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Endorsements for Sewer and Water and School Committee

May 30, 2013

School Committee: John C. Sheehan

This year’s race for three seats on the School Committee is between three incumbents seeking re-election, and one challenger: John C. Sheehan, who ran for the Committee last year but lost.

Last year, 180 endorsed Sheehan despite the fact that he supported the $3 million tax hike. That’s because Sheehan recognized, and still recognizes, that the town’s fiscal problems go beyond revenue. This year, 180 endorses him again, in part as a protest vote against the three incumbents who were all supporters of last year’s unnecessary override, but also primarily because he is indeed generally fiscally conservative.

Sheehan supports seeking major concessions from the teachers’ union, which he has specifically said may include reductions or the elimination of cost-of-living raises, step raises, and health insurance costs. He supports imposing merit-based pay for teachers. He also supports privatization of some school services when the costs and benefits to students make sense.

Last year, he was the only candidate for School Committee other than override opponent Christine Coury to publicly express concern that three of our legislators voted against increasing special education circuit breaker funding in the FY 2013 state budget.

Even override supporters have pointed out that one of Walpole’s biggest fiscal problems is with its burdensome unfunded and underfunded mandates, and addressing those mandates starts with dealing with the very same legislators who are responsible for continuing to not properly fund those mandates. Sheehan seems to grasp this concept, while the other School Committee members wrongly believe that our legislators are actually assisting our community.

Sheehan seems like a logical choice for the School Committee, and his support for last year’s override will allow him to seek common ground with the other current members, all of whom supported the override as well.

Sewer and Water Commission: No Endorsement

Both candidates in this race – John Spillane and Thomas Brown – are fiscal conservatives. They are both seeking to replace longtime Commissioner Kevin Muti, who is retiring this year. Muti is a fiscal conservative too, and it’s just as well that both of the candidates seeking to replace him will keep the seat in conservative hands.

Spillane, a former member of the Commission and a longtime Town Meeting Representative, is the more experienced of the two. Spillane also worked as the town’s Animal Control Officer and Veteran’s Services Officer until retiring a few years ago.

If voters are looking for a calm, steady member of the Sewer and Water Commission, Spillane might be the way to go.

Brown, on the other hand, owns an HVAC business and has never served in town-wide office before. He has served as an RTM. He ran for the Commission last year, but ran a lackluster campaign against two incumbents.

Neither candidate has campaigned, and their positions on the issues are not widely known. Brown has said, however, that he opposes putting a new police station or senior center on the aquifer on Washington Street, unless there is a “100% guarantee that any such building is non-hazardous.” Brown also wants one set water rate for residential users, rather than at least two that would include a higher rate for 40Bs and other high-residential users. That position might affect his standing among voters who are concerned about 40Bs coming to town.

Brown will probably win this race, because turnout will be low enough that he can win purely on the fact that he has lawn signs in just about every part of town.

But frankly, neither candidate has been particularly visible. Neither candidate has really run much of a campaign. Neither candidate even bothered to show up to the League of Women Voter’s Candidates Night on May 20. And that’s sad, because the Sewer & Water Commission is often underrated considering that it has a huge impact on the town’s quality of life and, of course, decides our sewer and water bills. They affect 40B developers in their setting of water rates for heavy residential users. They also had a significant role earlier this year in shooting down an effort by MCI Cedar Junction to tie into Walpole’s water system and to use a significant amount of our water for a very low cost. The Commission also will have a role in deciding whether a police station or senior center gets built on our aquifer.

Muti leaves big shoes to fill, and it’s not clear in this race which of the two candidates has actually earned this seat and deserves it. Bringing in a new fiscally conservative voice to government would lead me to vote for Brown, but seeking a seasoned fiscally conservative veteran would lead me to Spillane.

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