To the editor:
I am writing in response to a letter from Joseph and Lois Muzio criticizing Rockport Selectman Wendell Jacques (the Times, Friday, April 20).
The Muzios' letter states in part, "If accurately reported, then it is patently clear that Selectman Jacques is ignorant of the ongoing women's movement and the civil rights acts of the past 40 years or so."
Yet little more than a cursory analysis of events leading to Mr. Jacques comment is needed to show that Mr. Jacques may be the one and only selectman who does know the history, letters and spirit of that landmark act.
The Civil RIghts Act of 1964 was passed, for the most part, to ensure otherwise eligible voters were not denied the right of the vote based on their race. The key issue being addressed was the longstanding inability of some citizens to affect the political process, and associated outcomes which shaped their lives, by denial of the right to vote. Powerful Southern segregationists who chaired the Senate committee had been able for decades to keep reforms from ever reaching the entire Senate floor for debate.
Fast forward to 2011. At Fall Town Meeting, two competing motions arising from one article were on the floor regarding the former Cape Ann Tool Company.
One motion would have involved the town obtaining a temporary right of easement to demolish the metal buildings on private property, presumably against the owners' wishes; the other was to acquire it for municipal purposes. Those issues were debated for a bit and then an amendment was offered from the selectmen to refer back to selectmen for further study and a report to Annual Town Meeting.
Recently, at a public selectmen's meeting, Mr. Jacques stated that he believes many people were not aware that their right to vote on the Fall Town Meeting pending motions was hijacked by the selectmen's amendment. I agree with him.
As we have learned, it was Mr. Jacques who initially authored the amendment, he felt obligated to offer the spring town voters a non-binding referendum: Do the townspeople want to purchase the tool company?
He made a motion in that regard, which was seconded "for discussion purposes," and argued for his positions at the April 3 selectmen's meeting to no avail. The motion was defeated 4—1.
In my opinion, the non-binding referendum was a simple, honorable and decent approach to address the fact that while one motion's ultimate aim might well be accomplished by the selectmen's present commitment to do nothing; the other motion was cast into oblivion, without a scintilla of public input and a popular vote.
Cape Ann TV records and televises selectmen's meetings and is very accommodating at allowing the public to view the recordings on their reception room television in the studio's waiting room in Blackburn Park. Ask for the April 3 and April 17 Rockport selectmen's meetings. Use fast forward; the germane topics are toward the end.
The rebuttals to Mr. Jacques' arguments for the non-binding referendum by other members of the board are as woeful examples of leadership and representative government that I ever hope to see. Given one select person's musings that townspeople vote them in to make decisions on matters like this, I see no reason why we can't agree to dispense with town meetings altogether.
I'm far more insulted and affected by the board's actions than its members' words. Men and women were denied equal representation on issues that affect us all.