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Thread: Significant flaws in Harris response to Tichnor/Lavenson

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Significant flaws in Harris response to Tichnor/Lavenson

    In a May 14, 2015 Wicked Local Wayland guest column, Michael Tichnor and Cynthia Lavenson commented on unsupported allegations of voter fraud at Wayland's recently completed Annual Town Meeting. George Harris responded to that guest column in a May 21, 2015 letter to the editor.

    Numerous flaws in Mr. Harris' letter are worth addressing.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    TO THE EDITOR:

    In last week’s guest column (“Setting record straight”), a former selectman and a co-founder of Save Our Services (SOS) engage in shameless and mean-spirited condemnation of Wayland Voters Network and “a recent candidate for selectmen (sic).”

    (In the guest column, SOS is described as “dedicated to preserving Wayland town services in a fiscally responsible manner.” In Wayland, “fiscally responsible manner” is code for “your taxes are going up again.”)
    And in Wayland, "George Harris" is just as arguably code for "I'd like to cut your services."

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    The two writers are among a small but vocal group of individuals who have regularly assailed those who express opinions they don’t like. The writers think they know what is best for Wayland and those who disagree with them should just shut up and pay their high taxes like everyone else.

    Much of what they write is plainly false or highly exaggerated, for that is their rhetoric in order to promote their goals, which seem to be inordinately linked to the Town Center’s lackluster development.

    I did not “criticize young parents for attending Town Meeting only for the issues that interest them.” Nor did I criticize young parents “for appearing to be organized as to how they would vote.” Nor did I “criticize them for not attending all 12-plus hours of Town Meeting.”
    In his April 30, 2015 Wicked Local Wayland letter to the editor, here's what Mr. Harris wrote--you can be the judge of whether these words are criticism. In my opinion, they are.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris - April 30
    The recently concluded Town Meeting had more than its usual share of problems, many of which were quite serious in my view. Several of these problems emanated from the bleachers, where, in an April email, the Wayland Dads group directed younger families to sit. They came to vote for Article 26 and “While you’re at it, hang around to vote ‘no’ on Article 27.”

    ...

    4. Decorum further deteriorated by the circus-like spectacle of pajama-clad children of younger families “run(ning) around on the other side of the Field House,” as orchestrated in a Wayland Dads email. Who gave permission, when, and where is this permitted in the Moderator’s Rules and Regulations?
    Now, back to Mr. Harris' May 21 letter.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    These are outright lies about and distortions of what I wrote, which was based on and quoted the Wayland Dads’ email.

    I have never said “the town is mismanaged, financially irresponsible, chronically and intentionally in violation of the Open Meeting Law, and committed to non-transparency.” Things are not quite that bad … yet!

    I have said that our town suffers from divisiveness, high property taxes, and lack of government transparency.
    Mr. Harris cherry picks facts when he points out Wayland's relatively high property taxes without noting Wayland's relatively higher affluence.

    • Relative to a 14 peer town group, Wayland has the 9th highest average tax bill
    • Relative to this peer group, Wayland has the 6th highest median household income


    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    Do the writers really deny these realities? The town is surely not financially well managed. If it were, we would not endure high taxes and repeatedly experience financial blunders of enormous magnitude (Public Safety Building cost overruns, other post-employment benefit (OPEB) excesses, free cash excesses, overlay excesses, illegal school discretionary accounts, illegal school revolving funds, treasurer’s office miscues, botched lawsuits). These problems have cost Wayland taxpayers millions of dollars. As to lack of transparency, please reread last week’s front-page story about the most recent Open Meeting Law violation.
    Mr. Harris is flat out wrong in calling some of these occurrences blunders, and many of them have cost Wayland taxpayers nothing. For instance, free cash excesses are not blunders, and they don't cost the taxpayers money over time. Similarly, the school accounts did not cost taxpayers money over time.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    The writers apparently think these failures are normal. Maybe they are normal for Wayland. They are not normal in well-managed towns, such as our peer towns.

    “Pied Piper” voting at town meeting is an unfortunate new practice that ultimately must be resolved by the moderator. Town meeting is a deliberative assembly that employs parliamentary procedure. Its thesis is that voters engage in public discussion and debate to reach reasoned decisions on individual articles. The antithesis of deliberation is “Pied Piper” voting via hand signals. If hand signals are acceptable, will individuals next display “vote yes” or “vote no” signs?
    Mr. Harris' stand against free speech is curious.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    The writers claim it is “unbelievable“ that I would repeat allegations of fraud in my recent letter to the editor. The same allegations appeared in The MetroWest Daily News, The Wayland Town Crier, Wayland Voters Network, and WaylandeNews. What’s so unbelievable?
    There is just as much evidence that there was voter fraud at Town Meeting as there is evidence that Mr. Harris brought voters in from out of town to vote in the recent town election at the polls.

    Mr. Harris is disingenuous in including WVN and WaylandeNews in his list above. WVN's bias is well documented elsewhere. WaylandeNews is simply an aggregator--it does not run original stories.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    Now, let’s return to the record that the writers want to set straight. They say the claims of voter fraud have been thoroughly investigated. When was that investigation conducted, by whom, what witnesses participated, and where can I read the report of the findings? In fact, there was no investigation, thorough or otherwise. There should have been one, but it didn’t happen. Instead we have hearsay repeated by the writers.
    I don't know if the investigation was thorough, but how could it have been given that there was zero evidence to investigate. Everyone seems to agree that NO ONE saw any evidence of a voter voting at Town Meeting using the handset of another voter.

    Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
    The closest thing to an investigation was a public meeting held by the Moderator’s Electronic Voting Implementation Subcommittee on April 30. About 20 people attended. They discussed the alleged voting fraud at length, as well as potential remedies. Had the writers also attended, they might have learned something about how the public feels.

    Voter fraud at town meeting is unacceptable. So is the appearance of any voting irregularity.
    Agreed on both points. There is no evidence of voter fraud, and to my eye, there was no appearance of voting irregularity. If Mr. Harris and others wish to infer appearance of irregularity, that's of course their right. As is believing in the supernatural.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Numerous flaws in Mr. Harris' letter are worth addressing.
    Jeff – I love reading your posts here (I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating). The venerable Mr. Harris is a trained lawyer, and as such, is quite adept at presenting untruths and half truths as gospel. His ability to spin and twist is legen [wait for it…] dary. He belongs to a self serving group of people who hate it when they’re called out and defrocked. Other than suing Wayland repeatedly, costing taxpayers money (raising our taxes as a result), and blustering about the “vocal minority” (now THAT’s the pot calling the kettle black!), I haven’t had the opportunity to glean anything useful out of his writing other than the obvious entertainment value it provides. I think it’s safe to say that except for his minions, no one takes him terribly seriously.
    And in Wayland, "George Harris" is just as arguably code for "I'd like to cut your services."
    Amen. I think if he had his way, we’d have no school system at all.
    Mr. Harris cherry picks facts when he points out Wayland's relatively high property taxes without noting Wayland's relatively higher affluence.
    Please Jeff – you’re letting facts cloud up his argument!
    Mr. Harris' stand against free speech is curious.
    I believe that the problem with free speech (from others) is that it exposes your fallacious arguments for what they are
    There is just as much evidence that there was voter fraud at Town Meeting as there is evidence that Mr. Harris brought voters in from out of town to vote in the recent town election at the polls.
    Ah HA! Now that it’s in writing, I think we should assume that it’s true and flood the newspapers with it.
    Keep posting Jeff. I wish I had your writing ability!

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