Special effects

06May16

If you are one of those who thought last week’s election meant that you could finally count Phyllis Hull out, a) You don’t know Phyllis Hull very well and, b) you might want to cork the Champagne, at least for now.
phyllis2
Hull was defeated in her bid to be re-elected to the Board of Selectmen in the April 26 Town Election, but within 48 hours she was preparing a petition for the town to call a Special Election to fill the vacancy left on the board by the election of Selectman Betsy Sheeran as Town Clerk.

And if you thought she wouldn’t get the 200 signatures necessary to call a Special Election, then you really don’t know Phyllis Hull.

In the run up to the recent Town Election, Wakefield was blanketed with lawn signs for all of the other candidates. You probably got invitations to wine and cheese “meet the candidate” parties. There were flyers and advertisements for all of the other candidates.

But not for Phyllis Hull.

Those things cost money, and Phyllis Hull didn’t raise or spend any money to try to win re-election.

Consequently, she was defeated by people who raised and spent a bundle.

cashAs someone who doesn’t believe people should have to pay more in taxes than they already are, Hull wasn’t about to ask people for money to run a political campaign.

Say what you will about Phyllis Hull, but at least she’s consistent – unlike those voters who pay lip service to wanting to “get the money out of politics,” and then keep rewarding the candidates who spend the most money.

Another thing people like to declare, usually over a glass of white wine, is that they’re tired of politicians who try to be all things to all people. Above all else, they insist, they want candidates who “say what they mean and mean what they say.”

phyllis_hull2015Then, when such a forthright, plainspoken candidate comes along, those same people run the other way.

One of the reasons Hull says she wants a Special Election is to bring the Board of Selectmen back to full strength.

“Having six members on a seven-member board is not healthy for the town,” Hull said last week, “especially if there is a three to three tie.”

Personally, on this board I’d bet on a lot more unanimous 6-0 votes than 3-3 ties. If the six current selectmen aren’t all on the same page, they’re definitely on the same chapter.

And that’s the point.

A little healthy dissent is a good thing, and Phyllis Hull brought that to the Board of Selectmen.

ann_santos15Board of Selectmen chairman Ann Santos and Phyllis Hull probably agree on next to nothing, but Santos saw Hull as a valuable presence on the board and was upset when Phyllis lost.

“I want to give credit to Phyllis Hull,” an emotional Santos said on election night. “She was a wonderful member of our board and I will miss her integrity, her honesty and her kindness.”

Analyzing the results on election night, some observed that the election showed that the town’s demographics are becoming younger and the electorate more willing to vote in favor of tax increases in the form of overrides and debt exclusions.

Perhaps that’s true.

Maybe today’s younger, well-heeled voters are more concerned with making sure that their kids’ schools have the best of everything than whether their retired next door neighbor can afford another $300 on her tax bill. After all, the elderly neighbor’s time has passed. It’s time to look forward.

Phyllis Hull has been the voice of those who have already paid their dues – and then some. You know, like the World War II veterans. You could say that their time has passed too. In fact, most of them are dead. But that didn’t stop Phyllis Hull from dedicating every free minute she had for three years to raising money to build the magnificent granite monument on the Common to honor the generation that saved the world from tyranny.

ww2_momument-hull2
You’ll hear the inevitable objections that a Special Election will cost the town money. Do me a favor. Ask the fiscal watchdogs wringing their hands over $15,000 for a Special Election how they plan to vote on $60 million for a new High School.

If diversity is strength, nowhere is that more true than in the realm of ideas. It’s the very foundation upon which our democracy is built. Phyllis Hull represents a viewpoint and a constituency in Wakefield that deserves to be heard.

Those who count her out do so at their peril.

[This column originally appeared in the May 5, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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