Where’s the Money?

22Jul16

hull_party

Now that July 19 is behind us, can we finally admit that all the hand-wringing over the Special Election had nothing to do with it costing the town $10,000 and everything to do with politics and the person who filed for the Special Election?

After Phyllis Hull collected the 200 signatures needed to force the selectmen to call a Special Election, six people ran for a single nine-month term on the Board of Selectmen in a mid-summer election that people said was a waste of money.

Seldom have so many expended so much effort for so little.

Last April, when three full three-year selectman terms were up, only five people ran. In the same Town Election, nobody bothered getting on the ballot for an open seat on the Board of Assessors. Someone finally had to run as a write-in candidate.

People argued that the town should wait and have the Special Election to fill the nine months left on Betsy Sheeran’s term at the same time as the State Primary in September or the Presidential Election in November, thereby saving the cost of a separate election.

I’ve seen $30 million-budgets pass Town Meeting without a single question asked. But suddenly we’re supposed to believe that $10,000 is a huge deal?

Pardon me for not buying it.

I guarantee that when the time comes to vote to spend $70 million to build a new high school, those who were most offended by “wasting” $10,000 on a Special Election will have their hands raised first. But Phyllis Hull is a bad person because she exercised her legal right to petition for a Special Election.

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Ten grand seems a small price to pay for democracy and it won’t add a nickel to anyone’s tax bill. The new Galvin Middle School, on the other hand, added $200 to the annual tax bill of the average single family home in town. High schools are more expensive to build than middle schools so, on top of that, we could be adding at least another $250 for a new high school.

Five hundred bucks might be pocket change to you, but for some people, it’s a lot of money.

But Phyllis is a bad person for suggesting that we might want to actually let the paint dry on one brand new school before we come looking for money to build another one.

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People are now dismissing Hull’s election as a fluke. They say that she only won because it was in the summer and there was a low turnout. They say that she never would have won under ordinary circumstances.

Like I said, it was never about the money at all. It was all about politics.

And now Phyllis Hull is back on the Board of Selectmen, having won election to the board for the third time.

That’s no fluke. That’s smart politics.

[This column originally appeared in the July 21, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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