In a recent letter, Patrick Fairbairn suggests an ordinance be created wherein the Town Council would interview, vet, and directly appoint the citizens who will make up the Community Preservation Act Committee while omitting some very important details and facts. To set the record straight, here are the facts and here are the issues.
The draft ordinance Mr. Fairbairn referenced was created with the input and recommendations from Invest in Watertown. This group consists of the staunchest supporters and most active advocates for the CPA’S passage. This begs the question: Does prevailing on passage of the CPA Tax automatically make one an expert on the who, what, when, where, why and how our CPA money should be spent? Most reasonable people would think not. While a majority of citizens may have voted for the CPA tax, they and the almost 7,000 No votes didn’t vote to allow Invest in Watertown and it’s CPA member proponents to have direct influence and a shadow monopoly on project selection and execution. We owe it to our citizens to keep the CPA committee selection process transparent and free of the politics which will otherwise cast a shadow on this committee.
Knowing that, why then, would Mr. Fairbairn and others on the Council support any significant ordinance (1.) not created by people who take the oath of office and (2.) not drafted in an open meeting committee setting? No other committee in our town is created this way as it is not our form of government. The only person that the Council appoints directly is the Town Manager. The fact is every other committee or board is proposed by the Manager (with input) and sent to the Council for approval. The Council is not in the business of, nor should it be getting into the business of, setting up a resume collection process and sifting through candidates. Why should there be a one-off, a separate process for the CPA Commission?
This ordinance would apply solely to the CPA commission, creating a selection process that blatantly attempts to circumvent the Manager’s role and give appointment authority directly to Council. If this is allowed we can expect to see a narrow, hand-picked committee of familiar faces from Invest in Watertown or Metro West Collaborative, chosen by Council members, five of whom supported the CPA. Is this not the very definition of cronyism? Again it’s the Manager who should vet, interview, and send the candidates’ names to Council for voting. If Councilors don’t think a person is qualified, let them state their case and send our Manager back to the drawing board to bring forth another candidate.
There are numerous smart people in our town with expertise regarding historic preservation, affordable housing, and open space as well as finance, real estate, project management, community outreach and education. We should leave it to our Manager, like we do with every other committee/board/commission, to find people from various backgrounds to offer their talents, skill sets and advice on which proposals are the most financially viable choices. Furthermore, these choices should be in line with the CPA rules, The Towns Comprehensive Plan, and further the quality of life for all Watertown residents. The CPA will generate almost $2 million in added tax revenue every year. Our tax money should be spent judiciously, wisely, and prudently. I trust our Town Manager to send viable candidates to the Council who will accordingly allocate CPA tax revenues while accomplishing the CPA’s goals.
Main Street, Watertown