By Matthew Robare
Saugus’s Annual Town Meeting began Monday night with an invocation by the Rev. Bob Leroe of the Cliftondale Congregational Church, in which he prayed for calm and openness. “Perfect harmony we’re not going to achieve, Lord, but at least help us to be civil and good listeners,” Leroe said.
Two articles, one to adopt a bylaw to deal with graffiti and one to petition Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn the United States Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, were discussed and passed.
The Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission was a constitutional case where the Supreme Court held by a majority (five to four) vote that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions.
The real meat of town meeting, the FY 2014 budget, will have to wait, however.
“The finance committee has had a very active spring. We believe the budget will be before you in record time. Unfortunately, there are still unknowns,” Chairman Bob Palleschi said.
Palleschi added that he expected the committee would be able to finish the budget in another week, so Town Moderator Bob Long decided that the next session of the annual meeting would be held on May 20, instead of May 13.
Joanna Vannah, chair of the Alternative Energy Committee, said that the wind feasibility study had been completed and the first draft of the report was on its way. She added that Tim Hawkes was working on a bylaw to govern micro-turbines—small wind turbines that can be attached to a house or erected in a yard—and that the committee is looking into solar power more aggressively. She suggested that some micro-turbines could be put up at the Saugus Public Library for educational purposes.
After the committees reported, discussion began on Article 14, the graffiti bylaw. Proposed by Town Meeting Member Peter Manoogian, the bylaw requires property owners to remove graffiti within 14 days of receiving a notification from the police department. The bylaw also emphasizes that vandalism is illegal under Massachusetts General Laws and can be prosecuted.
Town Meeting Member Bill Kramitch proposed an amendment, which passed, to make sure that if town property was vandalized the town would have to remove the graffiti in 14 days like regular property owners. Town Meeting Member Maureen Dever, however, made a motion to refer the article back to Manoogian.
“I think this bylaw could be improved. We want a bylaw that provides relief to the homeowner,” she said.
She also said that in other towns there are protections for homeowners, so that they don’t have to bear the full cost of removing graffiti from their properties if they cannot afford it. She was especially concerned for seniors and people on fixed incomes. However, Manoogian rejected the argument for two reasons: One was that graffiti in Saugus rarely affects occupied homes, and the other was that protecting homeowners could be done administratively and didn’t need to be included in the bylaw.
Her motion failed, with just six people voting in favor. The amended bylaw passed, 36 to two.