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Editorial: Nobody Washes Their Rental Car

The Charter Review Committee has done a good job of improving the Charter. The prime concern of many voters was that the Town Manager’s powers needed to be ‘checked and balanced’ while still leaving him plenty of power to run the town. We think the Charter Review Committee has accomplished this goal.

Still, there is one small blind spot that needs addressing. This issue has been brought before the Review Committee formally and informally several times, but a majority of the committee members just don’t see the problem. We believe the committee has this one wrong and we hope the Charter will be amended on Town Meeting floor to correct it.

Under the current charter, the Town Manager has the power to appoint anybody he sees fit to be a voting member of any appointed, volunteer town committee, whether or not the candidate is a resident. In fact, he appointed himself to the sign bylaw committee.

Besides Town Manager Haddad appointing himself to the sign bylaw committee, there are a few other positions in town that are filled by out-of-towners. We believe the right to vote on volunteer committees appointed by the Town Manager should be restricted to Groton residents. It may be OK for out-of-towners to serve on these committees in an advisory capacity, but without voting powers.

For example, take a very large and very expensive public works project - say a new fire station. If the town appoints non-residents with voting privileges to such a committee, it is possible that we would end up with a much more expensive project than if the committee is limited to residents, residents who will have to pay for the project.

In some cases, out–of-town committee membership is probably benign. But the interests of residents and non-residents are fundamentally opposed. For out-of-towners, their own money and environment is not on the line - it is our money and our town that is on the line and we should make the decisions.

They say nobody washes a rented car. This quip reinforces the fact that ‘ownership’ changes a person’s point of view and fundamental concerns. The same principal applies here. As a matter of respect for the sovereignty of Groton volunteers and as a practical matter, these voting rights should be reserved for our residents alone.

We cannot understand why the Charter Review Committee thinks it is a good idea to let non-residents serve on volunteer committees. In fact, why would most non-residents want to serve on a volunteer committee in a foreign town - unless it is to affect some policy for their or their company’s benefit? Do they – perhaps unintentionally - become ‘lobbyists’ for a point of view alien to the best interests of Groton?

Groton is home to a large, well-educated population. There is no need to seek non-residents to fill Groton’s volunteer positions. However, if a non-resident wishes to serve in a non-voting capacity and no Groton resident is available, they should be welcomed. If there is ever a need for non-biased technical expertise, the town should hire a consultant rather than rely on non-resident opinion.

Since the Charter Review Committee is unwilling to budge on this issue, we hope that there will be an amendment to the Charter from Town Meeting floor requiring that all voting appointments to town boards and committees be filled by town residents.

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