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Well, now it gets local. Hopefully, the town of Milton, MA won’t kick me out.

Milton MA Selectman Bob Sweeney (official campaign photo from 2010)

In another bizarre twist in the world of participatory democracy gone bad (which from now on will be known on JRV.com as a Pierluisi), one of my town’s elected officials, Chairman of the Milton Board of Selectman Robert Sweeney has accused me of personally attacking him for expressing a dissenting opinion to his policy stance. For the record, Mr. Sweeney said he would not engage me in a conversation since I “personally attacked” him in an email I sent him. Here is the email I sent him, regarding the town’s consideration in taking development proposals for the land owned by Governor Stoughton Town Farm:

SUBJECT: Thank you for nothing

Dear Selectman Sweeney,

I am surprised (or maybe not) that you did not support the same Town Farm proposal as Selectmen Shields and Hurley. It is clear that you are just a one-issue selectman, and even your one issue did not get fulfilled. Here’s hoping you start paying attention to ALL the NEEDS of Milton residents and not just your own neighborhood.

Respectfully submitted,

Julio Ricardo Varela

[ADDRESS WITHDRAWN FOR BLOG]  02186

Pct 8 Town Meeting Member

That is what I wrote to Selectman Sweeney two nights ago. Tonight, I attended a board meeting discussing the whole issue. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I pretty much go against everything Selectman Sweeney supports. He is against smart development in a town where there is only 3% commercial tax rate, I am for development that is smart, green, and adds more revenue to our tax rolls. He defeated the incumbent selectman I supported by less than 30 votes. Yeah, I am not his political ally.) After the board meeting, which Selectman Sweeney chaired and allowed town residents to interrupt other Selectman and yell back at them as if it were some crazed Tea Party Rally, I approached Sweeney to express my disappointment in his chairmanship tonight. Sweeney told me that he know EXACTLY who I was and that I personally attacked him. When I asked him specifically what I did, he said the following:

SWEENEY: You are rude and you are interrupting me. I am not engaging in a conversation with you.

ME: So, I can’t talk to publicly elected officials and express my disappointment in how poorly handled that board meeting was?

SWEENEY: I am not engaging in a conversation with you.

ME: So, you don’t root for America or democracy?

SWEENEY: I am not engaging in a conversation with you.

Obviously, Mr. Sweeney doesn’t like me, which is sad, since if there is one thing I love about living in Milton is besides being so politically involved (old school Town Meeting, baby!), you still get to meet so many people who care about the town. Some of my best friends in town don’t even agree with me politically, but at least we hang and have beers together. In fact, some local politicians who I was 100% opposed to few years ago actually realize that Milton (just 7 miles from downtown Boston) is a changing town, and even though it has a long somewhat more Reagan Democrat type vibe, it has gotten more diverse, socially and politically. Obviously, Mr. Sweeney hasn’t gotten that memo. My grandfather, a US Congressman for 30 years in the Bronx, always you to tell me this: YOU ALWAYS TAKE THE TIME TO TALK WITH CONSTITUENTS, WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH THEM OR NOT. THOSE CONSTITUENTS ARE VOTES AND YOU BETTER BE SURE YOUR “CUSTOMER SERVICE’ IS OPEN AND WELCOMING.

Yup, looks like Mr. Sweeney didn’t follow that advice.

So I left the meeting and wrote Mr. Sweeney yet again. This is what I wrote him:

Dear Selectman Sweeney:

I am writing to express my disappointment in how you handle people who disagree with your position. I am also very perplexed that you are claiming that I personally attacked you. That is a very serious accusation that lacks facts. I ask that in the future you handle future board meetings with leadership and civility. Your allowing to have town citizens interrupt a public board open meeting and cutting off elected officials while they were speaking is quite frankly, an embarrassing night for this town we all love. I still believe you are a one-issue official and have done very little to impress me and many others in town, especially a core group of school parents who do not agree with your positions on development.

I am more than happy to discuss this matter at any time, my number is 555 555 5555. Feel free to call me any time if you would like to clear the air. I doubt you will even call me, only proving my point that you are serving only the people who agree with your positions and do not want to listen to other opinions.

I will be sharing your accusations with others, since there were bizarre and quite frankly, unAmerican. As a voter, as a Town Meeting member, as a taxpayer, as an American, I have every right to say I do not agree with you. If you find it rude and use that as a way to not even engage me in a real dialogue, then it only proves my point. I wish you the best of luck in the next two years, and hope you start thinking of a Milton as a place of many different voices and opinions, and not one where differences will not be addressed.

Sincerely,

Julio Ricardo Varela

Precinct 8 Town Meeting Member

Let’s see where this goes. Never a dull moment in the 02186!!!!

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