Volpe and Forcier talk first priorities

Newly elected officials Selectman Jesse Forcier and School Committee member Allison Volpe joined us on 980 WCAP this morning to discuss thier initial plans.

Volpe reiterated her experience with auditing and spoke about the school department review that was called for by Joe Wilkie back in January.  She plans to get that back on track, and push to move it forward.

She also spoke to better marketing our schools to the younger grades so that they stay with the town.

Forcier spoke to the fact that his focus is on assisting with Economic Development, doing what we can to get outside groups to see Dracut as the place to come to.

He has resigned from the Planning Board, but remains on the Dracut Housing Authority. The will provide housing needs a strong voice on the Board of Selectmen, and he looks forward to moving forward on the housing projects.

Both spoke to concern over the failure of the override questions to pass. Volpe agreed that an effort must be made to capture that rebate, but wasn’t sure at this time what we could give up for that to happen.

Lowell Sun editorial : Dracut’s penny-wise pound-foolish ways

Today’s Lowell Sun Editorial points out the schizophrenic voters in Dracut who voted against anyone opposing the override questions, but then voted against the questions themselves.
I agree with the point that the selectmen’s decision to split the question to two turned out to be the right one, as one question was fairly close to passing (a change of 71 out of 5000 voters would have done that), but the school question was doomed because of the decisions to give administrative raises just as the campaign had begun.
I understand recruiting and retention, and why those pay increases in the long run would keep us stable and probably save us money, but it was too easy a target for a questioning voter to sway his opinion.
As to the safety side, I did not hear one person out on the streets that day even mention that police report. To most people in Dracut it is forgotten and the Manager will deal with it.  But to the average taxpayer who has been living through this recession, it is still hard to give up any more money to government.  This vote would have supported very visible.. very concrete services.. and that swayed a lot of people, but not enough for this to succeed.
The Presidential election, I still propose, has sickened a lot of people with respect to politics.. and turned a lot more to no longer apathy but to disdain and disgust of politics and government.  I truly believe that had an impact here.
The Lowell Sun

True to form, Dracut voters rejected both the public-safety and school Proposition 2 1/2 overrides in Monday’s election, thus retaining its image as a town tight with a buck.

The two questions would have added $1.1 million spread around the community’s taxpayers, increasing the average annual residential tax bill by $106.

Actually, the public-safety override almost passed muster, failing by just 140 votes. It would have funded the hiring of six police officers and three firefighters. The school override for technology upgrades attracted far less support.

In hindsight, the selectmen’s decision to split the funding requests into two questions seems vindicated by the results. Together, there’s no doubt they were doomed to fail miserably.

If residents needed further reason to refuse this added tax burden, developments that occurred leading up to the election certainly reinforced their resolve.

On the school side, it was the 8 percent raise given Superintendent Steven Stone and lesser amounts to his top administrators. On the public-safety side, it was the scathing audit of the Police Department, which identified the majority of its officers as having no faith in the chief or deputy chief.

And voters apparently had no problem splitting their allegiance when it came to choosing winners and losers. The two candidates who campaigned against the overrides, incumbent Selectman Cathy Richardson and School Committee challenger Tim Woods, were both soundly defeated.

Obviously, Richardson also was saddled with those animal-cruelty allegations and the resulting August trial date, which more than likely sealed her fate.So now, top town officials must regroup and fashion municipal and school budgets without those override funds.

That will entail sacrifices that the majority of residents are apparently willing to make. Remember, that damning police audit also indicated that to meet the national average of police to residents, Dracut would need to hire an additional 19 officers — not just the six it sought.

So short of some basic reorganization of both Police and Fire departments, no more than three cruisers will be patrolling the town at any one time, and fire engines will often be deployed with just two firefighters.

And the school system, already near the bottom in the state for what it spends on its students, will spur more parents to send their children to private, parochial or charter schools.

That’s one way to consolidate school spending.

But it’s no way to run a municipal government.


Election Results 2015

A total of 5021 Voters out of 20695 participated in the election: 24%

On the override questions, they both went down (though not as bad as 3 years ago):

Q1: Safety: Y: 2409 (48%),  N: 2549 (51%) Blanks: 63

Q2: Education: Y:2146 (43%), N:2802 (56%) Blanks: 73

I had predicted a possibility of question 1 passing, but question 2 having a much harder time.

Compared to 2013, where there was nearly 80% against the override, a much greater percentage of the town has agreed there is a need for additional resources and was willing to provide it.  We, however, are a frugal town who are proud of doing more with less and require it of our government.  I just don’t see it continuing forever.  Where the cost of services keeps increasing and the revenue does not, we either have to decide to provide less, or find additional revenue elsewhere.

The safety question was very close, but the school question was damaged by the decision of the school committee to give significant administrative raises during this campaign.

The number of voters participating in these questions, yet not in the other races, shows that the voters were very opinionated in this election. They were going to choose on these wallet questions, and many decided to just support one candidate in the others, not giving a second vote or only voted for the questions.

For Library Trustee: Monique Verville

3886, Blanks: 1076

No opinion here, but shows that about 1075 voters were not participating in this and the next position (people who only came in to vote on the ballot questions?).

For Town Moderator: George Malliaros

3770 (75%), Blanks: 1090

This was expected. There are always people who skip this vote if they don’t know the candidate.


Jesse Forcier: 2753

Tony Archinski: 2575

Phil Thibault: 2083

Cathy Richardson: 1324

Blanks: 1266

I had predicted Tony first, Jesse second.  Jesse’s campaign efforts obviously turned that over, but the rest fell as I expected.

Jesse had great visibility, and was seen as being attacked unfairly and thus earned the vote by not responding negatively.  Being from the planning board and Housing showed his knowledge of the issues regarding town government and the housing needs of the town.

Tony has great respect throughout the town, and is very well organized. As an incumbent he is seen as a leader over the last year who kept the entire town working together trying to solve the economic situation.

Phil came in behind them by about 500 votes. He is a good worker, and on every committee shows great skills, but the townspeople just didn’t choose him as a leader. I still think there is an association here that has hurt him (though he did try to separate himself for the last month or so). The confusion of telling people he would vote for the override questions, but having people on the street holding his signs and vote No signs caused voters some issues as well.

Cathy has had her time. The pipeline company deciding to suspend their efforts undercut some of her efforts get support from that issue, and her personal issues regarding the court cases just did her in. People were just ready to move on.

School Committee:

Allison Volpe: 2900

Betsy Murphy: 2834

Tim Woods: 2208

Blanks: 2043

This fell exactly as I predicted.

Allison spent a year or more working to earn this seat. She attended every financial meeting regarding schools voluntarily to understand the budgets and decisions being made.

Betsy has worked hard on the committee for the last few years, making some difficult decisions. She is still respected with making decisions in the best interest of the schools (though many still believe has to work a little more on predicting the political ramifications of those decisions.. her heart is in the right place, but sometimes not her timing).

Tim was seen as running out of spite or revenge as was written in the Lowell Sun recently.  He was seen as having lost his position as Athletic Director and was thus attacked everything the School Committee had done and was out for the Superintendent.

His numbers I think are an indicator of the “angry voter” in this campaign, who is typically angry and mistrusting of government.

The dispute between he and Betsy allowed Allison to float to the top (as she stayed out of the fray), and Betsy was seen as “winning” the argument.

The 2000 blanks also showed that the school race had a significant number of people choosing to “bullet” vote their candidate.. voting just once, or even just voting only for the override questions.