I am writing to start a thread about the State Rep race, which has important implications for our town's future. Full disclosure: I am the Chair of the Democratic Committee in Wayland and am working hard to get Tom Conroy elected. That said, I think there is one very important reason why any voter would want to elect Tom Conroy as our next State rep: Times have changed in Wayland (and Sudbury and Lincoln, the other towns in our district) and we need an effective voice on Beacon Hill.

There was a time, even a few years back, when our towns were insulated little "Norman Rockwell" type villages. We didn't have the kinds of pressing problems that many other and larger communities have in our state. But now we do have many of those problems: inadequate funding for our schools and services, rising property taxes, divisions over the future development of our town's remaining open and developable spaces, and more. All of these issues have a common cause: the devastating cutbacks in almost all forms of State aid to our towns. Back when we were in our Norman Rockwell mode, it was fine to have a mostly ceremonial rep who could correspond with constituents. But, in this changed climate, when our towns really need a voice and influence on Beacon Hill, Susan Pope simply can't provide that. While Pope will tell you she is well respected and works in a bi-partisan way, that doesn't by any stretch of the imagination mean that she has a voice or can be effective on Beacon Hill. One can look at her record and see that. I guess it's fine that she sponosred legislation to make the number 6 the official state number, but look for any evidence of real legislative leadership and you just won't find much. She has signed on to bills and so "co-sponsored" many, but that's not a voice, it's an echo.

And consider this: anyone who knows Beacon Hill also knows that since both of the representatives Wayland sends to Beacon Hill are Republicans, our town goes to the very bottom of the list when it comes to gettting prioritized for attention on Beacon Hill. (Scott Brown is our Republican State Senator and HIS main focus is the southern part of our senate district where he got his votes for election to that office two years ago). As a practical matter, if you want any chance for our town to get a fair shake in the House of Representative once the state starts to regain the ground we have been losing for years, the cold hard reality is that this won't happen with our current representation. I hear a lot about the "balance" issue. Well, if you want balance, you should take this opportunity to balance our delegation with a Democrat.

And what about Tom Conroy, can he do beter? Yes, without a doubt. Tom is an incredibly energetic, intelligent, compassionate, experienced and thoughtful guy who decided to run for this office because he was so concerned with what our changed time and circumstances were doing to the fabric of our town(s). The fights and nastiness around the overrides and town center and high school infrastructure needs have been shocking and dismaying to him as they have to so many of the rest of us. He wants to do something about this. He believes leadership matters, including the ability to help work through complex issues and to work with leaders on Beacon Hill to find the resources and creative solutions to local and state problems. This is based on his experience both working in the public sector for two U.S. Senators as well as in his current job as a vice president at a Fortune 500 consulting firm where he does not only risk management for global corporations but worked with several of our State agencies to find $500 million in non-tax revenues to fund vital services. He is creative. He knows how resources are created and how to deploy them effectively. He knows how to bring together people and teams to make things happen and solve problems. He has tremendous knowledge and experience in budgeting and finance. And he is rooted in our towns and cares deeply about our quality of life. (He has four daughters under the age of 11 who attend Happy Hollow School. He is active in his church in Lincoln and in youth soccer, among other things.)

So here's my bottom line: Times have changed. Our town needs a stronger voice, an effective voice on Beacon Hill. We need to balance out our completely Republican delegation that leaves us without influence. We need someone who is extremely competent and dedicated to getting our town back on track as a friendly and neighborly palce to live and work. That's Tom. He wants the schools to be great and he wants to bring relief to our seniors and others who struggle with property taxes and the high cost of living. He's the kind of guy that you know you can send into the fray and he will be a leader in sorting things out and a model of how to do the right thing well.

And finally, on some substantive issues: Susan Pope is a very conservative representative on almost all social issues:

*Sue Pope absolutely opposes embryonic stem cell research (apparently, like George Bush, on religious/moral grounds -- the argument that she has been heard to make that adult stem cells would be just as good is perpetuated by only a fringe group of scientists and touted almost exclusively by people with a particular (primarily fundamentalist religious) axe to grind). Tom Conroy supports pursuing embryonic stem cell research (as does the vast majority of the scientific community) so long as it will be well regulated and the ethical dimensions of this work are carefully considered and upheld (and there is already a huge body of such regualtory and ethical oversight that is brought to any reserch involving humans, human tissue, or animals).
* Tom Conroy is pro-choice and supports the law as it is now defined by Roe v Wade. Of course he supports efforts to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and of abortions. But although Susan Pope has claimed to be pro-choice, she needs to make clearer what choices for women she actually supports and under what conditions.
*Susan Pope has earned the highest rating from the National Riffle Association (NRA) and its Massachusetts affiliate. This rating only goes to people who really carefully toe this special interest's line. Tom Conroy believes that, while the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, too many weapons -- and too many not designed simply for sport -- are making their ways into the wrong hands. Over 90,000 children have been killed by guns in America since the 1970s. Sensible gun control must inform public policy and can't be dictated by the gun lobby.
*Susan Pope strongly supports the death penalty. Tom Conroy believes that too many mistakes are made and injustices or insufficiencies uncovered in the prosecution or defense of death-row inmates, to countinence state-sanctioned capital punishment. Just one innocent person executed is too many. We've already had far too many.
*Susan Pope believes that illegal immigrants should be immediately barred from obtaining drivers licenses and receiving in-state tuition. Tom Conroy believes that our society has enabled and tolerated such immigration for a long time and that we are not talking about "evil-doers" here, but families with kids, people who hold jobs and are making contributions to building communities. We absolutely must address this issue and create better public policies. But we need a sensible plan, one that would transition people rather than simply punish them. Immigration is an easy issue to demagogue on right now. That's what today's political climate seems to default to all too easily. But immigration reform is an issue, like many others, that can be addresed only with more thoughtful leadership. Tom Conroy can provide that.

One reason I am posting here is because I admit it seems strange to me that some seem indignant that someone is running against Pope -- as if this job were some sort of entitlement or reward for her. But there is nothing about Tom or his campaign that is making this personal. Elections are held so voters can subject those who represent us to periodic and thorough job reviews. That's the deal you sign-up for when you undertake this job. It's our job to take that evaluation seriously.

In my view, there's no doubt in my mind that Susan Pope deserves a very nice celebration where, as a town, we honor her and thank her for her years of dedicated service to the town. There's also no doubt in my mind that times have changed and we need someone who can do a better job for us on Beacon Hill. Tom Conroy can do a better job. He will be a more effective representative, helping create a better future for our kids, our seniors, and our town(s).

Finally, a dsisclaimer: These are my own views. I am representing views of Tom Conroy and Susan Pope as I understand them. I urge you to go to their websites and contact them directly to dig deeper into their values, experience and beliefs and form your own views (tomconroy.org)(suepope.org).

Thanks for reading,

Jon.