Making Democracy Work

Letters-to-the-Editor

The following letters were sent by the LWV board to local newspapers or to public officials to advocate and educate about the League's position on current issues.

Andover Town Meeting 2015

April 19, 2015

Editor, Andover Townsman:

After meeting and arriving at consensus, the League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover supports the following Articles at the upcoming Town Meeting: Article 16, Town Meeting Electronic Voting, would appropriate up to $35,000 to implement an electronic voting system to allow individuals to vote using wireless handheld devices at the 2016 Town Meeting. This system would help preserve voter privacy and could also improve the efficiency of Town Meeting, which could increase attendance.

Articles 49, 50, & 51 would establish a Historic Mill District covering 100 acres adjacent to downtown Andover, and amend the Zoning Bylaw to establish an overlay district called the Historic Mill District. These articles open up a myriad of opportunities for that section of Andover without disturbing the zoning that already exists. These articles address issues of architectural design and scale, historic character, traffic, and public river access, among others. The district represents an opportunity for new growth, which directly contributes to tax revenue, while increasing the vibrancy of Andover's downtown.

Many additional worthy articles are being considered at this year's Town Meeting, and the League encourages all voters to attend and help shape Andover's future.

LWV of A/NA Steering Committee

Maureen Sundberg

Stefani Traina

Andover Town Meeting 2013

Editor, Andover Townsman:

As we draw nearer to 2013 Town Meeting on May 6th, Andover officials have developed their FY2014 Budgets and are presenting them in a variety of forums in order for residents to become familiar with the information. The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover urges you to take time to review the town and school budgets and learn as much as possible before Town Meeting.

The Town Manager's Budget and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) are available on the homepage of the town's website http://andoverma.gov under "What's New," and budget issues will be discussed at the Monday and Wednesday Joint Meetings of the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee. Their meeting schedule is available at http://andoverma.gov/meetings/. The Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, and School Committee will meet together on March 20th.

The School Committee has presented its budget, and it is now available for review on the school website: http://www.aps1.net/index.aspx?NID=411. The School Committee is also hosting a public hearing at which residents will be able to ask questions about the 2014 School Budget. That meeting will be Thursday, March 21 at 7:00pm in the School Committee room (in the school administration offices at 36 Bartlet St, at the rear of the building).

On April 3rd, the League will host a Budget Forum featuring presentations by both school and town officials that will elaborate on their FY2014 budgets. The Budget Forum, moderated by League-member Bonnie Zahorik, will begin at 7:00pm in the Memorial Hall Library. This is an interactive forum with a question and answer period will allow attendees to further explore budget issues with officials in a small setting.

If you are unable to attend the League's Budget Forum, it will broadcast live and will be taped for rebroadcast and posted online at andovertv.org. Questions will be accepted in advance of the forum, as well as during the event, at VoterServiceAndover@lwv-andovers.org.

Andover residents are privileged to live in a town that maintains a Town Meeting form of government. The League reminds you that democracy is not a spectator sport. We encourage all voters to take time to become informed before Town Meeting and to vote on election day, March 26th.

Sincerely,

Ann Cobleigh, LWV President

Bonnie Zahorik, LWV Budget Forum Coordinator

Town Meeting Positions, 4/22/10

To the editor:

The League of Women Voters supports the following Articles at the upcoming Town Meeting:

Article 24 would allow Andover to adopt the Stretch Energy Code, thereby helping fulfill one of the requirements necessary to be designated a Green Community under the Green Communities Act and making Andover eligible for up to $1million per year in grants for energy projects.

Articles 30 and 40 would fund the purchase of an ambulance and a DPW truck.

Article 41would approve the borrowing of funds to replace leaking roofs at High Plain and Wood Hill schools to prevent further damage to the buildings while warranty issues are worked out with the manufacturer.

Article 55 approves borrowing $468,000 to purchase 5 acres of land on Foster's Pond, thereby protecting the watershed, improving access to Town-owned land, providing parking and strengthening the wildlife corridor these contiguous properties create.

Articles 25, 26 & 27. The League supports these articles which would designate a Smart Growth Overlay District in downtown Andover where the current Town Yard and surrounding properties are located. The Smart Growth Overlay District gives the town significant control over the expansion of the central business district and redevelopment of a pivotal property (the Town Yard) adjacent to the train station.

The League supports Article 28, which would be the first step in a two-step process to allow the Town to borrow, through debt exclusion, $21.9 million to purchase property at 146 Dascomb Road for a new Town Yard. The debt exclusion vote requires passage at Town Meeting and a vote at the ballot box. The current Town Yard has reached the end of its useful life and must be replaced. The Dascomb Road property is the most suitable location to emerge from a ten-year search for an alternate site. It is also the most cost-effective solution to the urgent need for a replacement facility. The size and location of the property, with direct access to Rt. 93, presents a unique opportunity for the Town to solve a pressing problem and acquire a valuable asset.

Finally, the League urges town leaders to continue working together to bring a balanced budget to Town Meeting that meets the critical needs of the town and the schools.

Town Meeting Preview is available on local cable and online at http://andovertv.org. Plan to attend Town Meeting, which starts on Wednesday, April 28 at the Collins Field House.

Stefani Traina, President League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

Learn About Town Budget at Forum, 4/1/10

To the editor:

Would you like to understand more about the budget process? Do you find yourself at Town Meeting with questions about the budget that you wish you'd been able to ask earlier? The League of Women Voters and the Service Club of Andover are sponsoring Weathering the Fiscal Storm: Andover's FY-2011 Budget on Wednesday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall Library to help voters better understand the budget before voting on it. We are proud to offer this budget forum to give Andover residents the opportunity engage directly with town leaders to better understand the town's revenue sources and the factors that drive town department and school expenses. The continuing fiscal crises have resulted in significant reductions in both state and local revenues. Come learn about these changes to Andover's revenue sources, the efforts underway by our leaders to manage expenses, and the impact to town services and schools in the face of these challenges. Presentations by the Finance Committee, Board of Selectmen and School Committee will be followed by ample time for questions from the audience. We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to become informed before attending Town Meeting. The forum will also be broadcast live on local cable channels and available for viewing afterwards online via town and school websites. To help shape the dialog, please email questions ahead of time to presidentLWVANA@lwv-andovers.org.

Stefani Traina, President League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

Be Counted in US Census, 3/11/10

To the editor:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover is a federal 2010 Census partner. We encourage all residents in our communities to complete and return the federal census which will arrive in our mailboxes in mid-March. This Census is different from our local census. The 2010 Census is a Constitutionally-required questionnaire that will count every person residing in the United States as of April 1st. The form contains 10 questions and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. An accurate tally could have a far-reaching beneficial impact on our communities for many years to come.

Census results are used to determine our representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and to draw our state legislative districts. Census results are also used to award local and state government grants for public safety, education, transportation, health services, and to assist the elderly, the disabled, veterans, and low-income families.

With regard to concerns about privacy, the law states that the Census Bureau cannot share an individual's census questionnaire responses with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities, for 72 years. In addition, census workers are required to take a lifetime oath of Non-Disclosure. This privacy policy is intended to encourage new immigrants, including those whose documentation is incomplete, to be counted in the census, so that government funding reaches the cities and towns where they reside. For more information about this, go to http://2010.census.gov/2010census/privacy/index.php.

We encourage you to stand up and be counted.

Stefani Traina, President League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

League Celebrates 90th Anniversary, 2/18/10

To the editor:

Ninety years ago, Carrie Chapman Catt first proposed a League of Women Voters to "finish the fight" for women's suffrage and work to end all discrimination against women. The League of Women Voters was founded on Valentine's Day in 1920, six months before the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Today we are a grassroots organization of women and men, with 850 Leagues throughout all 50 states.

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover has been active in Andover for 89 years and in North Andover for 31 years, studying the issues of the day, serving as a government observer, running candidates' forums, and encouraging healthy dialogue on issues that affect our communities. The League is strictly non-partisan, but we have always been political, advocating to effect meaningful change at the local, state and national level.

Our members join the League because they know that the League of Women Voters is the organization where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. Our democracy depends on us, the people, to get involved, and this year, on our 90th Anniversary, we hope you will stand with us in this work. The League always welcomes new members. Even if your time is limited, being a member helps keep you informed about issues and candidates so that you can intelligently participate in decisions that affect our towns and our schools. Go to http://www.lwv-andovers.org for more information.

Stefani Traina, President League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

League Pushes Sticker Campaign, 2/11/10

To the editor:

In light of the number of uncontested races in Andover this year, the League of Women Voters would like to urge interested citizens to consider running for local office. Even though the deadline to file nomination papers has passed, candidates can still run for office by conducting a sticker or write-in campaign. This has been done in Andover before. The candidate would be eligible to participate in the League's candidates' forum, as well. The Town Clerk's office would be a good place to start for information. The Secretary of State's office also has information at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/Ele/elestkr/stkridx.htm.

Stefani Traina, President League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

Town Meeting Positions, 5/17/09

To the editor:

The League of Women Voters supports the following articles at the upcoming Town Meeting:

Article 16, Town Yard Master Plan; Article 17, 5 Campanelli Drive; and Article 18, New Town Yard Site Evaluation: The conditions at the current town yard include rotting structural beams, no facilities to wash salt from town trucks, cracked buildings, and flooding that contributes to suboptimal working conditions for employees. Attempts to establish satellite facilities around town have consistently met with neighborhood opposition. The Town owns expensive equipment that is aging prematurely because of inadequate storage. Our continuing failure to address this problem has significant costs. With ongoing oversight provided by the Town Yard Task Force, it is prudent to appropriate planning funds to make relocation a reality. In addition, the opportunity to redevelop the current town yard gives Andover the potential to increase affordable housing, expand retail and office space, and encourage Smart Growth near transportation and other services.

Article 34 Ballardvale Fire Station Replacement: The current fire station is more than 100 years old. Its inadequacies result in increasingly unacceptable response times for fire and rescue services for a quarter of the Town's residents. The current economic climate offers the perfect opportunity to plan for future Town projects such as this.

The League also supports: Article 35 Watershed Protection Overlay District Zoning Amendment; Article 57 New Ballfields + Blanchard Street; Article 59 Feasibility Study/Schematic Design Including Bancroft Elementary With Shawsheen; and Article 62 Open Space Land Acquisition, because they fall within the League's positions on natural resources, recreation, education, and planning and land use.

The articles seeking funds to maintain and improve Town and school buildings address the essential need to maintain the physical assets of the Town, and increase our state funding reimbursement rate for projects such as new schools. Constantly deferring maintenance is unwise and costly.

Finally, the League believes that the Town's Stabilization Funds should not be used for operating expenses.

We encourage citizens to attend Town Meeting, which starts on Tuesday, May 26 at the Collins Field House.

Stefani Traina Goldshein, President League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover

SMART Program, 3/29/09

To the editor:

A recent letter has prompted us to clarify how the League functions. The League of Women Voters is a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in their government. There are two key elements of the League's core mission: citizen education and advocacy. The LWV never supports or opposes any political party or candidate. Our candidates' debates and other forums are designed to present information directly to voters so they can make up their own minds. However, the League does take positions on selected public policy issues after careful study and member agreement.

Since its founding, the League has studied many public policy issues at the local, state and national levels, and as a local League, we are free to advocate for change based on these positions. The LWV of Andover/North Andover studied waste reduction programs in 2004 and adopted a position to support a fee-based trash program as "a method to reduce trash and increase recycling and reuse in order to preserve the environment and conserve natural resources."

The current "SMART" waste reduction proposal includes a "one barrel free" provision, meaning that most households would still have tax-funded curbside collection with little or no out-of-pocket costs.

Whether the plan is adopted or not, the League is proud to uphold its mission to advocate for an environmentally sound approach to waste reduction. We remain dedicated to civil discourse about this issue.

Stefani Traina Goldshein, President LWV of Andover/North Andover 6 Roulston Circle

Think green on Election Day, 10/30/2008

Editor, Andover Townsman:

The upcoming election on Nov. 4 promises one of the biggest turnouts in recent history. Great news for democracy, but a little challenging for the rest of us. The increased traffic congestion and limited parking at polling places means longer waits for parking spaces, and more ground level pollution from idling vehicles.

Fortunately, Andover offers a number of options for those who want to think green and plan ahead. For those voting at the Senior Center, walking from downtown is a great option. The Town also runs an Election Day shuttle bus that will transport voters to and from a wide range of locations. Go to http://www.andoverma.gov and click on the Election Information link for shuttle locations and schedules.

If you are voting at Andover High School, and are able to walk short distances, choose the parking lot at West Middle School or the Red Spring Road parking lot behind the turf fields. Other strategies include casting an absentee ballot, carpooling with neighbors, or voting during the less busy mid-day hours, if possible.

A chance to clear your head with a short walk before you vote, to get in and out quickly, and to cast your vote in this important election--thinking green is a win-win for everyone.

Lynn Eikenberry
Co-Chair, Environmental Action Committee
LWV Andover/North Andover

Vote No on MA Ballot Question #1, 10/30/2008

Editor, Andover Townsman:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover urges citizens to vote no on Ballot Question 1 + an initiative to eliminate the state income tax as of January 2010. This reckless proposal would cut 12 billion dollars from the state's tax base, which amounts to 40 percent of the state's $27 billion budget.

Losing $twelve billion in state funding for public works projects, public safety, school budgets and other state services, such as Medicaid, will have dire consequences in our communities. Cutting state aid to cities and towns will likely lead to cut backs in municipal services and result in property tax increases or override attempts to maintain basic services.

Public safety could be at risk with fewer police officers, fire fighters, and ambulance crews. Budgets for snow and ice removal will be smaller.

Education cuts will lead to larger class sizes and fewer academic and extra-curricular opportunities for all students. More fees will likely be imposed by local school districts for transportation, field trips, athletics and other extra-curricular activities.

Infrastructure, where repairs are already lacking, will deteriorate further with less money for roads, bridges and public transportation systems.

Furthermore, reducing or eliminating dollars for healthcare services will negatively impact our senior citizens, working families and people with disabilities. Federal Medicare matching funds will be lost if the State does not contribute its share.

Proponents of Question 1 claim that taxpayers will save money, state spending will be trimmed and jobs will be created. The reality is that state spending funds our schools, our roads and bridges, our public safety and helps the most vulnerable people in our communities with necessary services.

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover considers Question 1 a reckless proposal that will require different tax increases to prevent serious cuts in education, crippling cuts to public safety departments and speed the deterioration of our infrastructure.

Stefani Traina Goldshein, President
LWV Andover/North Andover

Voter Information, 10/9/08

Editor, Andover Townsman:

On behalf of the League of Women Voters, this is a reminder that the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election is Wednesday, October 15. Please check with the Town Clerk if you have questions about the status of your registration. College students and all others who will vote absentee should pay close attention to the deadlines for obtaining an absentee ballot and allow enough time for mailing, as well. Also, check with the Town Clerk if you have moved within town since the last election.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts has information online to help voters at http://www.votinginfo.info. For information on candidates and their positions, as well as non-partisan information on ballot questions, click on SmartVoter at http://www.smartvoter.org. If someone you know has questions about information in another state, refer them to http://www.vote411.org, the LWVUS's voter information website.

The League of Women Voters, a grassroots nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages.

Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Andover Town Meeting Procedure - Debate Issues, 5/8/08

Editor, Andover Townsman

At the recent Town Meeting, the League of Women Voters discerned a lack of the usual healthy debate that has characterized Andover's Town Meeting in the past. We are especially concerned about the frequent use of "moving the question" to cut off debate on Thursday evening.

We don't think it is too far-fetched to suggest that, unless checked, moving the question could become a tool too easily abused by any presenter. Once a presenter has put forward his or her best case, an ally could move the question in an attempt to stifle the voice of the opposition.

Town Meeting, however, does not have to endorse this tactic. The FinCom report states that moving the question requires approval by 2/3 of Town Meeting voters, and therefore Town Meeting attendees can override the call to end discussion.

We suggest that Town Meeting voters oppose motions to move the question until at least two, and preferably four or five, speakers on each side of the issue have had an opportunity to express their ideas. Important and sometimes overlooked perspectives are often given by individuals waiting patiently in line for a turn at the microphone. Many of us have changed our votes on a particular article based on a compelling argument from the floor.

We are not objecting to any use of moving the question; we understand that motions to move the question often reflect a desire to keep Town Meeting moving. In fact, the League's motion for time limits on Town Meeting speakers is intended to keep Town Meeting moving while still allowing the audience to hear many viewpoints. Time limits help voters hear from more speakers in a compressed amount of time.

If Town Meeting has to choose between making thoughtful decisions and avoiding another night of Town Meeting, we believe the choice should be to make thoughtful decisions.

Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Andover Town Meeting - League Positions, 4/18/08

Editor, Andover Townsman

The League of Women Voters supports the following warrant articles at the upcoming Andover Town Meeting:

Article 24 Feasibility + Bancroft Elementary School
Article 31 Ledge Road Landfill Closure
Article 33 Shawsheen River Outfall Sewer
Article 34 Statute Acceptance + Priority Development Sites
Article 39 Open Space Land Acquisition in the amount of $900,000 without a debt exclusion

With regard to Article 42 about not mailing the Finance Committee Report to each household, the League appreciates that considerable environmental and fiscal resources are spent producing and mailing the Finance Committee report to every household; however, we think that the time may not be right for this change. The League encourages transparency in government, and the report provides valuable information about the Town's operations that many who do not attend Town Meeting may benefit from. We are concerned that the article doesn't specify alternate ways to provide printed copies of the FinCom report to those who want them. We suggest that people planning to attend Town Meeting discuss this with their friends and neighbors who don't attend Town Meeting to explore how they feel about this issue.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Andover Town Meeting Procedure - Time Limits

To the editor,

On the first night of Andover's Town Meeting, Wednesday, April 30, the League of Women Voters will make a motion to allow, at the discretion of the Town Moderator, time limits of 5 minutes for presenters of a warrant article and 3 minutes for speakers from the audience. Town Meeting has passed this time limit for several years now. The purpose of this letter is to let voters know that time limits will be proposed again this year. The League supports time limits because they encourage speakers to focus on their most important points, provide an impartial mechanism for allocating time among more speakers, and enable voters to hear and consider a greater variety of viewpoints. The League continues to monitor Town Meeting and its effectiveness as Andover's form of government.

Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Support for CPA, 2/24/08

Editor, Andover Townsman

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover supports the passage of the Community Preservation Act for Andover. The League has studied many issues facing our communities over the years. Affordable housing, open space, and historic preservation have emerged as important factors that contribute to a community's strength and character. CPA funds will enhance Andover's ability to retain diverse housing stock and provide affordable housing--enabling both young families and elders to make Andover their hometown. CPA funding can help preserve open space and create much-needed recreation areas like ball fields; and maintain our commitment to preserving our historic buildings.

The League also advocates for transparency in government. Town Meeting will have the final say over what projects Andover funds with CPA money, so there are checks and balances built in to give citizens adequate information before decisions are made. We believe that the relatively modest tax increase for most homeowners will leverage a significant amount of funding for projects that will help Andover tackle important challenges in the years to come.

Please join us and vote yes on March 25th.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Long-Range Financial Planning, 11/2/07

Editor, Andover Townsman

At the Tri-Board meeting on Thursday, November 1, the Long-Range Financial Planning Subcommittees presented a budget model for fiscal years 2009 through 2011. The news is not good. But this group, comprised of representatives from the School Committee, Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, has shown innovation and leadership by getting together during the summer and early fall to work on a three year budget projection for Andover. We commend the committee for trying a new approach that removes the budget process from the last-minute urgency of the past and allows for a thoughtful planning process using the new budget model. Kudos to all of the individuals who have put in countless hours before the official budget process has even begun. Their efforts will ultimately help to provide the voters of Andover with solid information about the choices necessary to balance the budget for the next three years. It's easy to complain and to place blame about the fiscal realities we and many other municipalities are facing in Massachusetts and across the nation. In Andover, we are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of people willing to collaborate and work together to come up with solutions to these very difficult problems. The next Tri-Board meeting is scheduled for December 3 at 7:00 p.m. in the Selectmen's Room. I urge you to attend or tune in on local cable.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/North Andover

Oppose Casino Gambling, 6/2007

Editor, Andover Townsman (6/14/07):
Editor, North Andover Citizen (6/15/07):
Editor, Eagle-Tribune (6/26/07):

On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover, I am writing to express serious concerns about the current attempts to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts. Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, if Class III gambling is legalized in Massachusetts, any recognized Native American Tribe can also engage in the same level of gambling. One tribe is currently recognized in Massachusetts, however, six more await federal recognition.

Our state's budget problems need long-term solutions; however, gambling is no substitute for an equitable tax system or a reasonable tax policy. Gambling revenues are an inequitable and regressive kind of tax as well as an unreliable source of revenue. The estimated $400 million to be raised in "new revenues" by legalizing slot machines in Massachusetts will mostly come from working families and senior citizens, and they will have to lose over $2 billion for the state to reap the $400 million in revenue.

The experience of other communities in states where casino gambling is allowed has shown that there are considerable costs associated with hosting a casino--new infrastructure to support the increased traffic, public safety impacts, school costs, and an increase in criminal activity, as well. These and the social costs associated with casino gambling will be borne by taxpayers, gamblers and non-gamblers alike, not by the casino industry.

According to a May 2004 article in The Hartford Courant, gambling addiction to slot machines is linked to speed. The faster one plays, the higher the likelihood that one will eventually play recklessly and out of control, thereby losing money rapidly. Today's slot machines are meticulously designed computers that generate precise profits and deliberately create a false sense of "near wins" and regular small payoffs to create an illusion of sporting chance. They are the most addictive form of gambling ever devised.

According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 1999, 1 out of every 20 people who live within 50 miles of a casino becomes a gambling addict. These addicted gamblers are very lucrative for the casino industry, but their addiction too often leads to crime, distressed families, suicide and bankruptcy.

The League of Women Voters promotes strong communities and believes that casino gambling will not strengthen communities in Massachusetts. We encourage all residents to contact Governor Patrick and our legislators about this issue before it is too late.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein, President
LWV Andover/North Andover

North Andover Town Meeting, 5/2007

Editor, Eagle Tribune (5/9/07):
Editor, North Andover Citizen (5/11/07):

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover encourages the voters of North Andover to attend the upcoming Town Meeting on Monday, May 14, 7:00 p.m. at North Andover High School. Many important issues will be discussed and decided, among them the annual budget, a bylaw asking for a demolition delay for certain properties, and zoning changes for the former Lucent property.

Open Town Meeting gives every voter an opportunity to have input in decisions that affect the entire town. Becoming informed about the issues before Town Meeting is an essential part of the process. The warrant is available online at http://www.townofnorthandover.com.

The League of Women Voters promotes political responsibility through the informed and active participation of citizens in government.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein, President
-Susan Dennett, Units Coordinator
LWV Andover/North Andover

Andover Town Meeting - League Positions, 4/19/2007

Editor, Andover Townsman:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover has discussed Andover's upcoming Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting Warrant articles and supports the following:

  • Article 33 Community Preservation Act. This would place a small surcharge on property taxes to establish a fund dedicated to open space and recreation, historic preservation and affordable housing. Exemptions would ensure that low or moderate income residents would either pay nothing or very little. Andover would qualify for State matching funds, which could be used to pay for projects we will have to pay for anyway. Andover could also leverage other grant monies, which other towns have done very successfully.
  • Articles 24 Youth Center (2) Land Transfer, and Special Town Meeting Article 1 Youth Center. We support these two articles which would allow a youth center to be built behind Doherty Middle School. The League encourages green technology in the building design and shared use of the building by other community groups. We also acknowledge that there will be considerable operating costs associated with the completed building once the town takes it over, and that additional revenue sources will be needed to fund these.
  • Articles 27 and 29 will continue enhancements to the current Senior Center, specifically the construction of a patio and four-season sunroom.
  • Article 39 Pedestrian Foot Bridge across the Shawsheen River.
  • Article 48, Mixed Use District Zoning Bylaw to limit the size of any single establishment in the Mixed Use District to 65,000 sq. feet.
  • Article 49, the Design Review Bylaw.
  • Article 53, Wetland Protection General Bylaw--The League prefers 500 sq. feet for free standing structures as printed in the Warrant.
  • Article 54 Andover Salt Balance Study
  • Article 6, 15 Blanchard Street--A Special Town Meeting article which would authorize the Town to purchase the 12.92 acres at 15 Blanchard Street. Even though this means taking on additional long-term debt, this is a unique opportunity for the Town.

The League encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government. Town Meeting begins on Monday, April 23, and continues on Tuesday, April 24. It begins at 7:00 p.m. in the AHS Collins Field House. If a third night is necessary, it will be held on Monday, April 30, 7:00 p.m. in the Collins Center auditorium.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

LWV Non-Partisan Policy, 1/2007

Editor, Eagle Tribune, 1/14/2007
Editor, Andover Townsman, 1/18/2007
Editor, North Andover Citizen, 1/19/2007:

The League of Women Voters encourages citizens to run for elected office but does not endorse specific candidates. As election season approaches, we would like to clarify the League's voter service efforts and nonpartisan policy.

In an effort to provide support to all candidates, the League organizes candidate debates and provides opportunities to educate the public about the issues. The League does not discourage the political activity of its individual members as long as they are acting as individuals and not on behalf of the League. The President, Voter Service Chair and the League itself do not endorse candidates and always remain strictly nonpartisan.

Running for office is a generous offer on the part of all candidates, and the League looks forward to helping all candidates get their message out to the public. The deadline to pick up nomination papers for elected office in North Andover is February 2 by 4:30 p.m. They must be filed with the Town Clerk's office by February 6.

-Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Donating Household Goods, 12/18/2006

Editor, Andover Townsman:

While walking my dog on this disturbingly balmy evening, I happened on a beautiful set of living room furniture that a neighbor had just carefully pulled to the curbside, minus pillows (a clue that it was for rubbish pickup). When asked, they said they didn't know of anyone who would pick up the furniture for reuse. Realizing that this is a common problem, I want to share some suggestions for all who are sprucing up their homes for the holidays, or having difficulty closing their closet doors.

The Andover Recycling Committee has an excellent website: http://www.Andoverma.gov/recycle. Scroll to the bottom of the page, click on "reuse", and a fantastic list appears, with contact information for organizations that will find new home for books, toys, bikes, furniture, clothing, linens, appliances, building materials, eyeglasses, computers and a host of other items. Many of the organizations are well-known--Lazarus House, Salvation Army, Big Brothers/Big Sisters but others may be less familiar, such as Andover-based Project Home Again (PHA).

Under the leadership of Nancy Kanell, PHA works with social service agencies throughout the Merrimack Valley to provide their neediest families with furnishings, dishes, baby furniture, dressers and other daily necessities at no cost to the recipients. As an all-volunteer group, PHA is able to take even the simplest donations, such as five plates, two bowls and a frying pan, and provide them directly to a family with no dishes at all, instead of rejecting them or shipping them to distant locales. Forever Green Lawn and Landscape donates a truck and labor over the winter months to help PHA move furnishings from donor to recipients, and donations can also be brought directly to the warehouse. At times, PHA also works with social service agencies to pick up items from donors and move them directly to a family's dwelling. PHA's website, http://www.projecthomeagain.bravehost.com provides details and links to additional groups who may need your excess belongings.

The holiday season provides a wonderful opportunity to take care of each other and to protect our planet at the same time. Before you throw things away, take a moment to consider who else might be able to use them. Recycling is terrific, but enabling others to directly reuse items can be even more beneficial to us, our communities, and our environment.

-Amy Janovsky
Chair, Sustainability and Natural Resources Committee
LWV Andover/North Andover

Clean Energy, 12/18/2006

Editor, Townsman:

As you make your New Year's resolutions, please consider a simple move that will:

1. help slow global warming
2. qualify for a tax deduction
3. help promote the development of "green" energy in Massachusetts
4. earn matching grants for solar energy and wind projects here in Andover
5. earn matching funds for local low-income renewable energy projects

Here's how:

Go to http://www.cleanenergychoice.org, click on the community link and select Andover.

This enables you to participate in National Grid's GreenUp program, and to select the specific types of renewable energy that you favor. Choose an option that favors "new sources" to promote the development of new renewable energy capacity in Massachusetts and New England. Several options also permit a federal tax deduction for the additional $5 to $12 per month that you'll spend by selecting the GreenUp option. So far, Andover has accrued more than $11,000 in the matching grants account, which has provided "Big Belly" solar-powered trash compactors for the town. If we increase > participation, we'll increase funds that could go toward photovoltaics for a school, or a windmill to produce electricity for the town. Think big, think green, and check off the renewable energy box on your electric bill or visit http://www.cleanenergychoice.org.

And don't forget the "Change a Light" challenge. Every regular incandescent light bulb you replace with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) will prevent nearly 500 pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. CFLs use 1/3 the energy, create the same amount of light with 70% less heat, last up to 10 times longer, and save you money. This is one simple way for each household to help halt global warming - change a light bulb (or better yet, ten!). Go to http://www.energystar.gov, use the dropdown menu to find the Town of Andover, and Take the PLEDGE. And urge your friends and family to make the switch, too!

Wishing you a cooler New Year that lets us enjoy winter sports in New England!

- Amy Janovsky
Chair, Sustainability and Natural Resources Committee
LWV Andover/N. Andover

Wetlands Protection, 7/26/2006

Rachel Freed
DEP Northeast Regional Office
Bureau of Resource Protection, Wetlands Division
205B Lowell Street
Wilmington, MA 01887

Dear Ms. Freed,

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover (LWV) has a strong position in support of environmental protection and sustainability. In light of this position, at our recent Town Meeting we strongly opposed a private article that would have rescinded the Andover Wetlands Protection Bylaw, which has been an effective local planning tool since 1999. Like most nearby towns, Andover is nearly built out; prime parcels are scarce, and land that was previously unbuildable due to septic unsuitability is now developable because of Town sewer extensions to large areas of town. The increase in impermeable surfaces continues, and runoff patterns are shifting as new areas are developed.

In this year's extreme rainstorms, Andover sustained a great deal of damage due to flooding. In many parts of town, this consisted of flooded basements and yards; in others, buildings were damaged and some remain uninhabitable. Local roads were damaged as well, disrupting travel for several weeks. Our experience is not unique, but it speaks loudly to the need to protect our existing wetlands and to consider runoff and drainage impacts as local development continues and severe storms become more frequent. On many parcels, large additions to existing buildings are proposed, and the popularity of adding in-ground swimming pools continues. Both of these types of construction exacerbate drainage issues. Andover's Conservation Commission does an excellent job of reviewing proposed projects under the Wetlands Protection Bylaw, and in most cases, homeowners are able to proceed with acceptable projects.

The League of Women Voters is watching the current situation at 3 Hazelwood Circle with some concern, as it appears to be a case where the wetlands in question have not been adequately protected due to a combination of factors that DEP is currently reviewing. We ask that DEP consider the precedent that this situation will create before determining what remedies to require. There are countless projects around town, both approved and envisioned, that will continue to cause incremental loss of wetlands. When a developer or homeowner works with the Conservation Commission, as required, these losses can be minimized and managed; when they do not, the Town has little recourse. In the latter situations, the Commonwealth must step in to enforce the laws for the public good, with meaningful penalties. Otherwise, project proponents learn that the laws are irrelevant, and those who have spent time and money to comply with the law feel they have been treated unfairly.

The LWV requests that your decision in this case be a clear message that wetlands regulations protect the environment and the public interest and are not to be flouted.

Sincerely,

- Stefani Traina Goldshein
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

- Amy Janovsky
Chair, Sustainability and Natural Resources Committee

Andover Town Meeting -- League Positions, 4/10/2006

Editor, Andover Townsman:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover has taken the following positions on three warrant articles before the upcoming Town Meeting.

The League opposes the repeal of the Wetlands Protection Bylaw (Article 40) as we believe to do so would be a disservice to Andover residents. Wetlands are a crucial resource, providing essential wildlife habitat, protecting our drinking water, and preventing flooding. We think this is a case where the greater good should outweigh any possible personal benefit, and the League thinks that this bylaw is for the greater good.

The League supports an active open-space land acquisition program and therefore supports the request to provide funds to enable the Conservation Commission to make timely offers as opportunities for land acquisition arise (Article 23). Additional open space enhances our community by preserving natural resources and providing opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The League supports the audit committee article (Article 44) that 1) adopts a bylaw to establish an audit committee and 2) allows representatives from three town boards, Select Board, Finance Committee and School Committee, to be members of the audit committee. The League thinks that the audit committee would institute a level of oversight that increases accountability and responsiveness in our town government.

The League encourages all registered voters to attend Town Meeting; in addition to being informative, it is often a stimulating demonstration of participatory democracy at its finest. We remind citizens that when speaking at Town Meeting, moderator rules dictate that the speaker disclose any financial or other interest he or she may have in the article under consideration.

-Peggy Kruse
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

West Andover Landfill, 12/13/2005

Editor, Andover Townsman:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover thinks that concerns about potential health issues should be addressed prior to capping the West Andover landfill.

The landfill was used for the disposal of industrial wastes and residential municipal wastes for many years prior to being closed in the 1970s. A former quarry, the landfill is 50 to 70 feet deep and much of its contents are located in the groundwater. This groundwater flows through the landfill and is discharged to the Fish Brook watershed, which is a source of the Town's drinking water. What are the results of recent tests by environmental consultant Camp Dresser & McKee? Do these results support the position that groundwater discharge from the landfill is not harmful to human or animal health?

A further concern is whether the makeup of the groundwater-borne contaminants will change over time. A recent Townsman article shows pictures of steel drums in the landfill vicinity. Assuming that these surface drums indicate the presence of buried drums, and that some drums have yet to rust through, do we know what industrial wastes may still be added to the groundwater contaminants when the drums fail?

There appears to be agreement that the landfill should be capped, but capping does not prevent groundwater from flowing through the landfill. Will a liner or some form of landfill leachate treatment be required to prevent contaminants from being discharged from the landfill? As the DEP has yet to approve the final landfill closure plan, it would seem fiscally prudent to determine if the final plan requires a liner prior to spending millions of dollars to cap the landfill.

The Public Involvement Plan (PIP) recently filed by several Andover residents requires a public disclosure of information concerning the landfill. The League endorses a public discussion of these issues.

-Peggy Kruse
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Improving Town Meeting, 5/6/2005

Editor, Andover Townsman:

Fresh from our recently concluded Town Meeting, the League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover would like to offer the following suggestions for future Town Meetings: 1) reinstating the use of Pro and Con microphones, especially for hotly-debated issues such as the Senior Center, to ensure that both sides of the debate are fairly represented; 2) time limits for speakers consisting of five minutes for the presenters and two minutes per audience member, to facilitate input from as many citizens as possible; and 3) reminders to speakers who veer off topic to focus their remarks on the issue at hand in the belief that shorter, focused discussions promote better decisions.

The League thinks that implementation of these suggestions will give everyone a fair and equal opportunity to speak and will give voters the benefit of many viewpoints.

-Peggy Kruse
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover

Affordable Housing, 9/17/2005

Editor, Andover Townsman:

The League of Women Voters of Andover/North Andover urges voters at the upcoming Special Town Meeting to support the Affordable Housing Trust article. Affordable housing benefits our community by allowing our teachers, firefighters and retirees to be our neighbors. While affordable housing is a worthy goal in itself, maintaining at least 10% affordable housing also gives Andover the opportunity to guide and/or set limits on Chapter 40B (affordable housing) projects.

Last spring's Town Meeting authorized the Town to create an Affordable Housing Trust. This fall's Town Meeting asks voters to approve bylaws for the Trust. The Affordable Housing bylaw article spells out the decision-making process for the Trust; for example, how Trustees are appointed and the approval process for transferring Trust funds.

The purpose of the Affordable Housing Trust is to create an account separate from the Town's general funds in which monies earmarked for affordable housing can be deposited. These affordable housing funds come from a variety of sources. One source is government and foundation money, and Andover will receive its first allocation of affordable housing funds from the North Shore HOME consortium this fall. Another source is the rare instance when a currently designated "affordable" house sells at market rate; the equity gained from the sale (the difference between the market rate and the "affordable" rate) will be deposited into the Trust fund.

To help ensure that Andover continues to benefit from affordable housing, the League encourages all voters to support this timely article at the September 27 Town Meeting.

-Peggy Kruse
President, LWV Andover/N. Andover