Save Westfield Schools Pens Letter to L&O Committee Members About Override Vote

Dear Councilor _______,

I am writing to express my severe misgivings with Councilor David Flaherty's approach to the Proposition 2 1/2 override vote. Before doing that, I want to make clear that I am not writing to encourage an out of hand rejection to the placement of an override vote before the people. What I am suggesting is that the L&O committee should consider how to bring forth an override vote in a much more constructive and productive manner.

My opposition to Flaherty's proposal for the override vote is two-fold:

  • He wants to make the vote a referendum on public schools. This will only serve to play into Flaherty's fixation with attacking our city’s less than extravagant teacher salaries. This isn't going to help bring the community together, it will only divide us and demoralize our teachers more than they already are.

    Flaherty would have us believe the root cause of our problems is the school budget. But that’s a red herring. The true cause is a decline in revenues from the federal and state governments.

  • He has shown no inclination to help develop a strategy for giving an override vote any chance of succeeding. In fact, I am of the opinion that he is wantonly setting it up for failure. I'm sure he understands that an override vote stands little chance of passing in Westfield without a well-planned, well-executed campaign. In fact, I posit that it is his full intention to leverage a failed vote to his advantage and use it as an opportunity to open up a new line of attack against our educators.

As some of you know, I started a website a couple years back called Save Westfield Schools (SWS). On behalf of the supporters of SWS, I recently posted two essays on that site that explain in greater detail my objections to Flaherty's approach to an override vote. I've enclosed those two essays with this letter for you convenience. The first, "A Very Insincere David Flaherty Proposes a Proposition 2 1/2 Override" attempts to expose Flaherty's move for the political tactic I think it is.

The second essay, "Arlington, MA: A Model for Westfield on Proposition 2 1/2 Overrides?" offers constructive ideas for how we might give a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote in Westfield a fighting chance. I offer, as a starting point, a quick study on how Arlington built its Proposition 2 1/2 override into a long-term plan and campaign to ameliorate its structural budget deficits and prevent cuts to services. I think there is a lot we can learn from their two successful override votes.

In summary, I am urging the L&O committee to please do the following:

  • Not make the override vote a referendum on our public schools.

  • Determine the feasibility of working with the mayor and other leaders to build an override vote into a longer term vision and budget.

  • Not hold an override vote until and unless a strategy for an override vote has been settled upon—and will be actively supported—by a majority of Westfield's leaders. A vote simply cannot succeed without this most basic and important level of support.

In closing, I'm looking forward to doing what I can to help engage the supporters of Save Westfield Schools in the debate over a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote. I think it’s long overdue. I hope it can serve as a catalyst for educating the public instead of dividing us unnecessarily.

Sincerely yours,

Steve Dondley

cc:Westfield City Council President Christopher Keefe

L&O Committee Members