Owl Opinion: Special Town Meeting Tuesday, September 13

Photo by Jeremy Hynes on Unsplash

On September 13, 2022 at 7 pm, Weston’s best and brightest will gather at the Weston High School auditorium to take up what is essentially a two-issue Special Town Meeting (though there are eight (8) articles on the warrant). And by “best” and “brightest”, I mean you, eligible Weston voters. 

Instead of binge-watching Virgin River for the second time (and that really is a crappy show–though very addictive, one must say), get thee to an uncomfortable seat next to your favorite neighbor in your favorite high school, and think like an individual who loves their community. As in, please do not be rude to the presenters, especially those who have donated countless hours to the town. Any rude people are immediately signed up for volunteer roles and tree watering. I asked Rip and he said it’s within his jurisdiction. [No, I didn’t and it’s not.] 

While I would like to promise that a two-issue meeting would mean that it would end before midnight, you know and I know that this town is bonkers. After this spring’s Town Meeting FH, this Owl vowed never to return. And yet, and yet…I cannot resist…moth to the flame… who needs this post to move along? Oh yes, me too, I’m late for a morning run. 

Before presenting the issues from the Owl’s point of view, I would like to review a couple of things. First of all, I am not an objective media source. This is a blog. If you don’t want opinion-based reporting, go check out Fox News. Oh wait, hahahahahaha. No. Secondly, be careful where you think you are getting factual reporting because if that email or printed material is not signed by actual names, you have no idea what their motivation is, or what their expertise is. My expertise is obvious. I know everything. There, resume done.

So, what are the Big Two Issues or BTI? I tried to make that into BTU but no go. Pool and pickleball, folks, that’s what it comes down to. Do you want a nice updated watering hole and do you want to have access to a cool new sport? I should note that Article 8 about the Special Education Fund is now being passed over. Having watched the more-than-slightly-ugly Fin Comm video on that affair, I can only say that I hope we get it together for this fund in a future Town Meeting. I for one now promise never to watch another Fin Comm meeting because…my eyes…my eyes…

Article 6: Appropriate for Recreational Use: Memorial Pool Renovation (CPA). You can read the facts on this matter at the Town website. I don’t actually think this should be controversial but I get surprised allllllll the time. Let me summarize. We need a better infrastructure in bathrooms, vending, pool entry and SPLASH PADS. And other stuff too. Give us stuff. Did you know that Waltham has 13 publicly accessible spray parks? 13. They are 5 times our size, of course. There, is that mathy enough for you? The plans look fantastic–please take the time to look at them on the town website.

Also, Memorial Pool is awesome at just about every stage of life except apparently for high school kids who may not swim there, but they do work there. Which means it is a town treasure because babies, toddlers, school kids, adults, seniors and puppies (nope, just checking if you’re reading) all love its azure waters. Done. Owl opinion of course. Please note that I have not been to Memorial Pool in four years but I still think it’s an amazing spot that deserves love and funds. A reminder: this is a request for the use of Community Preservation Act funds.

Photo by Brendan Sapp on Unsplash

Article 7: Appropriate for Recreational Use: Pickleball Court Design Fees (CPA). You can read the facts on this matter on the Town website. For full disclosure, I have played pickleball though not in Weston–my parents’ small gated community in Illinois has a nice dedicated court. Pickleball is super fun and I can’t play it anymore because I get CRAZY competitive like I used to do in tennis and it turns out this is not pretty. Fighting your 70-year-old uncle over a point is not what one does. What I do know about it is that it is accessible to all ages, though maybe most loved by those former tennis players who can no longer slide around on a clay court (okay that was me in São Paulo in my roaring 30s) or a hard court. 

I believe there is a contingent saying that there will not be a great demand in town for this activity and I would disagree. And it turns out that everyone can create their own data on this and say the survey was not answered by a lot of people and ya de ya, but guess what, no one cares. At the Fin Comm meeting, there was also a comparison between what Weston would build and what a private tennis club would build by laying down some asphalt and paint–but in my mind, that is not actually apples to apples. Not to mention, I am not a member of said club which I believe has a waiting list or at least is not public. Like can I show up next Wednesday after school dropoff and play some tennis? Cool.

So the pickleball courts funds appropriation will be presented, and perhaps a counterpoint from someone or someones (Fin Comm has supported the article though not unanimously) and then voter comments and questions–until of course someone calls the question, effectively ending what could be an interesting conversation. I am tired of those who call the question prematurely. To avoid being railroaded on this one, please know the facts before you show up to Town Meeting:

  1. This is an $85,000 ask for CPA funds for the design of pickleball courts at Burchard Park, the best public recreational facility we have in Weston. There is no chosen design yet; there is one version online that you can look at but we have not chosen a design. It’s all up for discussion. Want blue courts? Climbing wall? Bar & grill? Well, okay, there’s a limit to the fun stuff but nothing is written in stone yet. We do not need to make six courts–want to make it less costly and do four? Yah, we can do that too. Design.
  2. This is not a re-ask of the same item that was voted down in the spring. The pickleball article was voted down at May town meeting because voters wished to use CPA funds, not taxpayer-direct funds. Now=CPA. Then= not-CPA. Also, since when can we not discuss an issue two times? If you build a better birdhouse, that should be discussable again. 
  3. Projected costs to build are not $1 million unless you round up $775K to $1 million. The idea of lights would have made it more expensive but since migrating birds at College Pond hate those things (400 million on the wing and in the air this weekend), this may not pass the smell test. Or it might–there is time during design phase to decide these things. So let’s review: town meeting is about design–could the Town decide to build fewer courts and save a few bucks? Yes. Design is not build. We could design and decide not to build still. Or build it differently. Or move to Concord which has nice courts, and their museum is awesome. And conservation lands. Wait, where was I?
  4. There have been some pretty bizarre comments about not wanting nonresidents to use Weston town facilities. While I believe that residents should have priority, I do not understand our unfriendliness. I will think about this while jumping around in Waltham’s splash pads. I’ll get back to you next week. Does the trite tale of ‘build a longer table not a higher wall’ resonate with anyone? I would say prioritize Weston, of course, but I don’t get the “none shall pass” feeling. Also, why don’t we just see how it goes and then see if we have to put a lock on the gate, so to speak. Or a black knight. You choose.
None shall pass. Non resident attempting entry to Weston facilities. Photo credit: Monty Python & the Holy Grail

I was a member of the Recreation Master Plan Steering committee for two years (2019-2020). The specific goal of my tenure was getting a published master plan. I am not sure anyone realizes this but usually, a master plan results in … a plan. And then we take action on … the plan. That is how we got an artificial turf field at the high school and the baseball park in Burchard to begin with–it was on the last master plan before this one (2010) Who thinks these things are awesome? Me. Also me. 

The RMPSC is a well-run and thoughtful committee and even has mathy people on it. These pools and pickleballs are not fly-by-night suggestions that occurred as monuments to ego or personal gain. They are part of a researched, and surveyed and developed plan that was published in 2020. You may decide to vote for or against these courts for any reason you deem sensible, but make sure you have the right facts–not alternative ones.

Again, this is a blog and I am a blogger. But I do have experience in this committee, these plans (I was also on the Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee which has not been as successful in getting the plan into action) and I too get a voting handset–actually, I just learned that there are no handsets this time. Saving the town $15,000, we are back to colored paper and crayons. No crayons. If the vote is close on any items, expect to stand and be counted.

If you don’t vote on Tuesday, I super don’t feel like seeing complaints like “no one shows up at town meeting so only a few people decide issues.” Well, and there’s no way to put it otherwise: duh. Show up, or at the least be okay with what might be termed representative democracy. 

See you Tuesday. 


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