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EDITORIAL: Select Board Needs To End This Rope-A-Dope Standoff

The Community Preservation Committee wants to understand how $400,000 of taxpayer money was lost on the Boynton Meadows project, but the Affordable Housing Trust won’t release the relevant documents. The Trust claims to be legally bound to keep the documents secret.
     This standoff needs to end now. The documents need to be released. It is time for the Select Board to step in and assert their executive authority, resolve this impasse, and secure the documents detailing how these taxpayer funds were lost.
     The Select Board has the power and legal resources to work with the Affordable Housing Trust to understand and resolve the supposed legal impediments preventing them from doing the right thing. If the Trust still refuses, the Select Board has the power to remove non-compliant members and replace them with those who will.
     By casting a blind eye on the embarrassing loss of $400,000 of taxpayer funds, some town officials seem to have hoped the issue would fade from public consciousness and be forgotten. Instead, the opposite seems to be occurring. By not taking an active role in resolving this mess, the CPC and the Select Board are making it worse. The Affordable Housing Trust’s stonewalling is begining to feel like more than a simple error of judgment.
     One of the town’s long-term problems is housing for residents with lower incomes and those in the so-called ‘forgotten middle.’ By not coming to a clear, quick resolution of the Boynton Meadows debacle, funds that should be spent on housing programs pile up at the CPC and diverse housing opportunities are lost for those who need them most.
     In addition to the financial loss and the lost opportunity for housing initiatives, another consequence of the Boynton Meadows fiasco is the misrepresentation of an important aspect of this project at Town Meeting.
     In hindsight, it is shocking that proponents of the Boynton Meadows investment guaranteed on the floor of town meeting that an independent financial auditor would be appointed to oversee the project, but it never happened. Town Meeting voted for the project because an independent auditor was promised to oversee the funds. But the auditor was never hired. What happened?
If voters cannot trust statements presented as facts at Town Meeting, especially those offered by town officials, town meeting becomes a joke and we have a much bigger problem than a loss of public funds.
     To reestablish the integrity of Town Meeting process, perhaps the moderator should regularly announce that voters cannot trust anything said on town meeting floor unless it is presented and voted in the form of a legally binding amendment, thus forcing proponents to do what they say they are going to do.
     This is hardly the first time that assertions made at Town Meeting were ignored by proponents. But it is an especially egregious, costly, and unsettling example.
     The moderator and the Select Board need to be concerned about how this looks. If Town Meeting is seen as an obstacle easily manipulated by misrepresenting the truth, our town government is brought low.
     Let’s start a real, transparent investigation of the Boynton Meadows investment loss while also working to hold all project proponents accountable, especially for promises made at Town Meeting, promises that are crucial factors in voters’ decision making.
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