters -- and one can assume not endorsed by either candidate -- were the product of Milton citizens of all types and stripes -- not just progressives, or new-comers.

By all means, let the healing begin. But I do sense a tone here that all was well before progressives came in and "took over the town," and I'd be hard pressed to believe that point.

For myself, I could care less whether a citizen is progressive, conservative or otherwise, or whether they have lived in Milton 50 years or 5 minutes. I'm just hoping for governance that

- plans for the issues we face
- treats citizens with respect
- operates with transparency

And as for "us Miltonians" I can only be responsible for my own behavior, but for my kids I will continue to model behavior that emphasizes

- openness to all points of view
- respect for the law
- the importance of kindness and the benefit of a doubt
- the ability to use your critical faculties to apply objective measures of performance when making decisions

Let's put the campaign behind us. I certainly urge Mr. Shields to do so -- it's time to stop worrying about whether you were "besmirched" and start worrying about fixing the budget. And at the same time, every time one of us opens our mouths, we need to think about whether we are adding something positive to help Milton move forward, or instead just adding animosity to old grudges... these comment boards seem to encourage plenty of petty sniping on all sides, and from all directions. Anonymity makes it even easier. I say, anyone who wants to work with our duly elected officials for a Milton that embodies the best values of the "old" Milton, the best approaches to overcoming the issues of the present Milton, and the best foundation for an even better future Milton, let's quit sniping and get going.

And I don't mind signing my name to saying so.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

1} It doesn't bother me to have people post anonymously, or I would do something about it.

2)Our fiscal problems go far beyond trying to spend more efficiently. Obviously, we should always look for improvement, but I've looked at these budgets for many years and we stretch a dollar as well as anyone.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I have no desire to know your name. But I note the difference between putting your name to what you say, and not.

Asking you a question is not accusing. No is pointing out that you are avoiding a candidate's actions a claim of a legal coverup. I think you know the difference.

The fact is you don't appear to want to discuss anything, just vent spleen.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Mr. Mullen lost the election because the voters listened to what both candidates had to say and made their choice.

Voters have that right.

Fagan's campaign was a good government campaign, and the ideas she espoused I have described as a progressive agenda. I don't know what you hope to accomplish by sneering at that word, but I haven't seen a single substantive point made about how I described that agenda and what your disagreement with it is.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But I note the difference between putting your name to what you say, and not."

I prefer to note the ideas.

"Asking you a question is not accusing." Sure they can. It's called a leading question.

You also did more than point out "...avoiding a candidate’s actions..."

Here's your actual quote:

"Apparently you like to cover up people's actions with false charges of mud slinging."

The operative phase here is "Apparently you like to cover up people's actions..."

It connotes complicity. For what, disagreeing with you?

"The fact is you don't appear to want to discuss anything, just vent spleen."

I find this incredibly disrespectful for a Milton Public Official.

This is exactly what people have been complaining about.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, are you under the impression that Phil Matthews is a Milton Public Official? If so, uh, sorry - this is personal blog of a citizen of Milton who has no governmental role in the town.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous,

My mistake. I believe he's a past Warrent Committee Member and Town Meeting Member. Thanks for pointing that out.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

"I prefer to note the ideas."

Not that one could tell, I'm afraid. You offered no ideas.

"Sure they can. It's called a leading question".

It was a question you avoided answering.

And noting your desire to cover up a discussion point has nothing to do with complicity,legal or otherwise.

In addition to your problems with following a discussion you seem to think I'm a public official. I'm not.

Had you wished to dicuss an issue intelligently, you'd have started long ago. I can only conclude that you can't.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The progressive agenda is radical in that it claims the status quo is dangerous for Milton's future. Those of us who have worked within the "status quo" mentality have been working for progress that the people of this Town can afford. Many older townspeople recognize that the schools should have been maintained and even rebuilt years ago - so, yes, there have been mistakes and short-sightedness. There has also always been divisiveness in political groups and migration between those groups. What is new is the ugliness. I think we all have experienced offense that was intended as something else like "dear" or "honey" by store clerks. I do not always agree with the way JM expresses himself but I tolerate it. Sometimes you have to get beyond yourself and have a heart. It is not enough to say you embrace Milton's diversity unless you are also willing to embrace those who do value how many generations of their beloved families have chosen to make Milton their home. It is nothing if not hypocritical to choose the new diversity over the overall diversity. Surely progressiveness should remember tolerance and favor it over righteousness. There are many, including myself, who have friends in both political groups. These are people who have hearts that are bigger than politics and who will love our town, work towards what we believe is right, and learn from our mistakes. Someone said “we” don't know how to use bloggers - you're right! call me betsy.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Claiming the status quo is dangerous to our future isn't a radical statement. More importantly, the characterization of any agenda involves looking at its components.

Every community deals with the issue of what is affordable. What mechanism can we use to determine that other than the vote?

I don't accept your notion that the ugliness, as you call it, is new. I've been hearing it for some time.

No one has said that long time ties to the community shouldn't be recognized and embraced. Every community needs roots and residents of long standing provide that. The point that has been made is that such a fact is not an adequate qualification for office. Nor is it an excuse to treat other residents as "non real" citizens of the town.

I frankly don't understand your comment about a "new diversity" over an "overall diversity". I too have friends in both camps. Politics has consequences. Noting the changes in the political landscape is simply that. I realize that it is not surprising that one political faction facing a loss in a political campaign would be upset, and perhaps threatened. But I do wish some of them had engaged in a discussion before the election.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Until you actually say something, rather than just repeating yourself, you're adding nothing to the discussion.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can't seem to get past the administrator, don't know why. betsy

7:01 PM  
Anonymous ME said...

I think to claim that this was a progressive victory is a bit too simplistic in my opinion. I think people voted for several reasons, and it would be hard to pinpoint one exact factor into why Fagan won. Here are the ones I think played into the outcome:

Mullen's refusal to publicly apologize about his public actions last fall during his actions with the No Place for Hate leadership. Just a bad move, politically, in my opinion. An apology would not have hurt him politically, but an answer like "I'm a lover, and everyone loves a lover" perplexed people, especially younger voters.

Love of town and pedigree did not necessarily count as ideas. Give Fagan credit: she at least had ideas, whether you agree or not.

The 1909 wing: Mullen lost part of his base there.

Central Ave: it charged people up to vote against him, at least the people who lived nearby.

The fact that a major override passed last year but this year we're in the same fiscal crisis. What's up with that?

Mullen's lack of ideas. Did he even have a platform besides "I am entitled to win because I have lived here longer?"

Don't get me wrong: I think Jimmy Mullen is a solid person. Sure, I don't share his politics or his ideas of this town (quick question: where are all those non-resident students he claims are hurting the schools? what is implied by that?), but at least I knew where he stood. Give the man credit for that. And give him major class points for shaking Fagan's hand at the end of the night.

Now as for John M. Shields, I am still coonfused by his comments at the election results? What political gain did he get from that? Does he basically just want to throw away any new support her might have gotten from his election last year? Does anyone out there have any opinions about that?

Finally, there is a lot of talk about history in this town. Having lived here for less than 5 years, I only know this: I moved into this town for my kids and I will work as hard as I can to give them the best life I can give them. I applaud the Fagan campaign for connecting the dots and reminding people that if you want better schools, better services and if you want to get out of override frustration, this town needs to find better ways to run itself as a business. That is why Fagan gained support across all of Milton. Just analyze the tallies from the previous election: compared to McCarthy, she gained hundreds of extra votes in the precincts that were traditionally Mullen precincts. I mean, she almost won Precinct 7, the soul of East Milton.

Congratulations to the Fagan campaign. You did a good job explaining your points and sticking to your message.

Also, as for Mullen, I do believe that hubris might have clouded his political judgment. That doesn't mean he is a bad person, but maybe a bad campaigner. Unfortunately, to get elected, you still need to campaign.

I hope others can provide some additional insight about this.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's up with the deleted comments?

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, you stated that the status quo was dangerous to our future. I think that is radical in that the status quo only had its idea of Milton's best interest in mind. If you consider our mindset dangerous then isn't it fair that we consider you radical? betsy

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me there's an awful lot of talk about services, and aknowledgement of the need for revenue. I haven't seen any plan that appears to have wide spread support. Is anyone aware of a commitment, in writing, from our new leaders to live within our budget?

For all the complaints about the status quo, from my vantage point, the good things about it are being co-opted by the new progressive agenda - such as rebuilding the schools. The liabilites that built the schools are used to discredit the "status quo".

This doesn't bode well for fiscal responsibility. Does this strike anyone else as very simular to what caused the State Fiscal Crisis a couple decades ago?

8:01 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


While those who advocate the status quo may believe they have the best interests of the town in mind, that doesn't mean the status quo is in the best interests of the town.

That's the discussion we just had in the campaign.

We don't plan adequately enough, and we are too averse to recognizing our problems. People told me in the campaign that everything was fine. That is simply no the case.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous me said...

Question to Anonymous 2(FYI: create a user name for you so it's easy to respond to). What do you see as Milton's best interests in mind? This intrigues me.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

No plan has been developed yet to present to anyone. One person can't do that. The entire Board of Selectmen must lead that effort.

As a practical matter, Milton does live within its budget. The question is what should the budget be. Last June a good majority of the residents indicated they wanted to preserve levels of service and agreed to tax themselves more to get it.

The new school buildings were part of a changed agenda. After all, those schools had been in tough shape for a long time and no one stepped forward until the mid 1990's to suggest we do something about it. Most towns don't find themselves in the position of needing to do something with every school in the school system.

The State fiscal crisis of two decades ago was caused by a recession. What the state lacked then, and we as a town lack today, is a properly funded stabilization fund to lessen the short term effects of such events.

That's why I suggested a mechanism for doing so in this article.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Anonymous (agree with you,"me," on the need for ID so we can at least talk to each other) - can you clarify a few points? Do you mean a written commitment live within a budget -- in which case, you can make a budget and then raise revenues to support it -- or live within the projected revenues we receive in a year without any additional means to raise funds, such as an override or a tax increase?

If it's the latter, and I suspect it is, I'd refer you to some of Phil's earlier posts where he's done a very good job of illustrating the flawed math underlying Prop 2.5. In a nutshell, costs increase more quickly than revenues if you don't find new sources of additional revenue -- through new development of some sort that increases the tax base, or via a mechanism such as an override that increases taxation on the current base.

Any politician would be at the outset ensuring a steady degradation of services to ALL Miltonians -- not just parents with kids in school -- if they signed such a pledge. Firefighters, police, public works -- all suffer.

I hear a lot of talk about how we spend too much in Milton, but look around -- we have acceptable but certainly not luxurious services. The only public pools in town are owned and maintained by the Boy Scouts and a foundation. We paid less of a % for our new schools than any other town in the state -- and I challenge anyone to argue we shouldn't have rebuilt the ramshackle mess that was our public school infrastructure.

It's a revenue problem. That's not a progressive, tax and spend, liberal perspective. It's just plain old mathematics! We have a disproportionately large residential portion of our tax base, a large percentage of land that pays small (but growing) alternative tax payments due to exempted status, and state funding has fallen significantly over the years.

Looking at the alternatives, we could live within what would be ever-decreasing means, but within a few years that would certainly mean fairly rapid flight of citizens who can afford to move, leaving fewer and fewer of us behind to shoulder an ever-increasing share of the burden.

It's a problem you can't run away from. There is no magical "status quo" that keeps things in balance and somehow gives everyone most of what they need without ever increasing our costs. If there was, we'd have found it already. In the past, the bargain was made by virtually ignoring the schools physical plant for just about 40 years. That card has already been played. In my opinion, status quo is not even an available option.

And this, for me, is the best reason to be hopeful -- that we have an electorate for whom slightly more than half of those who voted have some sense that we need to try some new ways to solve our problems, and a new face and fresh set of ideas to complement our existing Selectmen.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Milton's best interest in mind is an effort to include all even if they may not be as vocal as others but whose needs such as living within limited budgets are quite real. betsy

10:25 PM  
Anonymous me said...

Betsy, I am a father of two children under six and every day I worry about living on a limited budget. You make it seem like everyone who voted for Fagan wants to just pay more taxes. That is just not true. I would like to pay less taxes too, but without sacrificing what makes this town so great.

This is what I think Milton's best interests should be. It's a time tested formula:

top-notch schools = better property values for everyone

the best town services and infrastructure = better values for everyone and a better quality of life

To think that we can get this for free is a bit unrealistic. Now, I don't think anyone has said here: "Let's not think about the people who can't afford to live here." In fact, I think this is where you are missing the point: ALL of us want to live in Milton and want to make it the best town possible. I also think we need to think of ways where we can make it more affordable for people. Guess what does that? Bringing in more revenue to the town through other things besides property taxes. (I personally think Prop 2.5 is killing towns in Mass., but that's another topic. Was that the progressive radicals' fault as well? When that happened, I think I was in seventh grade!)

So the biggest difference I see is that Mullen just kept saying NO or KEEP THE TOWN AS IT IS. Well the TOWN AS IT IS won't be able to afford maintaining itself if we just say, ok every 5 years we'll just have an override. Mullen, as much as I think served this town well and continues to do so as Town Clerk, had no ideas to solve the budget crisis. Fagan, at least says: let's work with what we have and run this town like a business.

If you feel so strongly, I urge you to email Kathy Fagan (her mail is still on her website: Kathy is actually very open to hearing from ALL Milton residents, and I don't think I could have said the same for Mullen.

Also, I ask that don't make assumptions about what you think are "radical progressives" who are "taking over this town". I just want the best for my kids and I want to make roots in this wonderful town. I love Milton just as much as anyone else, and I'm sure you do too. But don't you think having an atmosphere and leadership that tries to find what we all have in common is the way to go?

Keep asking the questions, and go to Citizens Speak at the Selectman's meetings. I think you would be surprised to find out that Fagan is actually a compassionate and welcoming leader who also knows what it is like to make financial sacrifices.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... since no plan has been developed, then isn't Fagan engaging in the same "no plan" governence Mr. Mullen was critizied for?

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it amazing the degree to which individuals - under no circumstances - will give no credit to the voters for the "awful" condition Milton is in.

But that would be inconvenient, so it's used to take down politicians instead. I also find it disingenuous to now claim we have "hard" work. Really, it wasn't hard work for the "status quo" who are portrayed as well meaning deluded folks who can't add.

I have seen no one claim we can get things for free. Telling people who disagree with you they only "believe" they have Milton's best interest in mind is insulting.

I've seen a lot of FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - tactics used. My favorite is the "status quo" is dangerous. Don't bother with the fact that the schools were initialed well before this election under the care of the "status quo". Just keep hammering on the negative.

As for the budget, why don't we live within our revenue? To claim our costs rise too fast to stay within our means is patently false. Corporations do it every day. Or is it that we simply we can't afford the expansion of services that are coveted by the tax and spend progressive agenda? Proposing revenue plans without wide spread support creates the illusion we can spend more than we actually can.

Fiscal responsibility is about living within your means and forgoing the pet project until it can be paid for.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

The status quo is a segment of voters. And its hardly insulting to think that what they think is best for the town is in fact not. We make that sort of determination about political candidates and parties every election.

The status quo is dangerous to our future. We are on a collision with fiscal reality and we must do something about it.

That our costs grow faster than our revenue is a rather obvious fact each. Corportations by and large grow each year. When they have problems they make cuts. So do we. But unlike corporations, communities decide whether they wish to preserve service levels or not by a vote. The majority of your fellow residents decided last year thay wanted to do just that.

Your claim that our problem is an expansion of services or pet projects is simply incorrect. The progressive agenda that I described has nothing to do with new services. We're trying desperately as a town to save the services we have.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous jcc said...

Fact: Union workers get mandated raises every year.
Fact: Many of our town workers (even our beloved lunch ladies) are union.
Fact: Even maintaining the baseline of existing service levels will demand increased revenue each year.
Fact: Our selectmen need to raise more money every year.
Fact: Our future, and our children's future (if we want to remain multi-generational) is dependant on the decisions we make TODAY.

Its not a spending issue, its an income and debt ratio issue.

The bottom line is that we need to be creative and open to all new ideas.

Last night's Selectmen Meeting was interesting. Someone's suggestion to use the DPW yard for rental space for large commercial vehicles was great. It wouldn't cost the town any upfront investment, doesn't require restructuring of the zoning or the land usage, and doesn't create a huge traffic burden. Let's keep an open mind toward ideas such as these as we work together to keep the town going forward.

We need to move on - and start problem solving, and not bashing each other. We all have different reasons why we live here.

Let's challenge each other to put ideas forward, and stop the progressive vs status quo discussion. This discussion isn't "progressing" anything...and demeans the current "status". Milton is a great town, with good leaders and committed volunteers.

Let's find solutions - otherwise your part of the problem!!!

2:40 PM  
Anonymous me said...

Amen to that, JCC. Finally, a comment that is insightful and thoughtful. I too thought that the meeting last night was more substantial than previous meetings and really tried to start attacking the problem.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what selectman meeting? Are meeting minutes of these meetings published? I was aware of the town meeting next week, but wasn't aware there was a meeting last night. What's the protocol in this town?

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Advance schedules and post-meeting reports of major Milton town meetings like Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Town Meeting itself, etc. should be prominently posted and easily accessible (not buried five clicks away) on the official town website, which is Perhaps they already are. But if they are not, something should be done to make it so.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Greg Wood said...

Ok - full disclosure before I get to my post. I've been a resident of Milton for 11 years; I grew up in Acton and moved to the town after spending 10 years in Boston. I've never been particularly active in politics and this last election was really the first time I volunteered for anything. I did so for the same reason many men do things, their wife asked /demanded it. We supported Cathy because we wanted change. It's a great town and past volunteer politicians have done a great job. Who wants that job anyway? All headaches, no personal gain... better people then me. How much change will happen? Towns move slow, even with newly elected officials but in meeting Cathy I am sure she will do what she can to address some of the major issues. All politics gets personal at some point and mud slinging has been going on since the Romans but what I find very interesting is how zealous people become with local politics. Normal, rational hard working people become somewhat irrational, ranting haranguers. Phil - I would make people put their name in for registration. It’s too easy to hide behind anonymous. Same theory as why people flip each other off in a car. Wouldn’t flip someone off in the sidewalk, would you? This is a great blog, let’s keep the dialogue open and less acrimonious.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Julio said...

I agree with Greg. Keep the ideas flowing and the dialogue open. Who knows? The idea that could reach wide-spread support for Milton could come out of this blog.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Thanks for your comments.

I'm loathe to prevent people from posting anonymously. Some are simply shy or unused to the internet world. I don't want to miss out on their viewpoints. Anonymity can cloak anger, frustration or base motives. It can also allow people to speak from the heart in a constructive way. In the two years I've been maintaining this blog only the recent single incident of mindless disruption has occurred. I think if I had ignored the individual after the second comment revealed their goal, it wouldn't have been so bad.


I attended last nights Selectmen's meeting and I agree with your response to Webster Collins' idea for utilitizing the DPW Yard.

There are two concerns that I would like to see addressed.

First, I think there is a zoning issue that must be overcome. If so, we need to have public meetings to assess the views of the neighbors and what impact the planned use would have.

Second, at some point in the not too distant future we're going to be faced with updating, improving or replacing our DPW facility. If you ever had a tour of it I think you'd agree that it is deficient in many respects. I would want to make sure that whatever use we made of it, and whatever timeframe a potential lease would entail doesn't interfere with any future actions we might take with this facility.

For info on the DPW facility:

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "status quo" is not dangerous to Milton. The new schools are proof of this. Politely, and substantiating, the progressive agenda is "better" in your opinion is moving forward with respect - not tell people they endorse "dangerous" ideas.

To the best of my knowledge we have new leadership with no published plan that has wide spread support from citizens thereby creating the illusion of a solution.

For example, I consider the DPW proposal a bad idea, the increased traffic will hurt the local corner store there - it's difficult enough to park, the fact that heavy vehicles (i.e. commercial vehicles) will degrade the roads at an accelerated rate which the Milton citizens will have to pay for, it's doubtful adjacent owner occupied homes will want the additional noise and likely decrease in property value, also who's liable for any personal or property damage on town property? Milton is enough of a cut-through town without adding to it in my opinion.

In short, this proposal places a dispropotionate amount of the downside on a small contingent of citizens to benefit people who won't be affected as severely. Considering the aspersions I've seen cast about - whether intended or not - I pray for the members of our community that will suffer from the ill concieved proposals that I seriously doubt anyone would want adjacent to their home where their children play.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Julio said...

Note to anonymous: at the selectman's meeting on Thursday, Mr. Collins was a guest of Selectman Shields, who has been conisdering this idea with Mr. Collins. Again, if you feel strongly about this (and yes, there are questions which Phil raised up front), you should contact the Selectmen (if you haven't done so already) or speak at Citizens Speak. Also, what specific ideas do you have about how we can gain more revenue in this town without totally relying on overrides? Let us know? What suggestions do you have?

Here are my two: what about the Hendries building? Can we get someone there to put on the tax roll? Also, what about Granite Ave or the Canton line (near Fuller). Several Fuller residents have expressed interest in having a small commercial area there.

What do you think?

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing revenue in the short term, I don't see how taxes can't be raised. It's also inherently much more fair in my opinion - the people with the most to lose pay the most.

As a starting point, I would propose proactively sending a copy of the town expenses with the quarterly tax bill going forward. Repeatedly seeing what we are paying for will very likely motivate people to find creative solutions or scale back expectations.

For example, what percentage of the school budget goes into adminstration? Some group will get annoyed if it's too high for them, some group will point out the need for some adminstation ...and eventually some middle ground would be found.

I believe alot of the aversion to taxes boils down to not knowing, in detail, what things cost. Too often it's a very coarse description with often no assessment of appropriateness. The growing disparity of CEO pay vs. the average worker is a simular dynamic.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also think encouraging local restuarants would be great for this town. I just don't see how you can prevent it from becoming a McDonald's on every corner.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living within our means is very achievable. We know what our union contracts obligate us to. The problem with union contracts - they are negotiated without review and approval by a general public vote before being signed. This allows them to place a disproportionate influence on the community by endorsing candidates.

Corporations don't always grow, and the best know when it's time to raise prices to support their cost models (i.e. taxes).

10:16 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

In fact most corporations do always grow, and they raise their prices and they give their employees raises, at least as generous as government employees at the municipal level receive.

We are living within our means, to the level of services that the residents of the town have chosen. The continued maintenance of this service level is not sustainable without increased revenues and/or a slowing of the cost increases.

Union contracts on the town side are not official until they have been accepted and funded by a vote of town meeting as part of the entire budget process. The state law treats school contracts differently. The School Committee can negotiate and approve a contract. However, there is still no funding mechanism for such raises unless the town meeting, on the recommendation of the Warrant Committee, awards the Schools a sufficient increase to cover those raises. If not, the school administration must fund those raises by cutting, usually by cutting the number of staff.

If people want to know what things cost and where the money goes then they need to roll up their sleaves and do some work. A Warrant of close to 100 pages is published each year by the Warrant Committee. The Town publishes an annual town report on the town's financial condition and other matters. A detailed description of town expenses is simply too much to include in the quarterly tax mailings.

Mr. Collins proposal for the DPW yard obviously needs to be reviewed and public hearings held to assess impact. No good purpose is served by dismissing the idea out of hand or offering conclusions about impacts when we have no information on which to base such conclusions.

The status quo is less an idea than a mindset. Failing to sufficiently recognize our problems and the needed urgency of finding solutions is indeed dangerous to maintaining something like our current way of life in Milton.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I believe the Hendries idea is interesting only if abutters are willing to create parking to support it.

There is a strong movement to replace convenient parking (i.e. in front of a coffee shop) with inconvenient parking in that area. I suspect this is devastating for a business that I perceive depends heavily on speed. It very easy to make coffee at home, if you need to spend 5 minutes to park, and then walk back and forth to get it, I think a number of customers will simply turn on their coffee maker at home.

In general, it seems to me the need to deliver improvements now - without a plan in place prior to the election - insufficient time is spent looking at the consequences of proposed actions. A fair number of these suggestions should be put forward to a public vote with some consideration for those who are disproportionately on the downside of its effects (i.e. lower property taxes for abutters). More democratic and less republic decision making in my opinion would create short term turmoil while everyone learns to respectfully disagree - a skill I think atrophies without consistent use - but long term benefit to our community.

In response to a previous post, I do voice my opinion in other forums. I prefer anonymity because of the vindictiveness of some exchanges. This allows individuals to participate without fear that they, or their loved ones, will be ostracized. As you can see from my recent post I respond well to respectful dialog. I appreciate you reaching out to a dissenting minority in this forum.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I agree that posters should be able to post anonymously, even though my experience has been that it increases the likelihood of vindictive responses and actions. It's a double edged sword.

I'm not aware of any proposals that have not been sufficiently studied in terms of consequences. The central avenue situation has been looked at for some time, and we received professional help in assessing it. I simply don't accept that the increased number of spots in the original plan are "inconvenient" spots. If that were the case, the businesses in East Milton square couldn't survive. I often park some distance to get a Starbucks coffee, rent a video, or go to Breuggers for a bagel. Furthermore, with the planned housing being built the amount of walk to business is going to increase.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having one body decide what to spend and another decide how to generate revenue is the core of the problem. Providing yearly expenses, instead of one with a tax bill (i.e. I get a receipt itemizing what I bought when I go to a store when I buy it) and without sufficient detail obscures the consequences.

Let the citizens approve in a general vote on contracts. I have yet to see a compelling argument against it.

I also reiterate, corporations don't always grow. In fact, I've been at some that provided NO yearly pay raise and in other years PAY CUTS. Keeping with the corporate model, employees are increasingly paying for more of their benefits - an effect pay cut. Furthermore, corporations layoff employees all the time. We must cease this entitlement mentality - it's a structural problem in government. Jobs or pay raises at the expense of tax payers without a proporationate benefit to them are a problem. Corporations constantly review the value of their activies and personnel. Hence the migration to outsource functions and exit markets.

Futhermore I wasn't "...dismissing the idea out of hand or offering conclusions about impacts when we have no information..." the DPW proposal as you chose to charaterize my post. I provided a rationale and there's plenty of evidence to support heavy loads on a road will degrade it faster, nor should empathizing with others be discarded. Critizing me for it isn't productive.

Increased planned housing in light of fiscal short falls contributes to our problems. There's an old saying "when your in a hole and want to get out, stop digging!"

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experiences are a bit differenct with regard to East Milton. The biggest reason I don't go to East Milton often is because I find it difficult to spontaneouly get things done there.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

You said the proposal was a bad idea, and listed specific impacts you concluded it would have. Sounds like a dismissal out of hand to me. Nowhere did you even state it should be studied. I'm glad your apparently willing to support such an idea.

Your corporate analogy simply doesn't work. Yes, benefits have been reduced in the corporate sector. But the pay is better. And yes we need to get a handle on the benefits costs for our town employees. I've worked with dozens of corporations over the years, and studied many others for my humble investment portfolio. A corporation seldom doesn't grow, and seldom doesn't offer increases in wages. Yes, they cut employees from time to time, as does the Town of Milton. And just as corportations do, the town reviews the value of its services and positions on an ongoing basis. We're not in the business of pursuing markets, but providing desired services to the residents.

I suspect you realize that getting a receipt for a trip to the store is a little different than a budget for an $80 million entity.

Pay increases that cannot be funded under Proposition 2 1/2 are approved by the voters. It's called an override election. I'm not about to change the form of government this nation and the New England region has enjoyed for centuries for problems that we are quite capable of addressing if we simply try.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly we interpret "...dismissal out of hand..." differently. To me it's to discard without consideration.

Corporate analogies do apply; markets are to corporations as services are to governments. Contrary to the assertion, private sector pay is not always better. Government sector benefits, vaction pay, retirement packages, sick day policies, etc., can often be much better. Private sector employees generally get a paycheck, benefits which they increasingly pay for, and a retirement that they fund. If the retirement fund doesn't perform well they are left to fend for themselves.

There is a big difference in recieving a bill for goods in the private and public sectors, under the current method, it's unnecessarily difficult to reconcile expenses with services. This is exactly why there's a push for managed health care.

Override elections are the result of an inability to live within the town's revenue stream. I think it would occur less often, if at all, with more voting. Town governments change form all the time (i.e. they sometimes grow into cities with a Mayor). I never said the form of government needs to change (i.e. contracts can be negotiated by town officals and approved by vote). It's a straw man arguement to suggest it. Nor is it up to you alone to do so, "I'm not about to change the form of government this nation and the New England region..."

1:31 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Yes we do interpret the words differently. There was nothing in your comment that suggested otherwise. Rather than going round and round, why don't you simply make your position clear.

Do you favor an exploration of the idea to assess benefits and risks?

Markets are pursued for profits, which accrue to the owners of the entity. Governments pursue services, and only those services their constituents desire.

The better benefits of government employees are offset by wage levels in the private sector, and the future prospects for a lessening of public sector benefits is quite real. But this is neither here nor there. Corporations assess their budgets and employees in the pursuit of profit. Governments assess them to provide services within budgeted amounts. They both utilize cutbacks when necessary, they both essentially grow in size over time.

The revenue stream permitted under Proposition 2 1/2 is an entirely arbitrary measure, plucked out of the air with no basis in financial reality. No corporation would hamstring itself in such a way. The revenue stream of a government entity is partly dependent on what the community decides to tax itself, just as a corporations revenue stream is partly the result of what price increases it might choose to take. The shortsightedness of an arbitrary number is what part of what causes overrides. And the residents decide whether they wish to do so.

You most certainly did advocate for a change in form of government. We don't practice direct democracy in this country. And having townwide votes on the myriad issues we fact wouldn't make much sense if we wished it.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous julio said...

I think the argument being posted by anonymous that compares town government as private corporation is a bit off.

Before I chime in, I will say that I am currently the VP of a large publisher. My yearly product development budget is in the tens of millions, and I have a staff of 25 permanent people and countless of other resources, both internal and external.

The biggest difference between private corporations and town governments is simple: as a businessman, I can chose to not produce a product even if the market demands it for the simple fact that I cannot afford it (my costs are too high.) A government probably couldn't say: let's not provide services like police and fire or let's reduce school services because we can't afford it. There lies the dilemma.

No matter how you feel about Milton, or what you're politics are, the fact is simple: our costs run higher than our revenue. The annual town budgets reflect this and I do think that all department heads do an incredible job with what little they have.

What I do think works as a business analogy is that fact that we as a town are competing against other towns to get as much out of ourt revenue to maintain our budgets. So, while parts of Boston that border Milton are developing at a steady clip, for example, we seem to be a bit stuck. Whenever something gets suggested, we do very little in my opinion to really epxlore the pros and cons, and when we do explore them and do the right thing (i.e. Central Ave planning), we have a way to not come through, which is unfortunate. (And yes, I still frequent all the Central Ave businesses and will continue to do so, but to not follow up on a plan that had reached consensus to me was short-sighted. Quick aside: I never had a parking problem in Central Ave, and it always perplexes me that once people can't find a parking space right in front of a business, they think there is no parking. But I respect the businesses there, I just find it hard to believe that they would think they would go out of business, knowing that in a few years, the population on that street could double or even triple.)

Nonetheless,I think this election raised a very important issue that no one is talking about: what can we do with what we have, and how can we add more revenue to to this town and be able to control our own destiny instead of desparately accepting opportunities in the next 5 years that we don't want? Because no matter how you slice it, costs will continue to go up. There is no magic cost-cutting bullet out there, but credit Fagan for at leats offering the idea of joing the state's group insurance plan or trying to see how we can run Town Hall more efficiently.

The one thing that businesses do that governments resist is how to adapt to change. Just because something was done in government for decades means that in 2007 it is still the right way to do something. That's how businesses don't survive and we need to question this for governments as well. Why can't we question how Town Hall manages its money, just like why can't we question the Schools? That's not progressive or dangerous, it's just approaching governance more like a business.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, You said "The status quo is less an idea than a mindset. Failing to sufficiently recognize our problems and the needed urgency of finding solutions is indeed dangerous to maintaining something like our current way of life in Milton." I say, The status quo is a mindset which recognizes the the problem of people no longer able to affort tax increases and, yes, there is an urgency but what is considered dangerous is the idea of increased taxes, inability to pay, loss of homes, and diminished quality of life and fear. Until we find an answer to increased revenue we need to learn to live within our means. This means looking at our biggest dollars - the schools, and reigning them in. There are methods of teaching that are more cost effective than what we are paying for. Betsy

6:17 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Then the status quo mindset is out of sync with the majority of the town, because the voters have chosen overrides and preserved services.

Obviously we need to find ways to increase revenues. But overrides will continue to be needed from time to time. How often, and how big depends on our success in cost controls and revenue enhancement.

What do you think should be done to increase revenue?

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My position is quite clear, we need to live within our means. That we consistently need overrides suggests we don't. Therefore, I believe we need more voter oversight prior to being committed to increased costs (i.e. informed consumers).

Fundementally, I don't see any difference in voting to endorse a contract, negotiated by our leaders, that will be binding to our community and a tax override. They both commit citizens to pay more. However, there is one thing the former provides that the latter doesn't - oversight. Nor am I suggesting every little decision needs voter approval.

Why are you so opposed to letting voters review and approve of major committments prior to binding our community? How exactly does that change our form of government?

6:52 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I understand your point. The problem for you is the voters do get to decide whether we pay more or not. If they don't wish to pay, they simply reject the override. As you yourself admit, voting for an override is no different than voting for a employee raise. So you've argued against your own point.

Therefore, our "means" is decided by the voters. And there is plenty of oversight, exactly as our bylaws, and those of all towns provide.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, I think the success of the overrides has been very much a political exercise that is not necessarily reflective of the community. I love democracy and it shall prevail but there is more to a community than politics and we have people here who are tapped out in terms of their ability to meet increased taxes. I agree that overrides are part of the make up of supporting our Town services - 2.5% is not a sufficient growth factor, I believe that our citizens should and will support modest increases in the tax rate reflecting their support of the services provided by those increases. We have had too much reliance on scare tactics and doomsday efforts that diminish the confidence of the taxpayers. To answer your question about increased revenue - Be business friendly - support Central Ave small stores, engage the townspeople in efforts to seek increased funding from State and Federal sources and in the mean time cut costs. betsy

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, we both know I did no such thing. I specifically mention an important difference. I guess you just missed reading it. Here it is again, please note that last sentence.

"Fundementally, I don't see any difference in voting to endorse a contract, negotiated by our leaders, that will be binding to our community and a tax override. They both commit citizens to pay more. However, there is one thing the former provides that the latter doesn't - oversight."

Why are you so opposed to voter oversight prior to major contract commitments?

The oversight you reference isn't working or we wouldn't be debating our finances. The oversight I suggest improves greatly on relying on the wisdom of a few well meaning individuals.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Of course overrides are a political excercise. And they most certainly do reflect the sense of the community.

There have been no scare tactics. Only accurate accounts of the actions that would be necessitated if overrides don't pass. Voters are smart enough to figure that out.

I'm afraid you failed the test on offering revenue increasing ideas. Being friendly to business doesn't increase our revenues, unless you mean increasing the number of businesses.

We have all the people we need working to get more aid from other government sources and have had successes in doing so.

It is a fantasy to think we don't have to look to ourselves to find more revenues, including finding ways of increasing our commercial tax base.

And, or course, cutting costs is not a revenue raising enterprise.

Would you like to take another crack at real revenue raising ideas?

7:52 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Thank you for repeating your words which show exactly that you think there is no difference between voting on an override and voting for a contract. Then why do you need to vote on a contract?

The difference between you and me is that I don't believe they are the same at all. Overrides are part of our system of government. Voting on contracts is not.

If voters didn't want to vote for the money to fund contracts, they wouldn't when presented with overrides.

So it seems you do support a change in our form of government.

The oversight isn't working to you because you don't want to pay the taxes and don't agree with the decisions made in the oversight method. I'm afraid that is not a lack of oversight. And that oversight is provided by a good number of wise people.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, Overrides are a political exercise that have taken on a technological strategy that exceeds the ability of some members of the community to compete in the new playing field. You may think you have won support for these overrides but you fail to consider those who do not support them and cannot support them. Technology and political aggressiveness has won a vote but not an answer. There is no one answer but I do not agree with your idea that there are enough people working on outside sources of funding. There is never enough people working on this problem, locally, statewide, or federal, all ideas and efforts, large and small must be considered and valued.
I believe there have been scare tactics and insults to the intelligence of the voters - many have been turned off and feel that the system is hopeless. Perhaps I failed your question on increasing revenue but, yes, I do mean that being business friendly will encourage more business. betsy

8:58 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Oh please!

Betsey, overrides are votes. Both people supporting and opposing them have the same ability to communicate their messages to the voters. Of course support has been won for them, based on the the voters assessment of the facts. Are you now claiming that democratic voting is not a fair way for a community to decide what it wants to do? You seem to be on pretty thin ice.

You can believe, if you wish, that not enough people are working on outside revenue, or that scare tactics have been used, but without some evidence to support your beliefs they're not very convincing. It's not up to others to bail us out so that we can enjoy one of the lowest percentages of commercial development in the entire state. That's selfish.

The cases have been made for overrides, and the fact that you don't like the outcome doesn't mean we should pretend they aren't fair or claim, without support, that scare tactics were used.

A democracy always must consider the views of the minority. But we don't sacrifice majority rule in the process. Our expenditures on services as a town are low compared to comparable communities. The residents who vote for overrides aren't even trying to correct other needs we have that require more money. They're only trying to keep our level of services where they are.

How many oppponents can't afford overrides and how many simply don't want to is an open question. It's very difficult to know the breakdown.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, An example of Scare Tactics - Last years override - Cunningham and Collicot (the 1909 building) will close and all elementary students will be housed in Tucker and Glover. I do not believe for one minute that those parents would allow that to happen, nor should they. Our school committee has a history of presenting the worst case scenario in stead of the best that they can do within budget and the best or improved case with increased funding.betsy

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

phil, here is the relevent sentence by itself.

"However, there is one thing the former provides that the latter doesn't - oversight."

Fundemental does not mean exactly the same. Subtle but important differences is the concept I'm am describing with the above quote. If you still disagree, that's your choice.

The current system makes it difficult to reconcile cost with services. It's analogous to the effort to reconcile health care costs with managed health care. Disagreeing the dissenters in this forum doesn't make it any easiler to determine the value for tax dollars spent.

I find it interesting you won't answer my question. If you don't want to answer just say so...

Why do you oppose voter oversight to major obligations prior to binding the community?

11:03 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Sorry, that was not a scare tactic.

Without an override there would have been massive layoffs of staff. You can't put kids in new classrooms without teachers, nor was their money to cover the significantly added costs of utilities that these new, much larger spaces required.

Again, you claim about what the School Committee has done is simply false. You simply don't want to accept the consequences of the votes you would like to have seen.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Your relevant portion as you call it doesn't change anything in the discussion.

THe current system does not make it difficult to reconcile cost and services. It is no different than that used by virtually all communities.

I find it amusing you keep suggesting a mechanism that isn't provided for in our form of government, and then claim you are suggesting a change in form of government!

Obviously you simply don't wish to acknowledge obvious facts. Point to a government at the Federal, State or local level that approves wage increases, or explain how under our charter and bylaws such a thing is possible?

I already know the answer.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose you just don't want to answer the question.

Show me exactly where citizens are expressly forbidden in our form of government from voting.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Of course I've answered it several times.

It violates our form of government. Futhermore, you it quite well.

I suggest you at least attempt some useful commentary. The sour grapes must be getting bitter by now.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Citizens are entitled to vote on virtually anything. It's called a referendum/ballot question. It's been done over and over again many times. If you disagree, you can look at the state ballot questions as proof.

You've run out of counter agruments and you know it.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not it at all. I would like our asst supint @$110K/yr to devise an educational plan that we can live with - and if he were really capable and worthy of his salery he would work with his equally well paid team of professional educators to devise a program that is effective and affordable at the least and exceptional if they were talented, creative and worthy of their 6 figure saleries. betsy

11:31 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

No, citizens are not permitted to vote in a way that binds any authority in which the power is duly vested.

I suggest you read the town charter and bylaws, and learn something about the way government works.

There are no state ballot questions on wage increases.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

The school committee has final say on the budget and they devise budgets the town wishes, as the override votes indicate. You seem to have a problem accepting that reality.

Your resentment of paying highly educated and qualified people salaries they deserve is not much of a contribution to the discussion.

What exactly do you know about the school budget?

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I resent that they should be more effective. I demand, as a citizen, that they perform better. What does any interested citizen know of the school budget given their lack of transparency - a fact that even the sc admits to. betsy

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:49 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

So you don't really know if they are performing poorly or not. You simply know that you resent paying more taxes and for some reason want to blame a single department.

No very helpful in understanding our problems or finding solutions, I'm afraid.

How much should an assistant superintendent get paid, by the way?

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"citizens are not permitted to vote in a way that binds any authority in which the power is duly vested."

Patently false, the state is duly vested with the authority to implement a seat belt law. The voters repealed it.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Because such laws are not duly vested in the legislature only. We're not talking about laws. We taking about the authority to enter into contracts and pass budgets on a local level.

These distinctions are not that difficult.

Still haven't come up with a single example of a government entity approving wage increases I see.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:57 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Plus, I hate to point out to you that we have a seat belt law.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was repealed and then passed again by the legislature. This is common knowledge. If you disagree, your certainly entitled to be wrong.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Of course it's common knowledge. The legislature passed in.

But our bylaws and charter does not give the power over contracts to the voters. Your ignorance of that fact is why you continue to take about irrelevancies like the seatbelt law.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

phil - it's late, I'm done But I know one thing - I don't care if he gets paid 50K or 150k - he's getting our tax dollars for doing a job and he's not busting down any walls. betsy

12:03 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


I'm afraid you assertions just don't square with the facts. Apparently you are bothered by the salary.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The salery is our tax dollars - the job is our town's future - our quality of life, I said I don't care about the $$$ - I want results from the professionals we are paying. Do you disagree with this? betsy

12:10 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

We're getting results.

And the problem with your complaining, Betsey, is that is focuses on one department and one salary. Why is that?

You failed to provide a single idea for raising revenue. You choose to believe that we could run the town on less but don't exhibit any understanding of the budgets. I can only conclude that you only wish to not pay more taxes. That's your right, but it doesn't make your accusations true.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, I do not mean to accuse or complain. I do not have the answers or the ideas behind raising revenues. I do not blame one dept or one position for our roblems. I do belive that cost cutting is an importnat part of our financial well being. I also believe that those who are paid good saleries should be held accountable for the services we need and pay for. Wish I had more intellectual and saving thoughts to offer. betsy

12:24 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Then why have you mentioned only one department? Cost cutting goes on all the time. We can do more but we can't cost cut our way to financial strength. We must also find more revenues.

The people who are in place in town departments are accountable and do a fantastic job, often with too few resources.

I think you should offer yourself for service on the Warrant Committee. You'd get to spend three years looking very closely at every budget in town and I suspect what you would learn would change your mind about job performance and the reality of our fiscal situation. You still might not support overrides, but it wouldn't be because you believed we have enough money. You'd just be saying you don't want to, or can't spend the money.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean what I am about to write below as a sincere question, not a rhetorical one.

I was reading the Globe's summation of the Fagan victory in the Sunday paper. The piece said that Mullen and Shields were either slow or reluctant to sign a document in "support of diversity". Could someone please tell me what it means to "support diversity"?

"Diversity" means "a range of different things" or "variety". I don't want to get bogged down in semantics, and I know that the word "diversity" has come to evoke deeper things about matters of race. In fact, due to my own professional experience (which I will not go into), I believe I have been exposed to as much factual information about race as most people in this town. And I consider myself sensitive to racial issues. But just what does "support for diversity" actually mean?

If I don't know what it really means, how can I make a judgement about Shileds and Mullen balking at affirming such a document with their signatures? Why does the Globe ASSUME that people know what this term means? I would wager that if you asked ten people what "support for diversity' means, you'd get ten different answers.

So I ask again, in all sincerity, what does the term "support for diversity" mean?

Thank you. (I can't figure out how to sign in under a name so call me Trench Worker).

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a mostly passive reader to these posts, it is sad that it now encompasses silencing our critics. Growing up I learned even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

If your interested in learning more about the "No Place for Hate" organization, you can do a google search under Massachusetts No Place for Hate and find out more about it.

I think most people understand that diversity refers to people of different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

No on is silencing critics, as I suspect you know quite well.

The individual in question has had plenty of opportunity to state views. But when the comments become devoid of content and sink to repetitive, petty quibbling as nothing more than expressions of frustration it adds nothing to the comment section.

Perhaps you have something to say of some substance about the issues we face?

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Matthews:

I understand and generally embrace the ideals of the No Place For Hate agenda. In the post Civil Rights Movement era, Americans must challenge themselves to confront their own deeply entrenched biases and to work together to cultivate communities where all citizens participate in an environment that is welcoming and encouraging. In fact, I think Milton is one of the most unique towns in the country (and I travel extensively) in terms of its racial diversity and financial viability. We are a town that might, in the end, actually make a significant difference in closing the "achievement gap" through active promotion of reasonable and coherent programs that address that issue.

That said, I still doubt any assumption that citizens universally understand the meaning of "supporting diversity in town". And when those words are used to characterize the motives and cultural sensibilities of elected officials, I believe it slanderous not to elaborate their meaning.

Matt Carroll has written three times now (by my count) summing up Mr. Mullen's recent political mistakes. When Mr. Carroll writes that Mullen and Shields were "reluctant to support a proclamation that supported diversity in town", I assume that many readers inferred that these two civic leaders were insensitive to racial issues. I would argue that virtually no one knows what "supporting diversity in town" really means and, if they think they do, their own understanding of that concept is, most likely, different from their neighbors'. Because of that ambiguity, I think Mr. Carroll's reporting was prejudicial and dangerous.

Mr. Carroll's most recent report states again that Mr. Mullen said (according to David Colton), "these things are best left quiet". And I ask again, what are "these things"? Are they matters of diversity or race? Or was Mullen (if we are to believe the disgruntled Colton's account), talking about his ill-advised interactions with the leaders of No Place For Hate?

Of course Carroll notes that only a few days later, the proclamation passed unanimously at the next selectmen's meeting. But his reporting had already done its damage. Mullen and Shields had been characterized as racially insensitive -- maybe worse. And the election became a referendum of old-guard versus new. However, if Carroll's reporting is reflective of the manner in which the new guard chooses to operate, if tainting sitting politicans with the patina of bigotry is accepted without question, then we're all in trouble.

The legacy of racism in this country is the single most damaging collective "sin" from which we are still recovering. Those of us whose forebearers came to America after the abolition of slavery have an obligation to remember that significant priveledges that were bestowed upon us were reciprocally denied to people of other races, particularly the decendants of slaves. In a town such as Milton, where home ownership is one of the most obvious attributes of the middle-class, it is important not to forget that people of other racial and ethnic groups will need help, just as we had, to move up social and economic ladders. Inclusiveness is the key to building a better town.

Still, as crucial as awareness of bigotry and prejudice is, we must also ask our news media not to use code words and shorthand in critical reporting. If Mullen and Shields have a history of being bigoted or insensitive, prove it. Don't use a second-hand account by a former town employee (David Colton) with an ax to grind. Don't write that two of our selectmen were reluctant to sign a statment supporting diversity without asking them to expound on their reasons. If they refuse requests for an interview, tell us that.

I think Matt Carroll's reporting was extremely lacking in professionalism. He never expanded on his first account, never explained David Colton's dubious motives, never quoted a rebuttal from Shields or Mullen, never reported reactions from citizens, never appeared to clarify his own disjointed, confusing and contradictory account.

Trench Worker

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Trench Worker
How about Mullen's bringing up the idea that people have sent hate letters to themselves in the past when he was asked by Carroll about the racist hate letter that Deborah Fleton received? What is your comment about that? That was a direct quote of Mullen. What does it say about Mullen that he would imply she sent it to herself?

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mullen should have kept his mouth shut from the start. His rant against the No Place For Hate people was asinine. The comment that insinuated that Ms. Felton might have written the letter she received was inflammatory and tragically prejudicial.

Mr. Mullen has a history of verbal missteps with issues that are important to people who are sensitive about racial matters. His comments regarding the one hundred students coming into town to illegally access a Milton public education also betrayed a significant lack of diplomacy and tact. In a town such as Milton where African American and whites (particularly Irish Americans), are mixing in significant and important proportions, our political leaders, in particular, need to appreciate this unique cultural environment BEFORE they speak -- or act.

I expect the same of the news media. In fact, because they are reporting and, in Mr. Carroll's case, effectively commenting on sensitive social matters, they should try and go about their work more carefully. It appears to me that Mr. Carroll did an hour's work on the phone and then regurgiated the fruits of that time spent into three fragmented and confusing reports. I may agree with his implication that Mr. Mullen had a history of putting his foot in his mouth. But he did nothing to prove out the far darker and more damaging inferences in his stories. THAT he left to his readers' imaginations.


1:40 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Trench Worker,

I agree with much of what you say, but I think you significantly truncate your recap of the history of the No Place For Hate flap and the Globe's coverage.

It is true that in his short description of the issue Carroll does use the construction "supporting diversity".

But it is not accurate to infer that was the entire description. His article quite clearly said:

"The topic under discussion at the session was a clergy-backed proclamation that called on citizens to support civil rights and to banish prejudice".

So there was no confusion on the part of readers of the article, or Mr. Mullen and Mr. Shields, as to what was at issue.

The proclamation was passed at the next meeting. Apparently after a few days reflection, and a large turn out of Milton citizens at the citizen's speak portion of that meeting, Mullen and Shields had a change of heart. This fact was duly noted by Carroll in his article. Since it was so noted in the very same article, and since it was a fact that they had refused to agree to sign, it is not fair to claim "the damage had been done."

The damage done to Mullen involved a series of actions contained in the article, beginning with his outrageous treatment of MNPFH back in October. It was concern caused by that meeting and a hate letter sent to Deborah Felton which led two clergy members, representing the Milton Interfaith Clergy Association, to request the meeting and the proclamation. Next is the illegal meeting, deliberately called under false pretenses by Mr. Mullen. This is followed by the comments about "keeping things quiet" and Mr. Shields observation that the spat helped the two of them politically in some parts of town.

I think it was quite clear from the article that the "keep things quiet" reference was to the hate letter and/or the subject of the meeting.

It is also not true that Carroll did not quote both Shields and Mullen in rebuttal of the allegations in the story.

I think you do your argument a disservice when you seek to tarnish David Colton. His account of the conversation was supported by one of the clergy members at the meeting, and Mr. Mullen has never publically challenged the recollections of those two individuals.

So all in all I disagree with your assessment of the Globe story, and think there were ample facts to cause many voters concern.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Matthews, thank you for your reasoned and intelligent response. Thank you also for engaging in this dialogue with you readers. I must admit that I have read your blog for many months. To be honest, I interpreted your writings as didactic and patronizing to those whose views varied from your own. I admit I was wrong. This interaction you have had on the comments section has demonstrated to me that you are, in addition to a well informed and intelligent writer, more expansive and open-minded than I first understood -- more sociable, too. It must be exciting to you to see so many "lurkers" stepping forward to engage in the discussion here. Now you know, more people than you might have imagined were reading you all along.

Your points countering my argument are all valid. I would go back and review them one by one but the horse has been beaten enough. I must say though that I am not seeking to "tarnish" David Colton. I was merely trying to call into question his validity as a source -- one that was not countered in Carroll's reports. While his notes -- even his recollection -- may be correct, he certainly has a stake in seeing Mullen and Shields embarrassed due to the undeniable fact that he resigned here because of their alliance as selectmen. You are correct in saying that Mullen and Shields are, indeed, quoted in the first article. I just reviewed it to be sure. However, on the greater implication -- where does Mr. Mullen stand on diversity? -- there is no quest for clarification and the citizens of Milton are left to decide for themselves. The problem, in my view, is that those who bristle at embracing "diversity" are now interpreted to be "racists". Having the harshness and weight of that designation loom over Mr. Mullen is, in my view, unfair. No doubt he dug his own grave.

I believe that Milton is an incredibly fascinating microcosm of the race dilemma in the United States. How many towns can there be such as this one where African Americans are represented in such equal proportion to the country's population as a whole? How many towns with these racial and ethnic ratios are so vital and strong? How many towns are as attractive to young families that reflect this new "progressive" era? We need leaders who are cognizant of who we are now, not what we were twenty years ago. However, our leaders need to recognize that the citizens who grew up here, and those who look like or identify with those who grew up here, also have concerns about these seismic shifts in Milton's cultural climate. Creating a commercial tax base is no more important than communicating the value of living in this contemporary suburban environment. If relations erode because ciizens are reluctant to engage in discourse, some people would choose not to come here and others might choose to leave. I don't mean that as a threat. It's an historical fact. We need to do more than find racial detente. We need to come together and talk about what's important to us. We need to agree on why it's important to us to stay here, to live together, to be an integrated and unique community.

I worry that these kinds of polarizing situations force us out of the livingroom and back into the bedroom. "Embracing diversity" has to mean more than signing documents. We have to interact much much more to make the ideal a reality.


5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple observations from previous posts...

Does it bother anyone that the clergy that participated in the "illegal" meetings are not being called to task for it? They could have left at any time, but didn't. It seems Mr. Mullen is being tarred to the exclusion of the other participants. I suspect the "outrage" would have been different had he submitted to the coercion. Without presenting the document Mr. Mullen was suppose to sign, it is the reporters personal opinion that the language it contained was acceptable. It's a rather obvious omission to have excluded the statement from the report. Assuming good intentions, it's still a small step in a bad direction, regardless of intentions, for clergy to clandestinely meet with elected officials to persuade them to do things. There's a reason for the seperation of church and state.

It's also not unheard of for someone to stage an event to garner sympathy and/or support for a cause. However unlikely in this case, to this day, no one knows who sent the letter. For example, national campaigns have been known to filter out people who would likely disagree to create the illusion of wide spread support. Some criminals have been known to report their own crimes to throw off suspicion. The globe itself has written about the fallability of the clergy in this state. People have been known to engage in character assassination to support their own agendas.

Let's be careful to not ignore what history has taught us.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I think what's being ignored by you are the facts.

There is no dispute about the contents of the proclamation. While the clergy may have been confused about the open meeting law, and perhaps should have excused themselves from the meeting as well, the Selectmen are the government officials who knew better and are bound by that law, not the clergy. And it was Selectman Mullen who was running for office.

The reporter didn't claim the proclamation was unacceptable. You are introducing your conjecture as a fact in the matter. That a vote was not taken, and then taken was what was reported.

Separation of Church and State does not prevent a meeting between the two. The clergy in all communities are expected by their members to speak out on moral issues affecting the community.

History has taught us that staged crimes are a significant rarity among the masses of crimes committed. Suggesting that is the case here smacks of an attempt to whitewash people's actions.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many years ago I was called racist by my school peers because I did not understand the concept of promoting diversity or share that vision. This was an extremely hurtful experience for me which took a lot of time and effort for me to reconcile. In the end, I learned from this experience, but the hard way. Diversity does mean different things to different people and to suggest that one person's views are racist is damaging to the whole. Those who are in leadership positions for promoting diversity issues should be held to the highest level of tolerance and understanding and go about their work in a way that does not undermine their own objective. Each of us has a backround that is unique and ideas that are our own - who is to say that you are good and you are not based on where you stand in terms of understanding, promoting or accepting diversity issues. It is a work in progress and it will work best with the kind of understanding that it hopes to achive. betsy

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Me said...

betsy, how do you explain this?

would love your thoughts on it

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to me,
I don't know why you think this is so relevent to my comments on understanding differing levels of diversity but I will answer anyways. I do not support breaking the law or its spirit. The meeting may have been a violation of open meeting law and if so, a finding by the AG may be appropriate. betsy

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

speaking of diversity - at the vigil held at Temple Shalom - which was mostly good for the community - I felt something that was hypocritical. There was a quote from "a president named George" which was read and was very appropriate in terms of defining acceptance of all people. It was framed such that one might have expected it was from George Bush until the end when it was attributed to George Washington and there was a laugh amoung the crowd who realized the joke. Funny that it's ok to laugh at our President at a gathering of peace, acceptance and togetherness.Freedom of speech when it serves a purpose. Freedom of ideas when it's convienent. Betsy

9:58 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


I'm afraid your memory is faulty. The Rabbi's remarks said nothing about "a quote from a President named George".

He said:

"The Jewish Community received a letter from the President of the United States and I'd like to read some of it now".

The Rabbi was not comparing the Presidents. He was making a point, and did so powerfully, about a scourge that is still with us over 200 years after George Washington wrote his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport. It is a famous letter, one I read some years ago.

We assume that we are far removed from the base prejudices of that long ago day, a time when slavery was legal, and widely seen as a moral right. But the Rabbi reminded us that those who hate will always be with us, and that good people will always need to come forward in a public way to denounce what is wrong, and proclaim what is right.

I'm sad, Betsey, that you so missed that point, and imposed upon it a motive of cheap political satire that is an insult to the Rabbi.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Me said...

I have to concur with Phil. You couldn't have said it any better. It is unbelievable to think that after such a powerful event and such a powerful speech by the Rabbi, who I think was so moved by Milton's response that day, that people even think he was being political.

Also, to Betsey about the Ledger editorial: thank you for admitting that something was problematic about the violation of the Open Meeting Law. We will see what the DA finds, but if leaders on any level are not held accountable for their actions (and I must stress that both Mr. Mullen and Mr. Shields committed those actions and are responsible for them), then any hope in the system is lost.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

phil, I was rather reluctant to get involved posting here because of the exchanges you had with "anonymous". Some of my comments were mis-represented in the counter arguement. I don't see much point posting here if this will turn into correcting mis-representations ad nausem.

I'll give this one last try...

The clergy are being given a free pass on rather questionable ethical judgement.

You state "...perhaps should have excused themselves..."

Perhaps? I don't see any ambiguity here. They absolutely should have left the moment it was pointed out an illegal meeting. It's rather clear the clergy were trying to lobby our public officals. The 3rd selectman left on the grounds of the meeting being illegal. Why doesn't that elict some major concern regarding the ethical judgement of the clergy who stayed?

The sex scandels with the church are well documented and show it's officals are more than capable of bad judgement when it serves their purposes to do so. I refuse to ignore their part in all of this for political convience even if it was to my candidiates benefit. I'm not trying to whitewash anything and am insulted by the insinuation. Let's agree to keep to the content of our posts and not perceived motives based on personal prejudices.


10:44 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


I don't agree with you that the clergy should have necessarily left. You say "it was pointed out that it was an illegal meeting". Well, one Selectman said it was, but the other two remained. They had no way of knowing whether it was or not. But Selectmen Mullen and Shields did. And the meeting was illegal for them, not the Clergy.

I think you raising the church sex scandals in this context is the best example of perceived motives based on personal prejudices I could think of. But if that is what you wish the content of your posts to be, so be it.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

phil, the sex scandal is an example of bad judgement religous officals are capable of. nothing more, nothing less. The personal prejudices I was referring to was the whitewash motive you assigned to me.

If an elected offical claims a meeting is illegal, and is so concerned as to walk out of it, it seems prudent to stop and confirm. The clergy wished to pursue their agenda, however noble, instead.

I view clergy as lobbiest like any other. Religion does not change that in my opinion. If they expect to regularly interact with officals they should know how to conduct meetings with them accordingly.

My concern is that defacto exceptions for lobbiests aren't created based on who the lobbiest are.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me ...just respectfully disagree without assigning motives. Motives attack the person not the idea.


1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, perhaps my perception that the letter was introduced a letter from our current president was wrong. But in my corner of the crowd in attendance there was considerable laughter when it was attributed to Washington. I found that insonsistant with the objectives of the vigil. Betsy

7:41 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

And the personal prejudices I assign to you comes from your ridiculous citing of religous church sex scandals. They have nothing to do with this matter, nor does the existence of such scandals say anything about any individual member of the clergy.

And actually, calling into question motives does attack the idea. They account for things like the reference you made about the church, which indicates your opinion has a basis in a prejudice.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


I think you're being overly sensitive and suspicious.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

phil, either an idea survives on it's presented arguement or not. Making up imagined motives avoids the agrument in hopes of discrediting the messenger, not the message. Ideas are abstract notions, they have no motive.

That you readily admit attacking someone as fair game is why I was reluctant to post in this forum. It's a prime example of what turns people off to politics as I see it. I spoke up in the hope of pointing out something I hadn't seen discussed and have been rewarded with personal attacks.

We support the same candidate but differ enormously in how to do so.


10:33 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, An insult percieved is one indeed. You may think me too sensitive or suspicious but I am still entitled to feel that the insult to our current President, intentional or not on behalf of the rabbi, was unfortunate and unnessessary and out of place. Betsy

5:27 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Of course you're entitled to feel it. It just doesn't mean it was real.

And I'm entitled to disagree and offer my rationale.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, what I have tried to teach my children, my husband and and to live by myself is this: Feelings are real to those who have them. If you hurt someone's feelings then you need to accept responsibility for that regardless of your own feelings or intentions. So if I was offended by those laughing at Pres. Bush it is a real offense. You are entitled to your feelings and opinions and the rationals behind them but you are not entitled to decide if my feelings or perceptions are real or worthy or valid or any such judgements - they are all of those things because I am. betsy
ps when are you going to start a TM discussion esp the stabilization fund?

6:55 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


You should also have taught your children that feelings are not always accurate indicators of truth, and that you need on occasion to admit a mistake. If not, no one is reponsible for offense taken when none was offered.

I see that as clearly the case here.

Your feelings are real, but your rationale for why you feel that way weak.

What are you referring to specifically about the stabilization fund?

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, I only mean to teach my children (and husband)to respect the feelings of others as real as a basis for working thru the issues and, yes, finding the truth. And, no, one is responsible for offense taken when not offered and therein is the basis for increased understanding. My rational for the offense was the laughter directed at our current president for not having been the author of the letter quoted - yes it was a great and insightful letter and Bush is not necessarily a great or insightful man but I do not think he should be laughed at during an event which was formed to serve unity and togetherness. It is less than enough to have Milton stand together if the same doesn't apply to our nation.
I am interested in your thoughts regarding the sc request for stabilization funds w/o warrent or selectboard support. betsy

7:18 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


You entitlement to feel is not entitlement to assume facts.

I've spoken to many people who attended and no one recalls what you claim.

It is everyone's right to assess and make a judgment about other people's claims and the fact that they are based on their feelings doesn't change that.

I think you've demonstrated that your feelings are based on a faulty recollection of what the Rabbi said, which I believe led you to misinterpret everything which then transpired.

I do not support the use of the stabilization fund this year for operating expenses.

I do feel we need to put the fund in a position where the balance is sufficient enough to use it in the circumstances, however. That is why I favor an override to create a yearly flow of money into the stabilization fund.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, I do not need to have you agree with my perception or recollection of the events regarding the laughter at the vigil. It's not that important. If it's fair play that I am called overly sensitive and suspicious then let's throw out the call of stubborness in your direction.
I agree on not using the stabilization fund for this years op expense - what then for the schools - do you think they can make a successful request w/o warrant or selectboard support? betsy

7:52 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

No one said you did need to have anyone agree with you.

You initially claimed the Rabbi compared two Georges. You were wrong. I believe your feelings are also based on wrong interpretations.

I will continue to be stubborn about the facts, Betsy, when I thinks something other than that is being offered.

The request for use of the stabilization fund will fail.

At the same time, I think the effect of the budget on the schools is disproportionate when compared to other departments.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope your stubbornness serves you well, but I doubt that it will. What do you mean the effect of the budget on the schools is disprop. compared to other depts?
Do you mean the schools suffer more than other depts given limited funding? betsy

8:29 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


The fact of the matter is it is you who is being stubborn. You cling to an idiosyncratic interpretation of events that has been shown to be based on false impressions.

This is the last comment on this subject I will accept from you. Move on to something else.

Yes, the School department is suffering more than other departments.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if there is little chance that the stab. fund will address this years school budget - what do you think they should do - ask for an override? betsy

9:00 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Let's remember that the stabilization fund request would not have nearly addressed the school department's funding problems. It would only have lessened them.

I do not think they should ask for an override.

But this problem demonstates our dire need to begin to address both our revenue and cost problems.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and spending problems.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

We don't have any spending problems of any consequence.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just finished reading the many comments on this blog regarding Mullen and Shields and the issue of racial insensitivity. I have always found it curious that Shields family lives in the Tucker area but his kids attended Collicot. Mr. Mullen was known to tell racist " jokes" at the Town Hall to fellow employees back over 30 years ago.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this story from time to time. It is exciting to part of a winning team and to see the great work of Kathy Fagan. She is incredible. To everyone in Milton, I say, stay involved, love your community and make a difference.

Judy White

8:18 PM  

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