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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Default Sos

    In reading the WVN e-mail today, I was struck by the story linking SOS and YES4WHS and interested in what the take was on this. I've copied the bulk of what was written below for reference, and included an attachment of the letter filed with the Town Clerk.

    My questions are this

    1. How do people feel about having their e-mails sold/given away to organizations in town without their permission?
    2. Why did SOS feel the need to hide behind YES4WHS to advocate for the high school?
    3. What is the future of this group in the eyes of Wayland citizens?

    First off, this has nothing to do with the HS Vote.

    I'll be up front in saying there is no love lost on my part for SOS. Just the pure division their presence has created in town politics has fundamentally changed the Town of Wayland for the worse, in my opinion. This post, though, is for the purpose of hearing all sides of the argument.

    As for my answers:

    1. I would be quite aggravated knowing an organization that expressly states that they "will never share, sell, or rent individual personal information with anyone for their promotional use without your advance permission or unless ordered by a court of law" turns around and does just that. On top of that, to value SOS' e-mail list at $150 is absurd. Anyone who has bought a list of e-mails could attest to that.

    2. I really can't imagine why SOS did not lead the charge here, unless what was written by WVN below rang mostly true.

    3. The future of this group -- I imagine they're here to stay. I don't believe unity in town politics and dissipation of division matters much to these folks. Their marketing presence has the ear of the people currently sitting on the BoS and the SC. Current SC Chair Lou Jurist referred to "the SC's most ardent supporters" -- a euphemisim for this group that has been used before -- only weeks ago when discussing the planned override for 2011. They will only go when those sitting on the committees/boards stop turning to them or when new/unencumbered folks are elected to replace those currently sitting.

    From 1/27 WVN Newsletter

    At least one citizen raised the matter with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. As a result, the OCPF ordered YES4WHS to amend its financial report to include the fact that its email distribution list came from the nearly-five-year-old political action committee SOSWayland. In-kind contributions, such as that valuable communication asset, must be declared.

    YES4WHS Treasurer Nancy Funkhouser wrote to the Wayland town clerk on Jan. 15 to amend its financial report and assign a cash value. The $150 listed would be a huge bargain in the business world, where a targeted mailing list might sell for several dollars per address.

    Sharing the email list with YES4WHS also violates the stated policy of SOS, which tells its readers, "Our spam-free email list is used solely to keep you informed about issues relating to Wayland services." Email you didn't ask for can be considered spam. (Also, the policy fails to disclose that the email list is used not simply to inform but to urge voting for SOS-endorsed issues.)

    SOS' published Email Privacy Policy says in part, "We will never share, sell, or rent individual personal information with anyone for their promotional use without your advance permission or unless ordered by a court of law...If you believe you have received unwanted, unsolicited email sent via this system or purporting to be sent via this system, please forward a copy of that email with your comments to for review."

    Asked for details of the arrangement with YES4WHS, SOS leader [name deleted] replied by email: "The public records address your questions."

    The records answer few questions, but they do show that the leadership of the two organizations is much the same.

    SOS is registered as a PAC with the OCPF. According to its website, it also files as a Ballot Question Committee "during election season when we are advocating for a question on the ballot. We then operate as SOS-BQC, and per the Office of Campaign and Political Finance we dissolve the BQC after the election."

    Before the November election there was no "SOS-BQC" but essentially SOS under a different name.

    [Names deleted here] SOS Co-chairs -- were identified among co-chairs of the YES4WHS campaign. Three of them received reimbursements for expenditures on behalf of YES4WHS totaling $1752.71.

    Before dissolving, YES4WHS reported collecting $6,922 for its campaign. There was no organized opposition.

    More than 99 percent of the total raised came from the 29 persons who were required by law to provide names and amounts for donations exceeding $50. The largest donation was $1,000. Filed reports may be seen at the town clerk's office.

    Why didn't SOS follow its stated policy of registering as a Ballot Question Committee before the November election? [Name deleted] didn't say. A look at SOS' history suggests one possible answer.

    SOS was formed after voters rejected an earlier high school proposal in January 2005. A School Committee member at that time, Bob Gordon, commented that school proponents needed someone "like[name deleted]" to do "marketing" for future proposals. [Name deleted] became a founding leader of SOS. (At the time, some residents with children in Wayland schools said they wondered how they got on SOS' email list to begin with.)

    SOS has supported every big-ticket recommendation of the School Committee and the selectmen. It also routinely advises readers to oppose any budget amendments on the floor of Town Meeting.

    Some voters indeed see SOS as the marketing arm of the these two powerful boards. For those who worry about rapidly rising taxes and controversial decisions by officials, SOS could look like part of the problem.

    Particularly before the current deep recession, officials talked about a pattern of biennial tax overrides. Substantial pluralities voted against recent overrides.

    Some school parents objected to the School Committee's decision two years ago to close Loker School to reduce the size of an override.

    Though SOS says it supports not only the schools but all town services, it backed override proposals that were sold with fear tactics. One example: If you defeat the override we'll cut emergency service. The cost of leaving the Cochituate fire station open at all times was small, but the override choice was yes or no to the entire override.

    SOS also has remained silent when changes to other important town services have upset affected residents. When landfill sticker fees shot up over 30 percent for Fiscal 2009, SOS said nothing. When the water department imposed a new flat surcharge of $236 per customer in spring 2009, regardless of water use, not a word from SOS. When selectmen voted to close the town's septage facility by the end of 2009, SOS was silent about the loss of that local facility and the prospect of resulting higher costs for Waylanders. The latest budget cuts for Fiscal 2011 by the town administrator recommend closing the library two nights a week. Not a word from SOS on that.

    Last winter SOS created a controversy when it held a private meeting to discuss the "state of Wayland" at [name deleted]'s house, inviting top elected officials and town employees but not the public. Even one selectman was left off the invitation list. Those without invitations were turned away.

    With its reputation as an unswerving ally of the establishment, SOS may be acquiring many silent detractors.

    The high school proposal last fall asked voters to take a big step and incur an average of hundreds of dollars per year in additional taxes for about 25 years.

    One tactic that might increase the odds of success at the polls would be to create a campaign group that seemed new and independent. In fact YES4WHS was not what it seemed to be.
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    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 02-01-2010 at 11:50 PM. Reason: [Names deleted at request of those named], replaced with "SOS Co-chairs" or [name deleted]; one name restored by request


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