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Baker to attend Walpole drug forum

February 12, 2016

Mass. Governor Charlie Baker will attend a forum sponsored by the Walpole Republican Committee next week on the state’s opioid addiction crisis.

cr860n1w0aa-qscThe event, which will be held at the Walpole Public Library on Wednesday, February 17 at 7 p.m., will include discussions by Police Chief John Carmichael and Health Director Robin Chapell. Dr. Tim Hempton, a top local Republican and state rep. candidate, is also expected to speak about safe prescribing practices, while his wife, Julie, will discuss the physiological aspects of addiction.

It will not be the first time Carmichael and Baker have appeared together to discuss the drug crisis. Carmichael was one of the top law enforcement officials who came out in October in support of the governor’s proposed legislation to address the crisis (image above.) The legislature has yet to approve the measure, so Baker’s appearance in Walpole is likely an effort on his part to drum up public support.

Baker is not expected to stay at the event for more than 30 minutes. He will offer opening remarks.

The Walpole RTC has regained its previous relevance in town politics as of late, under the leadership of chairman Victor Scena, who took over the post last April.

Brown formally enters campaign

February 10, 2016

Press Release:

BrownTom_3810fst_5x7_300Walpole, Mass. 2/8/16: Tom Brown, Sewer and Water Commissioner and Town Meeting Rep., 17-year town resident, husband, father, Marine Corps veteran, and small business owner, announced last week that he will run for Selectman in the June election.

Brown intends to run on a campaign of transparency, new ideas to solve the town’s issues, and a fiscally conservative approach to town government, just as he has done on the Sewer and Water Commission.

As a Commissioner, Brown cast the only dissenting vote on a water rate increase last year, and successfully persuaded his Commission to reduce the size of a planned sewer fee increase.

On the Commission, he has a proven record of collaboration, and bringing opposing viewpoints to his side. He has consistently advocated for, and persuaded his colleagues on the Commission to pursue, innovative, out-of-the-box ideas for the use of Jarvis Farm, to obtain maximum use from the $4.5 million purchase. He proposed utilizing the property for solar panels to generate revenue, and also proposed the SWEET (Science, Water, Earth, Energy, Trees) program to align with the schools at no additional cost to ratepayers or taxpayers, through grants.

“Town spending has increased by $18 million in just five years. As a Selectman, I would be engaged, innovative, and constantly looking for alternatives to just going the easy route which is your wallets,” Brown said.

“As it is now, our entrenched politicians are running a deficit in the area of new ideas. I will be a stimulus of new, innovative solutions,” he said.

“I will be an independent, engaged, full-time Selectman, with the ability to ask tough questions, as I have done on the Sewer and Water Commission. My only vested interest is the best interest of the town of Walpole.

I am a firm believer in transparency in local government. As we have seen with issues such as the Jarvis Farm purchase and its re-use as a camp, and with the proposed tax break with Siemens, our town government could use more transparency.”

Brown will run for Selectman

January 28, 2016

Popular Walpole Sewer and Water Commissioner Tom Brown announced at last night’s Republican Town Committee meeting that he will enter the race for Selectman when nomination papers become available next week.

Brown becomes the second candidate to formally enter the race, as Selectman Jim Stanton announced last week, and again at last night’s RTC meeting, that he will run for a second term in June.

Incumbent Selectman Cliff Snuffer will not run again, leaving an open seat.

Former Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie is also expected to make another bid for Selectman this year. Other candidates are said to be thinking about running.

Brown was a virtual unknown last year when he emerged in an upset as the highest vote-getter in a four-person field for two seats on the Sewer and Water Commission last year. Brown ran on a platform stridently against waste in the sewer and water budget. In one of his first votes as Commissioner, and in an indication of his tremendous persuasion skills, Brown successfully convinced his Commission to reduce the size of a planned increase in sewer fees.

This year, he will enter the Selectmen race as perhaps among the strongest candidates to run in many years. His triumph last year came from his extensive network and connections in the community as a small business owner, extraordinary Scott Brown-style retail political skills, and his fundraising ability, all attributes that will help him again this year. Brown hauled in more votes in his own race than Mackenzie did in her own unsuccessful campaign, and he won six of eight precincts, many of them by substantial and unexpected margins.

The Walpole RTC is also expected to help Brown’s campaign by providing resources, manpower, and potentially also funds. In an ardently Republican town like Walpole, those resources certainly won’t hurt.

During last night’s RTC meeting, which attracted a record standing-room only crowd that also came to participate in a presidential straw poll and hear from four candidates running for GOP State Committee, Brown vowed to hold the line on spending and tax increases, as he has done as a Sewer and Water Commissioner standing against rate hikes. He pointed out that water rates are expected to go up by a total of 20 percent in two years, which Brown is opposing as a Commissioner. He said the high price of the $4.5 million purchase of Jarvis Farm has diverted funds that should be going to system maintenance, resulting in exorbitant rate hikes. He said that now that the town has purchased Jarvis Farm, the purchase can’t be undone, but the Commission and Selectmen have an obligation to generate as much benefit from the property for the residents as possible.

Brown said he persuaded the Commission to look into the feasibility of putting solar panels at Jarvis Farm to potentially generate financial return for ratepayers. He also proposed a program to allow private and public schools to utilize Jarvis Farm for outdoor education, which could potentially give money back to the Sewer and Water Commission and schools through federal and state grants.

Brown also joined the growing chorus of bipartisan voices that oppose the proposed tax-increment-financing agreement with Siemens that will be voted on in a March Town Meeting. The deal has been pilloried by RTMs on all side of the political spectrum who believe the town gives up too much in the agreement.

If Brown is elected Selectman, he would have to give up his seat on the Sewer and Water Commission per the Town Charter. Brown is also a Town Meeting Representative from Precinct 6.

What’s developing in Walpole?

January 25, 2016

Below is a summary of some of the new commercial and residential developments being proposed, being constructed, or currently being actively reviewed by town boards, in Walpole.

There has been minimal, if any, coverage of most of these projects in any other local media outlet, which is unfortunate. It is important that residents be kept in the loop about projects going on in their own hometown.

After reaching out to various officials and concerned citizens who have been following each of these projects, and scouring key town board meeting minutes going back at least a year, 180 has compiled a brief summary of the major projects below, in no particular order:

  • A developer is proposing to construct a new 135-room, 16,000 square foot hotel on Route 1 in Walpole adjacent to the Speedway gas station. The site is currently occupied by a vacant lot. There would also be an 8,000 square foot retail use on the site.
  • A developer is proposing to construct a 12-unit townhouse condo complex on a 5-acre site near Eastover Road and East Street across from Walpole Woodworkers.
  • There is a proposal to construct a mixed-use retail and residential complex downtown, at the former Kendall Mill. There would be approximately 200 residential units, leased at or near market rates.
  • A developer is proposing to construct an age-qualified (55+) housing complex with about 30 units at 164 Pine Street near The Preserve and Ganawatte Drive, on the Sharon town line.
  • There has been town board discussion of a proposal to construct a subdivision called Eastside Place, made up of 18 single family homes, near what is now the Lewis Castle, at 470 East Street. There would be two roadways, one called Isaac’s Path, which would run along the current driveway to Lewis Castle across from Natalie Lane. There would be a second street called Nichols Pond Road. The castle would remain intact and the developers claim they want to preserve the look and feel of the neighborhood’s current rural, historical setting.
  • A developer is proposing to construct a two-phase subdivision at the former Sunnyrock Farm on North Street that would connect to Fisher Street. The first phase, Olmsted Estates, would be made up of 11 lots, and the second phase, Roscommon, would be made up of about 37 lots.
  • A proposal to construct a 157-unit affordable housing complex on Moose Hill Road continues to move ahead. There is also a proposal for a 40B complex on Baker Street near the Sharon town line. Both projects are currently being litigated. Due to the state 40B law, both projects will almost certainly come to fruition, but the specifics need to be hammered out in a way that does not adversely impact the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • The former Brookline Moving Company building on Old Post Road near Route 1 at the Walpole/Sharon line was demolished to make way for a new Dunkin Donuts’ and a new retail store next to it that is slated to be a 12,900-square foot pharmacy, bank, or dry cleaner. The existing nearby office building and C. Scott’s convenience store will remain.
  • Developer John Marini is constructing a three-story retail and residential building at 1429 Main Street, across from Bristol Square. The building’s first floor would have retail, while the second and third floors would have residential units.
  • A developer is proposing to construct an eight-home subdivision called Boyden Estates in the vicinity of 323 and 327 Summer Street. Two existing homes will remain, and six additional homes would be constructed.

Walpole will be GOP battlefield

January 4, 2016

Two Walpole residents are vying for pivotal seats on the Massachusetts Republican State Committee, but they face stiff challenges in two of the most competitive State Committee races that Walpole, and the state party, has seen in a long time.

The tight races represent a larger fight that is going on in the Mass. Republican Party right now over control of the party’s message, being waged between ardent conservative activists and so-called “Establishment” candidates tied to popular Governor Charlie Baker. The Boston Globe reported in November that Baker actively recruited candidates for GOP State Committee to solidify control away from right-wing conservatives who have gained ground in the State Committee in recent years and are attempting to pursue more socially and fiscally conservative policies within the party.

Walpole’s own Dominick Ianno, a well-known political activist from East Walpole, formerly of North Walpole, who works in the Baker administration, is one of the Baker-backed candidates running for State Committeeman this year in the Bristol and Norfolk district. But he is running against Attleboro’s Jeff Bailey, a socially conservative two-time former state legislative candidate. They are both vying to replace Horace Mello, generally perceived as a non-Establishment conservative, who is stepping down.

Meanwhile, Foxboro-based incumbent GOP State Committeewoman Angela Davis, who also works for the Baker administration, is facing a heavy challenge from Walpole’s Maura Clow, an ardent social and fiscal conservative who has been campaigning heavily in Walpole’s local conservative circles.

Clow, also the wife of Precinct 5 RTM Harry Clow, is well known in Walpole and many analysts expect she could win the town’s vote. It’s less clear how well she will do in other parts of the district, which comprises the same towns as the Bristol and Norfolk State Senate district. In an indication of the tight competition, Davis has been campaigning aggressively in recent months, including touting Baker’s endorsement on her Facebook page. Meanwhile, Clow has received backing from the Renew MA Coalition, led by conservative activists across the state. Clow apparently collected 80 signatures on her nomination papers, a decent haul for a first-time candidate, compared to 116 signatures for the incumbent Davis. A minimum of 50 signatures are required.

RedMassGroup, a conservative blog, reported last month that this year’s GOP State Committee races are “more contested than ever,” with 54 contested state Committeeman and Committeewoman races out of 80 total. (You can also download a list of all GOP State Committee candidates from the RMG website.) Each of the 40 State Senate districts in the state has a Committeeman and a Committeewoman, totaling 80.

The vote for GOP State Committee members takes place on the GOP primary ballot on March 1. The competitive Republican presidential primary race, compared to the Democratic race, could mean that many moderate un-enrolled voters will vote in the GOP primary, giving Ianno and Davis a boost.

The Walpole Republican Town Committee has announced they plan to host a candidate forum between all four State Committee candidates running to represent Walpole on January 27, 2016 at 7 p.m. at the Walpole Public Library.

Another year in Walpole comes to a close

December 31, 2015

It is December 31, 2015, which means today is 180’s seventh and final birthday. This blog started on December 31, 2008 and has been successful thanks to all of you.

As we look forward to the future, and what looks to be an exciting 2016, we also must look at how far we have come in the last year. Thanks to the help of many of you reading this blog, we delivered unbelievable reform to Town Hall, by electing common sense voices to the Board of Selectmen, Moderator’s office, Sewer and Water Commission, and Town Meeting.

The “old guard” has left the building, along with their tired manage-by-override mentality, replaced by a new set of leaders who are putting taxpayers first.

Congratulations to the people of Walpole for having the forethought to elect such a great set of faces to town leadership posts. This is YOUR government – accountable, responsive, and fiscally conservative!

It is also worth mentioning what we have lost in 2015.

We have lost countless people, in life, like former Selectman Tom McCormack and longtime historian Betty Cottrell; and in service, like Town Clerk Ron Fucile and Assistant Town Clerk Pat MacConnell.

We also lost WalpoleNews.com and WalpoleWords, and Walpole Times editor Keith Ferguson. They were both great partners to 180.

We also look forward to seeing how the 2016 presidential election plays out, and which way Walpole voters will go during the upcoming Democratic and Republican primaries. There are many great candidates to choose from – who will you be supporting?

Looking forward to seeing you all around our hometown in 2016! Check back on 180 frequently.

Best wishes for the new year.

~ Sam

Imbusch looks to de-emphasize grades

December 28, 2015

Walpole High School principal Stephen Imbusch appears to be in favor of de-emphasizing the practice of assigning letter grades to students, and instead wants to report broader information about each student’s proficiency level in class.

Starting on October 16, and continuing into December, Imbusch has been offering regular editorial commentary, in the school’s weekly email newsletter sent to parents and members of the school community, to actively advocate for what he directly refers to as “a reduced focus on grades and more of a focus on student learning.”

In the first email, sent on October 16, Imbusch asked parents, “How would your child’s life change if we did not have traditional grades?”

I know…I have heard all the arguments, some of which are listed here…
– “We have all been through school, and we all had to deal with grades.” True, but does that mean it is the best system?
– “Grades motivate students to learn.” Yes, sometimes they do, but not always. In fact, they often do the opposite!
– “Colleges require our kids to have grades.” Grades are only one of many factors that colleges look at, and they are far from an ideal indicator of success.
– “Without grades, there is no rigor.” From my observations the opposite is true.
– “Grades tell us who is working hard.” Unfortunately, cheating and plagiarism have never been so rampant in schools and colleges.
– “We need to compare our students to one another using grades.” No we don’t. We need to ensure that every child reaches proficiency in that particular area of study.
– “Grades show whether a child is learning or not.” Really? So that 82% that your child has in (pick a subject) tells you what about their learning? I would argue that it tells you very little. It certainly tells you nothing about the concepts your child is struggling with, or where they are finding success.

Is there a better way? I would suggest that there is. More on this as we move forward.

In an email sent October 23, Imbusch compared handing out letter grades to a “stamp of approval” in an assembly line, and said “our current grading system is a vestige of the past, and totally inadequate feedback for students today.”

In one email, Imbusch laments that students appear to be so grade-focused that they “don’t know what it means to learn for the sake of learning.” He also says that it has been his experience that “when grades are introduced, rigor disappears.”

He also said, “though some might argue that competition is good for students and keeps them working hard, for most students who are not at the top of the class, this is certainly not the case. On the contrary, it kills their motivation.”

In one email, Imbusch said that he felt the current grading model was potentially divisive:

Pitting students against one another in the classroom is destructive in so many ways; the winners strive to get the best grades at the expense of everyone else – learning only that to be successful implies beating their peers, while the losers lose all motivation to learn when all that seems to count is the ever-elusive grade. It’s hard to believe there are some schools that still calculate Class Rank!

Imbusch stressed that he is not in favor of eliminating grades altogether, because college admissions counselors consider grades in their consideration process. But he does argue that schools in general should provide more comprehensive information regarding students’ academic performance, and not just their letter grade.

Do grades count for anything? Sure they do, but they certainly do not paint the full picture. We have been working very hard at WHS over the past few years to ensure that the grade a student receives is a true reflection of their knowledge and skill. Whether a student completes their homework, whether they bring in tissues for the classroom, or whether it takes them twice as long to learn a particular concept as other students, should not affect their grade – either negatively or positively. Communicating with students their proficiency level on particular standards happens on a regular basis, and we will continue to work on reporting those indicators out.

What do you think? Should Walpole schools put less emphasis on letter grades? It is sure to be a controversial topic, but perhaps a topic worth discussing as a community and as a nation. You can see all of Imbusch’s emails to parents here, and consider them in context.

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