Last week I put up an April Fools Day post saying that Bill Keegan was going to stay in Dedham after all. A couple years ago I wrote one that said he was leaving to take a job in the White House. That one was enough to upset a Selectman, who thought it was real and called me after reading it. The sad news is, though, that Bill Keegan really is leaving us tomorrow, and leaving big shoes behind him when he goes.
You may remember at a recent Town Meeting that a seven page list of things the Town has accomplished in the last decade was distributed. It was even mentioned during the Meeting at one point, but one fact went unsaid: that every one of those 169 accomplishments happened during Bill Keegan's tenure. I set out to write a post based on that list, but it quickly got to be much too long before I had finished saying everything I wanted to say. Instead I posted it online for you to read at your leisure.
We are in a much better place today than we were 12 years ago when Bill came to Dedham. This is for any number of reasons, and there are a lot of people to credit for that. There are countless volunteers, elected officials, and Town employees who can rightfully take a share. They all report to the man at the top, however. A hundred years from now, when some future historian writes the history of Dedham, I'm certain Bill Keegan's name will feature prominently and will make the generations of Keegans to come very proud.
Though it was rare, I didn't agree with every decision he made while on Byrant Street, and I'm sure the ten different Selectmen with whom he worked didn't either. Never for a moment, though, have I ever doubted that he had anything but Dedham's best interest at heart. I wish Bill nothing but the absolute best as he moves on to Foxborough (and do hope I see him in Mr. Kraft's box). More importantly, I want to thank him for the great work he has done here. Goodbye and good luck, Bill.
Some of you may know that Bill Keegan's son is quite the baseball player, but on Bryant St these days the big man himself seems to be channeling Yogi Berra. That is, it's like déjà vu all over again.
You'll remember a couple years ago Bill was offered the job of Town Administrator in Mansfield, but he wasn't able to come to terms on a contract with the Selectmen, and ended up staying here for a few more years. It was recently reported that he was hired in Foxboro, and naturally all of us were very happy for him. At the very least we were hoping to see him on TV sitting in Mr. Kraft's box on Sundays in the fall.
It seems that once again Bill is leaving a community standing at the altar. He failed to come to terms once again with the Foxoboro Selectmen, and so he'll be sticking it out here for the foreseeable future. I'm sure Nancy Baker is disappointed she won't be moving down the hall, and the gaggle of the Selectmen candidates will need to come up with a new stump speech now that they don't have this as an issue anymore. Bill issued a statement a little while ago, which I've reprinted after the jump.
(Article 33 at this year's Town Meeting would allow private roads that don't currently meet Town standards to be made public, and then repaired at public expense. - promoted by Brian)
At the Dedham TV Candidates' Forum Brian brought up a good question. He wanted to know our thoughts on the article about private ways which will be presented at our Annual Town Meeting.
This is an issue which will have an impact on our neighbors and friends. Many folks did not realize that their homes were on a private way.
This question is relevant and one which deserves a thoughtful discussion.
Selectman Michael Butler and Planning Board Member Mike Podolski made a presentation at the Middle School. The meeting was for private way abutters and the public. I attended the meeting and the many abutters who spoke and asked thoughtful questions. The abutters are rightly concerned about the cost to themselves, their neighbors and the town.
I was impressed with the number of people who attended the meeting and the large number of folks who asked questions.
I am interested in thoughts on this issue from mydedham community.
(The Dedham Public Schools were sued for civil rights violations under the current superintendent's leadership (more on this soon, I hope.). This is, I think, and sadly, just part of the world we live in today. - promoted by Brian)
Local media outlets are reporting that Dedham's School Committee has chosen Michael Welch as Dedham's Superintendent of Schools. Also noted, is that Michael Welch is a co-defendent, along with Framingham Schools, in a lawsuit filed at US District Court for violation of Title IX (violation of another's civil rights). Mr. Welch is currently the Principal at Framingham High School.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, 33 applicants applied for this position; many with previous experience as superintendents. Mr. Welch has no prior superintendent experience, and is engaged in litigation. How will this ligitation affect his ability to his commit time and focus to Dedham? What happens if he is found guilty?! The School Committee did a great job of holding an systematic and transparent hiring process but it now needs to justify their decision and belief that Mr. Welch is the right choice to lead.
Also, does anyone know if the School Committee's vote to hire must be unanimous?
Over the years, the residential tax gap between Norwood and Dedham has been a source of great frustration. Many people have wondered why Norwood's taxes are so much lower than Dedham's, and a lot have theories have abounded. I've noted a preponderance of "fees" that could explain some of the gap, but in the end there's no way that a municipal fee structure could explain away all those millions. I've also noted that Norwood receives more in state aid grants than Dedham, which is significant but I don't believe it fully answers the question either. Others have suggested that Dedham is over-spending, which is plausible, but nobody ever seems to be able to pinpoint the source of the waste. I wanted to take a fresh look at the issue, and focus on the revenue side of the equation. And I feel like I finally have some satisfactory answers to these burning questions:
How can Norwood afford to charge much lower property tax rates?
How is Norwood's revenue model different than Dedham's?
And even though the residential tax rates are vastly different, can we at least do a side-by-side comparison to determine if the tax rates are equitable?
(Glad this story has a happy ending, but I think it was Parks and Rec staff who were working on the ice rink, not DPW. - promoted by Brian)
Last week the Dedham Patch posted about a new App called YourGOV, where homeowners can submit requests to the town about problems such as a dead animal, pothole, snow removal, etc.
While parked next to the Memorial field playground, as many of us do everyday to pick up our kids from school, I thought I would report the very thick ice-covered sidewalk and snow banks that our kids have been slipping, sliding and crawling over for months. It hadn't been cleared since last week when I reported it (but i saw DPW workers working on the ice rink). So I called the DPW and the gal tells me "we don't plow that sidewalk'...really? I think a prime walkway, right near the schools should be taken care of, I asked to speak to the DPW Department Head. I left a message on his voice mail, we will see if it gets done or someone breaks an ankle.
Today's Boston Globe (2/27/14) revealed what I have long suspected...despite Prop 2.5 and falling real estate values, Dedham's residental property taxes increased 68% over the past 10 years, the second highest among 43 area communities. The average owner of a single-family house in Dedham now pays $6,217 a year in taxes. If I were collecting social security, about half would go to paying the taxes on my house. I understand the need for infrastructure improvements, but there also seem to be a lot of fancy new town trucks and new administrative positions... And what about the new revenues from new commercial developments in the town as well as from the many new McMansions replacing small bungalows? On a street near me a multifamily rental building paying $8,200 a year in taxes was sold as 3 condos which now pay a total of over $15,000 a year in taxes... There was a lot a of talk and fanfare about refurbishing Oakdale Square, the Oakdale Alliance was formed, etc. and yet this winter none of the sidewalks or parking spaces around the two churches or around the square itself have been cleared of snow even though it is now three weeks since the storm...these used to be cleared by the town in the "old days" when taxes were lower... How do you attract business to the Square when there is no place to park and you have to walk in the street, dodging cars?? In short, I think Dedham needs to slow down its spending spree; long-standing problems cannot be solved in one decade by one set of taxpayers... government officials need to start spending taxpayer money AS IF IT WERE THEIR OWN MONEY...i.e. be thrifty!!
(The issue of a residency requirement came up during the Charter Advisory Committee's deliberations, but I don't remember any appetite for imposing one. - promoted by Brian)
I will be attending the selectman meeting tonight if it is not postponed due to weather. Here is my thought on the Administrator/Manager search. For one I do not feel that two board members who are outgoing should be involved in this process as it doesn't give the two newly elected members a hand in being part of the process. I also feel that although we shouldn't impose a residency restriction on this we should interview a pool of Dedham residents who have the credentials first. If we cannot find a candidate that we feel is qualified then we should expand the search outside of Dedham. I still feel it's advantageous to have a Manager that lives here and understands the town and the taxpayers. This is not an indictment on Mr. Keegan. For the most part I thought he did a great job, but he never understood the perspective of the stake holders. I would like Dedham to at least try to hire from within it's boarders but would not be opposed to an outside person if we simply can't get a qualified candidate.
(An excellent idea. What do you want to see in the next Town Administrator, who may soon be stiled a Town Manager? What do you want in terms of qualifications, education, experience, credentials, etc? Should he have to live in Dedham? - promoted by Brian)
A report on the Dedham Patch website indicates that Dedham's Town Adminstrator may soon move to a similar post in another town. This might be a good time for people to post suggestions, concerns, issues, priorities and other matters of local concern. The search committee may benefit from the input.
I was dubious when I first heard about the parking changes planned for Dedham Square as part of the rebuild. After weeks of parking in the Square on Saturday afternoons, I am satisfied with the new configuration. I think it works very well.
Short-term parking has been easy. It appears, to me at least, that the only concern might be reading the parking space number after a snow or ice storm. I suspect that the PD will not be too concerned in those cases.
As I've mentioned before, the Mother Brook Community Group and the Manor Neighborhood Association expanded their contest for the best Christmas lights to other neighborhoods this year. Neighborhood captains from East Dedham, the Manor, Riverdale, and Oakdale nominated houses with great displays, and then assembled teams to go out and judge houses in another neighborhood.
Each neighborhood now has a winner, and we are looking to all of you to help choose a town-wide winner for the coveted Rita Mae Cushman Award. After the jump you can find photos of each of the neighborhood winners, and at the bottom is a place to vote for your choice for the Best Christmas Lights in Dedham.
While these pictures can give you an idea, I would really recommend venturing out to see them for yourselves. Still pictures, and my poor photography skills, don't do many of them justice. You can't see Santa waving his arm down the Manor, or the blinking lights in Riverdale, for example.
At this time each year I invite all the clergy of Dedham to post their Christmas--and now that NewBridge has come to town, Hanukkah, as well-- sermons. You can read below what the Rev. Rali Weaver will be telling her congregation this evening.
We are standing on the threshold.
Waiting by the crib.
A new life is about to be born.
You have been practicing for weeks and weeks and this is the split second before the performance begins, the audience is waiting, and anything could happen.
It is meal you have spent hours and hours preparing that you are putting on the table with rapt anticipation for the first bite.
It is the present you have spent months considering and saving for and then purchasing and wrapping carefully and placing beneath the tree with excitement that it will be received in the spirit it was intended.
This is the hush that comes over you the minute before you walk down the isle, the quiet calmness before the storm, the split second before the contractions commence.
There are a few precious moments like this in any life. Few moments that you are so well prepared for and have time wait in anticipation for them to begin.
(Adding a civic center is a new twist. - promoted by Brian)
As I stated before I think the mention of the extra space is what killed the Rustcraft project. While it appears the town wants town hall in the square I wanted to put another twist on this as I was just watching the last selectman meeting on Dedham TV.
They are talking about creativity. This is what I offered and wasn't listened too so here's what I propose. Why not move DPW to this location, put a fire station there, move some of the departments that deal directly with DPW so that the Town Hall can be less crowded, Yes try again for a senior center here and yes I'm going to harp on this forever we need a civic center.
A civic center would bring revenue, we can rent it out for birthday parties, we can have exercise classes there, sports leagues could rent it out, we can put a basketball court or two in there and we can rent that space to DYB, Metro West and St. Mary's CYO, not to mention the possibility of adult leagues. The seniors could even come here for exercise. We could have classes specific to them and could have the council of aging there. Here is the beauty of this with the civic center and senior center in the same building with a fire station it couldn't be safer as you would have trained CMT's right there.
I liked Carmen's concept and appreciated the work he, Mike Butler and Mr. Keegan put into this, but it simply wasn't creative enough. This is creative, realistic and the town can gain so much as far as revenue and a fire station closer to the oakdale/greenlodge area. This is the kind of plan that was needed and I think town meeting members would have voted for this because it makes sense.
I have to admit this town surprised me tonight. I thought Rustcraft was a shoe in to be voted in and I figured the town would follow suit with the all of the charter commission recommendations.
To start in my opinion the Board of Selectman oversold the proposal and kept highlighting the additional space for development down the road. This was just and easy target for detractors and it killed the project by the time the vote came. I'm sad the proposal didn't pass. Carmen worked very hard on this and I believed in the proposal. I recommended to the board a civic center for that space or to use the Senior Center space if the seniors didn't want it. That revenue stream would have been a no brainer and at least would have given citizens an additional valid reason to support the proposal. All I can do is throw ideas out there. If people don't want to use them then oh well.
The Library Trustees and Park and Recreations made compelling and valid arguments as to why their director should still report to the board and both entities will continue to do so.
It's good to see that democracy is still here and some of our elected officials will still carry weight in the departments they oversee. For the most part a good night for Dedham.