Way back in 2009, Stebi wrote a post entitled Epilogue: The Joanne Flatley Campaign. I said then that the whole affair wasn't over yet, and it still isn't, but I think we might finally be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier this week there was a hearing in Superior Court to decide whether or not Joanne's lawsuit will go to trial. It was interesting, to say the least, and I hope it marks the final chapter of this long drawn out saga.
The most interesting part of the entire day was that the Flatleys are changing their legal argument. They can't identify GreenLodge75, who first broke the story here on the blog, and thus the Flatleys can't prove who was the ultimate source of the leak. If they can't prove that a teacher or administrator or someone else improperly revealed the details of the special services provided to the Flatley child, they don't have a case. Or so the Town's attorney argued.
The Flatley's lawyer seemed to concede this point because - and pay attention here because I couldn't believe he was actually making this argument - they are now claiming that none of this would have happened if "the Town of Dedham hadn't violated their own tutoring policy." He said that pulling two special education teachers from their classrooms was a "reckless decision" and that doing so "shows preferential treatment." How do you like that? Joanne's lawyer admitted in court that she got preferential treatment.
At one point during Town Meeting last night, somewhere after the 10 p.m. mark, I turned to the friend sitting next to me and remarked that I thought that this was the first time we had voted the same way all night. An hour later I walked out of the hall with nothing but the greatest fondness and respect for him, despite the fact that he voted the wrong way most of the time.
That seemed to be the theme of last night - a divided Town Meeting, but not a divisive one. It seemed like every vote was a close one, with most of the standing votes coming down to just a few bodies. There was thankfully none of the rancor that attended the senior center votes of the past 12 months. No one swore at me this time because they didn't like my vote. In fact, on my way out I shook hands with someone who voted against one of my substitute motions, and with someone who made a substitute motion with which I disagreed.
I had meant to do this sooner, but I thought that with Town Meeting coming up it might be a good time to do another Ask Me Anything Day. Last time we discussed the Senior Center Site Committee, the Public Art Project, and the old Avey School lease, among other things.
Is there anything on the warrant you are confused by, or would like more information about? Anything else on your mind? Just wondering what is the meaning of life? Fire away!
(For those of you who were not there, the effort to undo the Senior Center Site Committee failed, 119-95. - promoted by Brian)
After returning home from the Special Town Meeting tonight I have more questions, but also would like to offer some clarifications.
Since we have this fine process now established, will all town buildings site processes go through this? Specifically, where it the Police Station Siting Committee? I'm sure that Dedham would greatly benefit from a similar process.
Since when has The Endicott Estate been under the Park and Recreation? I keep hearing the reference to Endicott Estate as Open Space. My understanding is to be Open Space it has to be designated as such. As far as I know it is under the control of the Endicott Commission. As I know, there are many times that the Estate is off limits and not accessible to me, a town citizen, to roam free on open range because it is being rented out like the town prostitute.
Before I tracked down Katherine Endicott's will during the last Ask Me Anything Day, I had no idea she was such an acomplished equestrian. Turns out she was an alternate on the 1924 Olympic show jumping team in Paris. She even provided in her will for the care of her two horses, Connie and Hines, after she died. It seems only too appropriate then that horses will once again return to the Estate next year.
A new collaborative, the Dedham Equestrian Society, has pledged to raise $8.6 million to build a beautiful new horse stable and a race track on the grounds of the Estate. The Equestrian Society is comprised of the Dedham Country and Polo Club, the Animal Rescue League, and the Society in Dedham for the Apprehension of Horse Thieves; the two former groups will use it to board horses, and the latter will use the ballroom on the second floor for their raucous annual meeting and other social events. Of course, we have a bylaw in town that prohibits riding a horse on a sidewalk, but as long as they stay within the bounds of the Estate they should be fine.
Being public land there needs to be a public purpose, and so Parks and Rec will be offering horseback riding lessons at a big discount. The new Society's bigwigs inform me there is already a waiting list of people who want to board their horse at the stable. I would have thought that the Country and Polo Club would be closer to most of these Upper Dedhamites, but apparently with the Town paying for 100% of the maintenance and upkeep of the facilities it is going to be a lot cheaper for them at the Estate. Either way, this is a huge win for the children of Dedham, and really for any of us who like to ride.
(Construction began last year on Good Friday. - promoted by Brian)
I just drove thru ( or tried to drive thru) Dedham Square. I cannot believe that the week before Easter that the town is allowing the contractor(s) to basically shut down the square. There is NO parking in front of most of the stores. There is almost total gridlock in all directions going to and thru the square. I thought the purpose of spending almost $6 million was to improve the square and to bring more business for the merchants. We will be lucky if there are any merchants left after this project gets done.Many of the small stores in the square depend on the holidays to increase their business. Very unfortunate that some one in charge of this project could not have done a better job scheduling whatever they are doing right now for a later date. The access to the post office is also practically impossible and the handicap parking space on Maple Street is filled with pipe.
Now that the warm weather is upon us there seems to be a lot of utility work and road work going on around town. Walnut Street near the Endicott Estate has been ripped up for several days now (incidentally, I tried finding out more info. on the Town's website about what the work is for but couldn't find anything). I understand the need for utility companies to do upgrades, repairs, maintenance to their various underground lines/sewers/pipes, etc. What I don't understand is why it's ok for them to leave the roads a mess after they're done? There are several roads in town that, within a year of them being repaved, are dug up by utility companies which leave uneven and unsightly patching on an otherwise nice road. East Street, Walnut St., Whiting Ave., Mt. Vernon St., to name a few. Even streets that weren't recently paved but are in decent condition have been left with shoddy patch jobs from utility companies. Does the town have to inspect the road condition after the work is done and if they are not satisfied with the road conditions is there any recourse? I'm sure that this is not at the top of people's lists of things to worry about, but it frustrates me to see the roads left looking terrible especially when our tax dollars went to improving them in the first place.
There is a story in today's Transcript about a basketball player Dedham High lost to Buckingham, Browne & Nichols. While I am glad he is doing so well, I am sure it will cause more hand wringing around town about why we lose so many students, and athletes especially, to private schools. A few months ago I ran the numbers on just this very question as I didn't think the perception matched reality, and that we didn't really lose that many kids. I then let the spreadsheet sit on my hard drive, never did anything with it, and honestly forgot about it until today. I'm glad I didn't, because at the time I didn't have access to the numbers from the current school year and would have written a very different post.
When compared to the other schools in the Bay State Conference (with all of Newton's numbers used as a proxy for Newton North), we are about in the middle of the pack. That was true when I first looked at the issue, and it is true now. We have lost, on average, 13 kids a year between the 8th and 9th grade since the 2006-2007 school year. That amounts to 6% of the class. This is more than Wellesley or Norwood, but also less than Milton, which loses 11% each year. Our 6% is also about the same as Walpole, they of superpower sports teams. Needham, Newton North, and Weymouth all gain students between the 8th and 9th grade.
Those dynamics were more or less the same when I last looked at the issue. What has changed is that we are seeing an increase in the number of 8th graders choosing not to cross Mt. Vernon St. I don't know why, but it is troubling to say the least, especially since I've been pleased with much of the new programs and initiatives I've heard taking place there. For whatever reason, more and more parents disagree with me.
(There are lots of possibilities here. - promoted by Brian)
At the last BOS meeting they announced that the Town is now in the investigation stage of evaluating the possibility whether or not to put in a bid, to lease or purchase some portion of the Rustcraft Bldg for multiple Town Dept. uses. I recommend to watch the re-run of their last meeting.
This is huge by the way, many residents over the last 20-30 years have wished that the Rustcraft Bldg was available for Town Municipal use, well, that time has come!
The BOS recently heard that the Bldg has been foreclosed and purchased by the "Davis Group" for $23 million. The group is looking to lease or sell some portion of the 50 acre parcel and the BOS will be talking to all Town Depts. to determine after their analysis, if it would be financially feasible to locate/build a Municipal Town Dept. megaplex inside the existing bldg and maybe some additions.
The BOS investigation of the site will take about 8 months and go before the November TM to get approval to put in a lease/purchase bid, from what they said.
This week, the Dedham Times wrote an editorial (not online) about the new police station location. I hope this is a fair summary: the police station is being built in St. Mary's lot, but the first choice for location was Gonzales field - also on High Street, closer to the square. That site was rejected because it is protected and would have to be replaced by an equal amount of park land. In the editorial, the paper suggested formally recognizing the Dolan Center as park land. Which has apparently not happened yet. Making the Dolan Center park land would free up Gonzales field for the new police station - a more desirable location for many reasons.
(This is getting some new comments, so I am bumping it back up to the top.
It means the FinCom, in a split vote, didn't like this article. We are still a long way away from a Senior Center at the Estate... or anywhere else. - promoted by Brian)
Dedham Times reports that the Finance Committee recommends against the proposal to create a committee to find a site for the Senior Center. Does this mean the Senior Center will be built at the Endicott Estate? Or, does it have to go to Town Meeting? What is the next step? And will the Walnut Street group continue to protest?
At a couple meetings of the Charter Advisory Committee we have considered what the proper size of Town Meeting should be. It appears right now like it will stay the same size, but the language will be cleaned up a little. (For those of you interested, we will be discussing Town Meeting further at our meeting on Wednesday night.) We took into account the thoughts and opinions of both our Moderator and Town Clerk, the latter of whom did the math and determined that we have an average attendance at each Annual Town Meeting of about 83%, and 76% for Special Town Meetings.
Interestingly, this is an improvement over the early years of the Town. Harvard Kennedy School Professor Jane Mansbridge has found that
even though no more than 58 men were eligible to come to the Dedham town meeting and to make the decisions for the town, even though the decisions to which they addressed themselves were vital to their existence, even though every inhabitant was required to live within one mile (1.6 km) of the meeting place, even though each absence from the meeting brought a fine, and even though the town crier personally visited the house of every latecomer half an hour after the meeting had begun, only 74 percent of those eligible actually showed up at the typical town meeting between 1636 and 1644.
Coming back to the present day, I wanted to go a step further and see how this broke down. Is it the same people attending, or missing, every Meeting, or does it change from year to year? I looked back three years and on the whole was pretty pleased with what I found.
Of all the 200 Representatives who have been in the Town Meeting for each of the last three years (a total of 338 served one or more years), 85 of them have perfect attendance. That is, they attended both the Special and the Annual Town Meetings all three years. An additional 50 only missed one of the six. That means better than two-thirds of these Representatives made all or all but one Town Meeting in the last triennial cycle.
(They are always looking for new show ideas, and hosts for the show ideas they already have. If this is something that interests you, I'm sure the fine folks Dedham TV would love to have you. - promoted by Brian)
Occasionally, I check the Comcast "Educational Programming" channel for local information. The content seems thin. The Dedham Hall of Fame video seems to be the only available program - it has been shown and reshown -- sort of an endless loop.
I wonder if the the local programming channel is underutilized. How about adding myDEDHAM conversations to the lineup??? Are there local organizations that need publicity?