Stasik and Giombetti make it official

Stasik and Giombetti make it official Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Rob Haneisen 508-626-3882 Framingham Tab
Framingham - Board of Selectmen member John Stasik said last week in an interview he's not running for re-election.

Stasik said he never intended to stay on the Board for the long haul and was initially motivated to run three years ago when there were two vacant seats on the ballot and a slew of candidates he could not support.  If you recall, that was the race that featured Dennis Giombetti, Ellen LaRose, Jim Rizoli, Harold Wolfe and Dennis Paulsen.  Stasik and Giombetti cruised to victory out of the crowded field.

Now, Stasik is calling it quits mainly because he wants more time with family and knows of people who will run that he can support.

He's not naming names though.

"I'm reasonably comfortable there are some good people in the wings ready to run," he said.

Current Board Chairman Dennis Giombetti confirmed this week he's running for re-election.

"I think my position will be a moderate on the board," he said.  "I'll try to maintain a middle ground."

For Giombetti, the race has its own special challenges.  As a defendant in the federal fair housing discrimination lawsuit filed by South Middlesex Opportunity Council, Giombetti will have to watch what he says.

Giombetti said he won't avoid the subject altogether during the campaign but may rely on advice from counsel about what he should or should not say.

Giombetti was one of three selectmen, other town officials and two residents named in the lawsuit.

Stasik, not a defendant in the suit, said the lawsuit and the battle between social service agency critics and those defending SMOC "could make a difference in the campaign ... and split the town in half," he said.

Giombetti agreed the issue was divisive and hoped that the campaign would not get negative but acknowledged the high level of emotions involved could make for fireworks.

Stasik had some comments on the emotions around the lawsuit.  Two weeks ago, the MetroWest Daily News ran a photo of Robert Bolles holding two signs in front of the Memorial Building reading "Stop SMOC."

"For someone to stand out with a couple of signs that says ‘Stop SMOC’ is patently ridiculous," Stasik said.  "I can see why people are upset.  People do what they feel they have to do."

When asked about the possibility of two types of candidates stepping forward — someone who would fight SMOC and someone who would try to be a voice of moderation — Stasik agreed that is how candidates in April’s Selectmen race could turn out.

But Stasik sees danger in the attitude by some calling for a fierce legal fight with SMOC. "If that particular attitude continues it will bring us closer to a very expensive legal battle," Stasik said.

Last week, it was announced that the town and SMOC had at least taken steps toward mediation.  My understanding of mediation is that both sides want to avoid a courtroom and instead try to work things out on their own with an official mediator.  Mediation also usually includes both sides making concessions.

What those concessions would be is anybody's guess at this point but wouldn't it seem that those being sued would have to admit to some wrongdoing? And if so, what would SMOC have to concede? That some people or some actions did not rise to the level of discrimination?

Who knows if this gets sorted out by April where voters might provide a kind of litmus test on the subject.  Will voters choose someone to fight the lawsuit or someone who promises to bring it all to an amicable end for both sides? I suspect we'll get a preview of that battle at the Nov. 27 special Town Meeting to discuss increasing the legal budget.  If the cry goes out strong to defend Framingham with every last dollar then I think the early advantage in the selectmen's race goes with a candidate more aligned with the social service agency critics.  But if there is caution in the hall, there may be hope for those who want to run on a platform of working amicably with social service agencies.

Or maybe this is too early to tell? Let me now what you think.

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