The ugly side of the Dover Amendment argument Thursday, October 5, 2006
Author Rob Haneisen Framingham Tab
I knew it would rear its head sooner or later.

Someone would dare to speak what some (who knows how many) believe and what motivates some in their opposition to group homes for the mentally handicapped.

I just didn't think it would be so blatantly ignorant and downright creepy.

For all the principled talk about the applicability of the Dover Amendment for group homes in Framingham there is a seedy underbelly of the conversation that says quite simply, "You are not welcome in this community anymore."

Now I'm not accusing everyone who has been critical of social service agencies in Framingham of being cretins.  There are legitimate points to be made about accountability of social service agencies operating in town, whether there should be any sort of payment in lieu of taxes and what type of infrastructure impact large group homes would have on a neighborhood.  It's also reasonable to ask why there are so many social service agencies operating group homes in Framingham.

What's unreasonable is when you don't like the answer you get.

Tell a critic of social services that Framingham is the logical home for group homes and they point a finger at Sherborn and ask, "But what are they doing?"

Tell a critic that social services have to have group homes somewhere and they say, "But why my neighborhood?"

Tell a critic that social services serve the needy and therefore depend on the goodwill and generosity of the government and they say, "Then why do administrators make six figure salaries and get rich off state contracts?"

Tell a critic that group homes have been shown to improve neighborhoods and they say, "Why don't I have any say about who lives there and what kind of supervision residents receive?"

This is about control, both sides would agree on.  Residents in Framingham say they don't want to be pushed around by social service agencies and social service agencies say they won't let homeowners and politicians dictate to them how to best serve a needy population.

Few would have the gall and insensitivity to address the value of having a population requiring group homes in the community.

But here comes political gadfly and man of many criticisms Harold Wolfe.

After listing a variety of skills needed by people who may live in group homes, Wolfe wrote on an internet mailing list, "Just what Framingham needs, more mentally challenged people who can't even dress themselves, do chores, eat and shower.  Let's not forget to teach them about their 'entitlements'... like our tax dollars.  Lessons on self preservation are important if you have entitlements."

Responses to Wolfe's rant asked that the debate stay civil but was there outrage or calls for an apology or even a clarification from Wolfe?  Nope.  Some said it did no good to attack the people who would reside in a group home and others said the redirect the discussion back to attacking the Dover Amendment.  Most said nothing.  What we have here is silent agreement.  We have a community of people battling group homes that by not calling out Wolfe's comments as bordering on hate speech have silently agreed with his mean-spirited message.  Sure, they acknowledge that the point of the debate is more about process, but why let this missile from the depths of Wolfe's den go without reprimand?

Maybe because they also don't like the image of the mentally disabled living in group homes in their neighborhoods? Maybe because of the stigma that goes with mental handicaps, that they drain public resources and drag down the norm, that they should be seen less and only applauded when it is time for political correctness?

I have talked and met some of the people involved in the campaign against social services in Framingham and believe, or at least hope, that they don't condone Wolfe's comments.  Why have they remained so silent over this?  Their calls to keep the conversation civil amount to a slap on wrist when what is called for is a major dope slap.

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