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EDITORIAL: Governing Groton Well Requires Reaching Beyond Town Borders. Are We Up To The Challenge?

The changes in the House and Senate district maps are a reality check, an indication of Groton’s waning political influence statewide. In addition it is a ‘wake-up call’ showing we have work to do. [See Front Page Story]
     There is no other way to interpret the legislature’s decisions to divide the town across two House districts and then, to remove Groton from the same Senate district as Lowell, despite Groton’s having deep historical ties and strong current bonds of common interest with that city. Lowell and Groton have been part of the same Senate district for at least 100 years.
     Separating Groton and Lowell’s senate representation is damaging because we share many interests with Lowell and should be able to speak with a single voice. Nevertheless, the state legislature has separated Groton from this historical connection. The new maps tell the story. Our political future lies in aligning ourselves with the interests of mid-state communities, not with Boston-centric, eastern Massachusetts.
     Last June, Groton’s then State Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Sheila Harrington came to Groton to advise the Select Board how to take control of our most difficult problems including the heavy costs for affordable housing development, certain unfunded educational costs, and for the threat of PFAS contamination and clean up.      They said we need more political influence on Beacon Hill.
     Both legislators made it clear we must develop greater state-level political clout in order to get our fair share of financial resources. They said they could better advocate for the town’s needs on Beacon Hill if we could develop greater state-level political influence. To achieve this political ‘throw weight’, they said, Groton must form regional alliances with towns having similar interests. Now we know that those towns lie to our west and not the east.
     In the meantime we see no sign that the Select Board has taken any action to follow up on these important ideas. In hindsight, it may be that our legislators’ presentation to the Select Board last June was a not-so-subtle hint of the coming realignment.
     Select Board Member Peter Cunningham rightly observed that Groton is highly dependent on the property tax to fund our government. His initiative to allow retail sales of cannabis in town to increase tax revenues was a good idea, a step in the right direction. We applaud his initiative. But we need more ideas like this, ideas that reach beyond the narrow borders of the town.
     We need to look for other solutions, other revenues and resources. State Senator Kennedy and Representative Harrington have shown us what we need to do. We hope the Select Board makes this a priority in the New Year.
After the drubbing we received in the redistricting process, the Select Board needs to get serious about developing these political alliances. Doing so will not be easy. It will take work and imagination. But, there is a way forward if we choose to take it. If we don’t, we will continue to take a back seat to other towns and regions of the state.
     Perhaps the least obvious but most intriguing opportunity of Groton’s being part of the new Worcester and Middlesex senate district is our new state senator, John Cronin. He is a local man, the youngest state senator, a graduate of West Point and a combat veteran. There can be little doubt that he has a significant political future if he wants it.
     We believe that this state senator, a man of action and ideas, could help Groton gain the political influence we need on Beacon Hill. We suggest that the Select Board invite Senator Cronin to a Select Board meeting to explore such opportunities.
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