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Town Meeting moves further left

June 12, 2012

(This is correcting a previous incorrect report from 180.)

They oversaw a 307-vote override victory and swept the School Committee and Selectmen races with like-minded candidates.

But sadly that’s not all.

School-oriented voters, sometimes derisively referred to as the school machine, have another victory to be proud of after the June 2 town election: they tightened their stranglehold of Walpole Town Meeting, electing many new pro-school Town Meeting Representatives. (Full RTM results in PDF form here.)

Town Meeting has had a liberal lean for many years, supporting a meals tax increase and a free cash transfer to benefit the schools, and supporting numerous irresponsible, unsustainable capital budgets, town budgets, and union contracts. Town spending is rarely seriously scrutinized except by a small group of RTMs, and all spending is generally rubber-stamped on the recommendation of the rubber-stamp Finance Committee. Many RTMs show up and don’t even bother speaking – they just vote the party line in favor of more spending.

This year’s re-precincting process, prompted every ten years by the annual census, required every incumbent Town Meeting Representative to seek re-election. That would presumably have generated some interest among local conservatives, who had a prime opportunity to oust liberal incumbents in one fell swoop.

But a so-called conservative revolution never materialized even with such a convenient opportunity. Local conservatives remained unable to unite and organize behind firm candidates for any town office for the umpteenth year in a row. Few challengers stepped forward to run for Town Meeting, meaning that in most precincts, liberal incumbents who took the time to return a letter to the Town Clerk’s office seeking re-election were guaranteed another term in office. Conservative candidates were few and far between. With many write-in spots available, the pro-override PAC Walpole Pride took advantage of their superior organizing abilities and circulated emails urging their members to write-in certain pro-override, pro-school candidates – virtually every one of whom succeeded in winning a seat.

Incumbent Town Meeting Representatives John Vaillancourt and Ann Marie Kannally, who have been conservative voices over the years, missed the deadline to return papers seeking re-election. Not being on the ballot, both were silently knocked out of Town Meeting and replaced with loyal school supporters.

Among the pro-school write-in victors are Barbara Gallivan in Precinct 2, sister-in-law of School Committee member and override supporter Nancy Gallivan; Bird Middle School Assistant Principal Damon Rainie in Precinct 2; and Walpole Pride organizer Mary Abplanalp in Precinct 4.

There were a few new conservatives elected to the town’s august legislative body, but not enough to counter the surge of school biased write-ins. Conservative former Finance Committee member Paul Stasiukevicius did manage to get elected as a first-time RTM candidate in Precinct 5. He didn’t earn enough votes to obtain a three or two-year term, meaning he will be up for re-election again next year. Conservative John F. Robinson, Jr. in Precinct 4 also managed to pull off a win and came in the top third of vote-getters to earn a three-year term. Override opponent Kenneth Guyette was elected to a two-year term in Precinct 6.

Other relative moderates like John C. Sheehan and Patrick Shield, the first a failed School Committee candidate and the second a successful School Committee candidate, both of whom supported the override but each publicly expressed a desire to rein in personnel costs, were elected as well. Though neither are known for being particularly vocal about their modest fiscally prudent views, they may offer a glimmer of hope that Town Meeting isn’t completely stacked against sustainable spending.

Just as before the election, there are still nine Town Meeting Representatives who are full-time employees on the town payroll, though the makeup of those nine has changed. A few other RTMs are related to current or former Walpole town employees or are themselves retired town employees.

In total, 35 new faces were elected to Town Meeting this year.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2012 11:43 AM

    Hi Sam, I had a thought while reading your post and preparing mine about Ralph Knobel’s 23 years of service on FinCom. He certainly has seen all the ups and downs of the past quarter century. What is his outlook on the future of the Town? Does he share your view of TM, of which he is still a member? Just a thought. It would make an interesting story.

    Jon R.

  2. JoAnne permalink
    July 2, 2012 1:39 PM

    Sam, You make a lot of good points, but I do feel you are mistaken that many of the RTMs elected are not conservatives. Does being pro strong school system in your town make you a non conservative? I am thrilled with all the new energy that will be brought to Town Meeting.

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