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Why Gallivan and Sullivan should not get your vote

May 25, 2011

This post has been edited since being originally published.

There is one seat up for grabs on the Walpole Board of Selectmen this year. There are three candidates in the race. Election Day is June 4.

I am endorsing Russell Jones for Selectman, as Jones is the only candidate in the race who is a true fiscal conservative. My full endorsement will be published on 180 in the coming week. Here are my thoughts on Mark Gallivan and David Sullivan, the other two candidates in the race:

David Sullivan

David Sullivan is not a poor choice for Selectman necessarily, but there are some major reasons why I would not support him.

For one, Sullivan’s positions on the issues are inconsistent. Perhaps some may call him a flip-flopper, but a fence-sitter (not picking a side on an issue) may be a more appropriate description. For example, as a member of the Board of Selectmen (2007-2010) he never had a clear stance on Allied Recycling. While he had voted against some of Allied’s efforts to expand, he also voted to renew the Allied Recycling license last year.

Sullivan showed that he does not have the courage take unpopular positions when he caved in to a small number of local residents in rescinding a vote regarding trash caps.

Sullivan also can never seem to make up his mind on a few hot-button issues. As a Selectman, he voted in favor of allowing Siemens to upgrade to Level 3 biotech last year. Yet, he later told The Walpole Times that he was “neither for nor against” Siemens upgrading. He also told the Times he did not feel the Board was educated enough on the issue and that the public was not adequately educated either. This was an obvious attempt to distance himself from what was an unpopular vote on biotech.

In his campaign for re-election last year, he also would not tell the Times his position on the Robbins Road police station override, even though as a selectman he voted in favor of it. This year, he wrote in the Times that he does not support the Walpole Woodworkers override, but I am taking bets for how long he keeps that position before changing it.

He said at the League of Women Voters Candidate’s Night on Monday, “I would not support an override.” Oh, really?

In response to a question of whether he supports volleyball courts at Adams Farm, Sullivan said at the Candidate’s Night, “I’m not against them, and I’m not for them.” That type of attitude will not fly on the Board of Selectmen when he is forced to take important votes. He needs to take a position on the volleyball courts and every other issue.

Furthermore, as a Selectman, Sullivan did little to neutralize his conflict-of-interest with the Walpole Police Department. Sullivan is a retired cop and his daughter is a current cop. Yet during his tenure on the Board, he voted on most police issues, instead of abstaining. Last year, Sullivan never called the State Ethics Commission to find out whether it was appropriate for him to participate in the Board’s controversial hiring of a new Deputy Police Chief.

Last year, I wrote on 180 that anybody who has familial connections to the police department, as current Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie and Sullivan do, should not vote on ANY issues related to the police department, rather than pick and choose which issues to abstain on.

Mark Gallivan

I have some concerns about Mark Gallivan, although I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who volunteers in the community as often and as much as Gallivan does. Gallivan comes from the prominent local Gallivan family, which is highly involved in the local community in a number of ways.

Gallivan was somewhat disappointing at the League of Women Voter’s Candidates Night on Monday evening. Rather than offering specifics as to what he intends to do as Selectman, Gallivan offered only vague explanations of his intentions. He used phrases like “I will work to…” which is politician-speak for “I am going to pretend to try to do the following and then when it does not work, and we all know it will not, you will not be able to blame me because at least I pretended to try. If my pretend trying does work, then I will get all the credit for something I had little or nothing to do with.”

Think about the number of politicians you have heard say things like “I will work to…” and then think about why they would use such slick language. Both you and they know they won’t accomplish what they are promising.

For example, Gallivan said, “I will continue to work to increase efficiency [in town government]” without providing even one specific example of how he will do it. If Gallivan had any ideas for efficiency, he would have already proposed them as a member of the Finance Committee. And judging by how “efficient” our town government is right now, I am a bit underwhelmed with Gallivan’s performance on the FinCom if this is what he calls an efficient government. If you like the way town government is managing your tax dollars, Gallivan seems like a reasonable choice for you.

He also said, “I will continue to work with our legislators [to bring back prison mitigation money].” If it was as easy as just working with our legislators, the prison mitigation money and local aid would already be back to Walpole by now. So I am not convinced that Town Hall will really bring the money back purely because he was on the Board.

Gallivan is running on a platform very similar to Eric Kraus’ last year: touting his business experience as a representation of his ability to supposedly bring more economic development to Walpole. While it is nice to believe Gallivan will be successful in this regard, I am not so sure that business experience means you know how to attract business to Walpole. We have not seen any results from Kraus’ bold economic development promises so far.

Gallivan’s votes on the Finance Committee also do not appear to show that he is a fiscal conservative. Gallivan voted for this year’s budget, which is not exactly the epitome of fiscal restraint (see previous blog posts for reasons why.) He is, however, according to the 2009 town Voter List, a registered Republican.

I also think Gallivan’s experience starting and running a business indicates an ability to balance budgets responsibly. Nevertheless, I think Walpole can do better with a true fiscal conservative who has demonstrated a conservative perspective on the issues. I simply have not seen that from Gallivan as a FinCom member.

He will win this race because he has the pro-school group behind him that falsely believes Gallivan is the only candidate who is “pro-school.”

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