We will be holding a Candidates’ Night in Grafton on Sunday, April 29 at 7:00 pm at the Grafton Municipal Center. We have two contested races: Board of Selectmen and Planning Board. Lee Bona, from Worcester will be our Moderator. Shrewsbury is not holding a Candidates’ Night and they have only one contest. Shrewsbury goes to the polls on May 1, 2018. Grafton voters go to the polls on May 15, 2018 and hopefully many will attend Annual Town Meeting on May 14, 2018.
The LWVMA is holding a conference in Worcester on April 28 at Clark University, “Beyond the March.” They have lined up some very good speakers and I hope many of you will attend. You can register on the LWVMA website. The fee is $25.
Our Annual March pot-luck is coming up on March 11 at 6 pm, with Martha Gach, Conservation Coordinator, Massachusetts Audubon, Broad Meadow Brook., as our guest speaker. Her topic will be Climate Change and actions we can take. Our location will be Tufts Veterinary School, Administration Building, Kohnstamm Conference room.
We received good news in February that both LWVMA and LWVUS approved the merger of the Grafton and Shrewsbury leagues. Our membership numbers are good and will most likely continue to grow.
The LWVMA is sponsoring a Video Contest for High School students in Massachusetts. The topic is “Get in the Game and Vote.” The videos would be used to encourage voters to get out and vote in November 2018 when Massachusetts has state elections and will be electing a Governor, State Representatives and Senators and also U.S Representatives and one U.S. Senator. It should be 30 seconds long and be submitted by March 31. All the details are on LWVMA’s website.
The committee to implement Grafton’s new bylaw banning single-use plastic bags used to carry groceries has been working to inform affected businesses of the new bylaw. Ann Marie Foley is leading this group. Certain businesses are being contacted and asked to provide reusable bags that will be given to senior citizens, low-income families and others to make them aware of this change.
Our first Running for Office Workshop went very well. Several people attended who had taken out nomination papers already as well as a person who was thinking about running for office. They all felt the workshop was helpful. Marj Albright put together a very detailed handout called “Running for Office.” The Westford LWV sent us their brochure on this topic which we used as a template. We hope to print it has a booklet in the future. It is available at the Town Clerk’s office for people who come in for Nomination papers. We will be holding our annual Candidates’ Night at the end of April for all candidates running for office in town elections.
A workshop on Running for Office will be held on February 8 at the Grafton Municipal Center. Anyone interested in learning more about the requirements for becoming a candidate for a local office is welcome. We will have information regarding the requirements and a panel discussion with Melissa Mazan, a member of the School Committee, Bruce Spinney, a member of the Board of Selectmen and Carol Sotiropoulos, who is a past member of the School Committee and has worked on several recent campaigns.
The merger of the Grafton and Shrewsbury Leagues has been approved by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts and we are now waiting for the LWVUS to approve this change. As you know we have been working with Shrewsbury members since September and held two successful events in the fall. Pam Kates and Karen Durand have been updating the database overseen by the national league and it has been great that most of our Grafton members have paid. Shrewsbury members did not receive their dues notice until January since Grafton was not allowed to send the notice to them until LWV of MA gave us permission to do this.
The group that worked to get the Plastic Ban bylaw passed at Town Meeting is now working with the Grafton officials to implement the ban that will take effect July 1st. I am sure they will want some help from other league members when it is time to distribute reusable bags and educate consumers about the bylaw.
We will planning our annual March pot luck soon. If you have ideas for Speakers, please send them to one of out board members.
The board met in September to begin the process of merging with the LWV of Shrewsbury and to plan two events for the fall. The first event will take place on Friday, October 20 at the Broken Creek Winery in Shrewsbury at 6:30 pm. This is a social event for members of the Grafton and Shrewsbury leagues to get better acquainted. It will also be fun to do a wine tasting at the winery and enjoy some appetizers.
The second event will take place on November 6 at 7:00 pm at the Municipal Center.Adam Friedman, Executive Director of Voters Choice, will speak about Ranked Voting and how it can improve the process of electing a candidate that is the choice of the most voters. The public is welcome to attend this event.
The board decided the name of our combined league would be Grafton Shrewsbury Area League. We hope to attract some members from adjoining towns that do not have local leagues. We have notified the LWVMA of our plans to merge and they have sent us the requirements needed to make this official. We will be working on that paperwork for the next couple of months. We also discussed the local issues our members brought up at Annual Meeting and several board members will be exploring ways to improve the repair of gas leaks in Grafton and Shrewsbury and the possibility of a Civics Bee with Middle school students.
Annual Meeting was well attended in June. During the first six months of 2017 we gained five new members and two members who re-joined. Members discussed several issues the Grafton league could work on during 2017-18. One of the issues is a later start for high school and middle school students. The Grafton School Committee has discussed this but not approved the change yet. Much research has been done on this issue and a committee could be formed to bring the issue to the school administration again. Carol Sotiropoulos has suggested we learn more about the “ranked voting” process. She has a speaker in mind and will contact him for a Fall presentation if our group is interested. This was approved and Carol has scheduled, Adam Friedman, for a November date. The civics curriculum is not covered too much in schools currently. Several leagues have worked with their local schools to present a “Civics Bee” that helps make this topic more interesting to the students. We can review what other leagues in Massachusetts have done and see what would work for Grafton. We also discussed the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the LWV and the passage of the Constitutional Amendment granting women the right to vote.
Our guest speak was Margaret Hurley, Chief, Central Massachusetts Regional Office of the Office of the Attorney General and Director of the Municipal Law Unit . She discussed what guidelines are used when reviewing laws passed by cities and towns. New laws must comply with federal and state laws or not have an effect on current laws. She gave us examples of laws that were approved by her office and laws they could not approve. Margaret also discussed the new Marijuana law that allows recreational use. In June we were still waiting for the State legislature to agree on a law regulating recreational use of marijuana in Massachusetts. Once this happens and becomes law cities and towns may be able to enact local laws regarding marijuana use.
Spring has been a very busy time for League members in Grafton. Candidates’ Night went well in April with an interesting debate by the candidates for School Committee. The audience questions were very timely. In May Grafton held its Spring Town Meeting as well as elections for local offices. Town meeting was very well attended since two town facilities are in need of updating or replacement and the voters needed to approve this funding. Both the Library Renovation Project and the DPW’s new facility passed with the required two-thirds vote. The League’s citizen petition to reduce the plastic bags in our waste stream with an article limiting single-use plastic bags, passed with the needed majority vote. On the May Town election ballot the money needed for the Library renovation and the DPW facility was on the ballot. Both articles were approved by the Voters.
Our Annual Meeting will be held on Monday, June 19, 2017 at the home of Peter and Shirley Williams. Besides electing officers, we will be discussing merging with Shrewsbury.
The LWV of Shrewsbury currently has a very small membership but has still been able to work on several important issues. However, they feel they would be a stronger league if they work with Grafton and we take care of some of the administrative functions that need more oversight. After our business meeting we will enjoy a catered dinner. Our guest speaker is Margaret Hurley, a Grafton resident and Chief, Central Massachusetts Regional Office of the Office of the Attorney General. She is also Director of the Municipal Law Unit and will tell us more about her work reviewing the By-laws passed by communities. She will also speak about the Marijuana legislation that is in effect now in our state and how communities are dealing with it.
Hope to see you all at the Annual Meeting June 19!
Our League members have been busy the past several months working on a Warrant Article to Ban Single-use Plastic Bags. We were invited to discuss the article with the Board of Selectmen in March and had good feedback from them. This article will be on the Town Warrant for the May 8 Town Meeting. Our committee (Marj Albright, Anne Baskowski and Anne Marie Foley) can use more help getting the word out about this Warrant Article. Please let me know if you would like to help.
Separate from the League, many league members have been helping the Gas Pipeline group which will have a Resolution at Town meeting to prevent the pipeline from being built in Grafton. The Board of Selectmen are supporting this action.
Candidates’ Night is coming up soon. There is one contest for School Committee.We will invite all candidates to this event on April 23, 7 pm at the Municipal Center. Grafton Town Meeting is May 8 and there will be many important issues that Grafton residents will decide. The Library Renovation will be up for a vote as well as a new DPW facility. We will vote on the Town Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 as usual. Please encourage your friends to come.
Our Annual March Pot-luck will be held on Sunday, March 12. Our speaker will be Carol Strauss Sotiropoulos. Carol has been working with the local group that has been taking action to keep us all informed about the proposed gas pipeline that would be built in this part of the state. Carol plans to bring several committee members with her to tell us more about the drawbacks of having another pipeline built in Grafton. This pipeline is not one that would bring gas for home heating to residents. We will discuss what are the best options for clean energy in New England.
A small group of members is researching the possibility of proposing a Warrant Article at May town meeting to ban certain types of plastic bags from being used by retail stores to bag items. About 40 cities and towns in Massachusetts have passed this type of bylaw in recent years. Most of the laws passed allow only certain types of plastic bags to be used by stores. The preference is for re-usuable bags: cloth, paper, plastic or a combination of materials. The current plastic bags used in local stores do not de-compose and are causing environmental problems. We will need support from other groups in Grafton that are concerned about the environment in order to make this viable for Grafton.
This Election year was quite an amazing one that I think we will remember for quite awhile. For the LWV it has been a good year to show our strengths and leadership.
In the next few months we will be working on the Massachusetts League’s study on Charter Schools. The state League has many education stands we can lobby on, but charter schools is not one of them. Here is the link to the materials on the LWVMA web site: lwvma.org/member-resources/charter-school-study/. When you see the link for the Consensus Questions – it looks long at 11 pages- but there is one question per page with an explanation regarding what “Yes “means and what “No” means.
Another issue we may want to work on is a Warrant article for Town Meeting to ban the use of plastic bags that cannot be recycled. Shrewsbury passed this article in May 2016. I have a copy of their article and some of their other materials. Other towns have passed this law, so businesses have started to change the type of bags used for purchases in communities in Massachusetts.
In March we plan to have our Annual Pot luck and in April we will plan our Candidates Night for those running for local offices.