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Thread: Is there a valid argument in favor of changing Finance Committee member selection?

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  1. #1
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    Default Is there a valid argument in favor of changing Finance Committee member selection?

    In the comments under a recent Town Crier letter to the editor, a poster raises the question of how Wayland Finance Committee members are selected and whether a change is warranted.

    I'm a fan of fixing things that are broken. Wayland's Finance Committee doesn't come remotely close to qualifying for a fix. Beyond their excellent annual work overseeing the budget development process and commenting on Warrant articles, they've done great work in a number of "ad hoc" areas:

    • Driving the FY07 and FY10 budget advisory committees that have saved the town millions
    • Guiding the rationalization of the town's health insurance plan
    • Maintaining the town's triple A bond rating
    • Avoiding overrides for the last 3 or so years
    • Establishing a coherent capital projects plan

    What are the arguments in favor of either electing them or having an entity other than the Selectmen appoint them?

    • A number of other towns do it that way
    • The BOS has too much power

    To the former, without another reason, that's a poor rationale for change. To the latter, what's the evidence that the FinCom is in any way compromised by the fact that it's appointed by the BOS? In what way has any FinCom member acted against his or her inclination because of undue influence from the BOS?

    The arguments for keeping the Finance Committee's selection as-is are far more compelling, in my opinion.

    • As noted above, the excellent performance of the FinCom over an extended period of time
    • In favor of keeping the FinCom's membership appointed is the argument that the positions are both technical and (somewhat like a judiciary) benefiting from remaining at "arms length" from the politics of campaigning

  2. #2
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    Nov 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    What are the arguments in favor of either electing them or having an entity other than the Selectmen appoint them?

    • A number of other towns do it that way
    • The BOS has too much power
    It is true that a number of other towns elect their Finance Committees, but that number is quite small. Most towns have them appointed by their Moderator, and then smaller numbers have them appointed by the Selectmen or Selectmen and/or the Moderator and the smallest slice of the pie has them elected by ballot.

    I think appointment by the Moderator only is a surprisingly odd way to select the Finance Committee. Nothing against our current or past moderators, but leaving those key selections to one individual seems a little short-sighted. This seems to be clearly the sort of selection you would like to have done by a committee that can spend some time to evaluate candidates' credentials, ensure they will be able to do what is a very difficult job and make sure their collective set of skills meets the necessary requirements. And do so based on public interviews. So if we are going to rely on what "other towns" do, I think this would be a poor direction to go.

    On the other hand, having elections for this position seems similarly a poor direction. I agree with the reasons Jeff cites above: that we want to keep those positions as non-political as possible, and that what we have done historically has been working well. I would add that there are a number of town board and committee vacancies, and we generally have precious few contested elections - electing this body would add an extra two or three candidates that would be required to run for office each year, a barrier to entry that is greater than applying for an appointed position, particularly for the quant-types we need on FinCom, people who might be less inclined to be interested in the "politics" of campaigning (and so we should want it!)
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 05-17-2011 at 12:01 PM.

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