Thursday, July 24, 2008

What do we value in Longmeadow?

At its last meeting I delivered a letter and spoke to the Select Board about the incident involving the confiscation of political signs from the Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee booth at this year's "Long Meddowe Days" event. The details of that incident were spelled out in a previous LongmeadowBuzz post.

A recent New York Times Editorial also sounds a similar alarm. Amazingly, as I was reading this editorial, I opened a fortune cookie. The fortune read; "Think of the danger while things are going smoothly."

The text of my letter follows:

Dear Chairman Santaniello:

I would like to alert the Select Board to the fact that concerned citizens will be coming forward in the next few days to request a full investigation of the incident of May 17, 2008 involving the confiscation of political signs on the green during Long Meddowe Days. I am supportive of that effort. A community-wide discussion of this incident, initiated and facilitated by the Select Board would provide valuable information and education to town residents.

The Select Board should review the relevant town by-laws to determine if political speech is receiving adequate protection. In particular, by-law 6-314, which was used to justify the suppression of political speech on May 17, 2008, needs to be clarified. In all likelihood, a new by-law that explicitly prevents political speech suppression should be considered. In addition, the Select Board should fully investigate the nature of the relationship between the town and the Long Meddowe Days Committee (and/or its parent organization, the Historical Society) and make the details of that relationship known to the whole community.

While no one believes that the Long Meddowe Days committee knowingly contributed to the suppression of constitutionally protected speech, the fact that they did so unintentionally is still a serious problem meriting a coordinated community response.

The regulation of political speech on a town green is a very significant issue and should not be made light of, or swept under the rug. Directly at issue is the question of when and how constitutionally protected speech can be regulated in a public space. The fact that this incident occurred on the town green, a space created explicitly for political speech, reveals how important it is to clarify the town’s policies and to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Please give this issue very serious and very public attention.

While this issue will not impact your property taxes or water and sewer bills, it is nonetheless a matter of great importance to our lives as individual Americans and as members of this community. The suppression of political speech on the Green over the Memorial Day weekend could be the plot of a Twilight Zone episode. Please don't under estimate the implications of this incident. At a bare minimum, it makes very clear the need for Longmeadow residents to come together as a community and reflect on the proper place of politics at community events. The confiscated signs were not controversial; they were candidate lawn signs meant to attract fair goers to the booth to chat with the people volunteering their time to run for public office.

Memorial Day is a day to remember the selfless public service of American military men and women who lost their lives standing up for our democratic institutions. Sincerely believing that it is okay, nay appropriate, to honor this sacrifice on one part of the Green, while dishonoring it on another, is no trivial matter.

Every citizen of Longmeadow ought to be eager to see and hear this matter explained and resolved. We need to at least take as much interest in this principled matter as we do in those matters related to our economic interests. If the trappings of free and fair democratic elections are prohibited on the Longmeadow Green over Memorial Day weekend, while at the same time on the same Green our town's official ceremony to honor America's fallen warriors is conducted amidst dozens of commercial signs and billboards, then I don't think it's a stretch to say that our priorities and principles could use some community-wide attention.

I hope everyone in Longmeadow will join this very important conversation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Energy On the Agenda Tonight

If you've got a body, you can have a role as an audience member for about 15 minutes at the next Select Board meeting on July 21 at 7:55-8:10 pm (in the Police Dept. Community Room).

Longmeadow was one of the first communities in our region to have a task force in place to examine ways to save our town money by conserving energy and reduce our overall need for energy.

This group (the Renewable Energy Task Force, or RETF) served at the direction of the Town Manager. It was scheduled to give a status report highlighting some possible projects & cost savings our town could choose. Their 3-page executive summary is below.

At the next Select Board meeting, this group will request that the Select Board create a standing Commission so that their hard work can continue.


The reason WHY the RETF needs to be formed as a standing committee is because the Town Manager has found it necessary to disband the energy task force.

-Longmeadow still does not have renewable energy systems in place.

-We still can save money.

-The Commonwealth's new Green Communities Act is a source of funds for communities that are proactive in this area.

-Even the Select Board themselves "directed the Town to develop a local action plan for sustainability in conformance with ICLEI’s Cites for Climate Protection Campaign and this responsibility was added to the RETF."


Please join me in sitting in on the audience (if you wish you can speak at the public comment time at the start of the meeting, 7pm). All you need to do is show up, so that the Renewable Energy Task Force can point to your support as additional justification for continuing their efforts.

If you are unable to come to the meeting, please email your support to &/or contact a Select Board member directly:

Paul P. Santaniello (2009) Chair Person
Robert Barkett, (2011) Vice-Chair Person
William G. Scibelli (2010) Clerk
Kathleen E. Grady (2009) Member
Brian M. Ashe (2010) Member

Thanks for your consideration of this effort. With the rising prices for oil and gas, our town would be incredibly short-sighted to disband the renewable energy task force.

TO: Robin Crosbie, Town Manager

The Town of Longmeadow Select Board

FROM: Renewable Energy Task Force (RETF)


DATE: July 21, 2008

Convening History and Purpose:

Charge: In May of 2007, Robin Crosbie, Town Manager, convened a task force to study and recommend options for renewable energy use for the town that would help the town reduce its reliance of non-renewable energy sources such as oil and gas and improve economic efficiencies for the town.

In November of 2007, the Select Board directed the Town to develop a local action plan for sustainability in conformance with ICLEI’s Cites for Climate Protection Campaign and this responsibility was added to the RETF.


RETF focused its initial work on energy conservation and the study of existing renewable energy sources, with energy conversation opportunities given top priority. RETF determined that the most practical renewable energy source for Longmeadow is the solar panel/photovoltaic source. Because there is extremely limited wind source in the Pioneer Valley, the use of wind power is not appropriate. During this past year, RETF has begun work on four distinct projects that will have the immediate result of conserving energy and demonstrating the use of solar power for energy needs. Listed on the next page is an overview of these four projects; including anticipated costs and savings and, where appropriate, rebate information.


The field of energy conservation and renewable energy is one that is in current flux. By that it is meant that as of today there are new technologies available to help with conservation and implementation of non-fossil fuel energy sources. The field is one where both policy and research are creating changes in real time. The challenge for any municipality is to find the current best practices and make reasoned decisions for its residents and businesses, all the while recognizing that these cannot be static decisions; they must be re-evaluated at different points in time to make sure that changes capture best practices as the field evolves.


1) The four projects listed on the next page are recommended by the RETF for the town’s benefit. Taken as a whole, they begin to help the town realize significant reductions in energy use and save dollars and improve efficiencies.

Note: The work on the local action plan for sustainability is just beginning.

2) The RETF has been working for approximately one year now. In a relatively short period of time it is clear that it has begun finding ways for Longmeadow to save significant dollars through energy conservation. At this point, to continue its work, to help build more public awareness and gain community support, and to be ready to benefit from the new Green Communities Act (S.2768) in which municipalities will be able to receive financial assistance for energy conservation for its work, the RETF is requesting that the Select Board formally the acknowledge the importance of this work and create and an Energy Commission that will be opened to the public for greater participation and allow the current RETF members to continue their work on behalf of Longmeadow.

Projects include:
Install LED bulbs in all traffic lights in town .

Insulation of exposed walls of high school swimming pool.

The town currently rents the street lights from WMECO. George Woodbury has been hired as a consultant to create a complete inventory and map all existing street lights, with the goal of determining their condition and appraisal for purchase so that Longmeadow reduces its monthly utility costs and assumes responsibility for maintenance.

Installation of 10 kilowatt solar/photovoltaic (PC) array on Glenbrook Middle School Roof: This project shall serve (3) purposes:

(1): Develop experience with solar renewable energy;
(2): Demonstrate to both students and residents the manner in which this type of energy source works to help further knowledge of science and technology. Project includes a web-based monitoring system for continual data accessibility.
(3): provide electric power to supplement the needs of the middle school.