Framingham group aims to rebut PILOT Study report Tuesday, February 12, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - A group hoping to bring a more respectful tone to the discourse on local issues is planning a forum next month that will look at what it calls misinformation generated by a committee that studied social services.

The group, led by political activist Herb Chasan and Town Meeting member Diane Montgomery, among others, has not finalized the details of the forum, but say it will definitely be before the April 1 election.

Members are focused on discrediting the majority report of the PILOT Study Committee, which examined the effect of social service agencies on the town and was used as one of the reasons SMOC filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against more than a dozen town officials in October.

Town Meeting member Richard Paul said he is uncomfortable about endorsing any candidates as part of his group's work. Other members, though, believe the group can provide a platform for selectman candidate Bob Berman. Berman believes in forging a strong relationship with social service agencies.

"This is the most important issue in town," said Town Meeting member Lloyd Kaye during the group's fourth meeting last night. "It's why people are running or not running (for political office).

"I'm so used to our side not going for it. We take ourselves out of the game. Meanwhile, the other side is going for the throat," he said.

Besides Berman, a PILOT Committee member who signed onto a minority report, which did not express concern with the number of social service agencies in town, other candidates for selectman include Laurie Lee, the group's clerk, who was part of the majority report, and current selectmen Chairman Dennis Giombetti.

Lee and Giombetti are defendants in the SMOC case, which alleges the group engaged in "a coordinated effort" to discriminate against disabled people.

Kaye and Finance Committee Chairwoman Katie Murphy plan to record segments to be shown on local cable that will point out what they see as errors and inaccuracies in the PILOT majority report before the public forum.

Members will ask Berman whether he wants to be on the panel at the forum or be part of the series of testimonials they plan to create, including neighbors of SMOC projects such as Ardmore Road resident Barry Altschul, who lives across from the new location for Sage House at 517 Winter St., a group home for recovering drug addicts and their families.

Other members of the group are planning to flood the Daily News and other local papers with letters to the editor and continue to look at the information SMOC included in its federal lawsuit.

"We're trying to make Framingham a community again," said Montgomery.

Earlier last night, Plymouth Church hosted a prayer service where attendees were asked to "create a spirit of listening," said senior minister Peter Cook. The prayer service was the second of its kind, he said, adding he expects another inter-faith service soon.

The event was not just to pray for the defendants in the SMOC lawsuit, but all who are struggling with the negative tone that has dominated local debate, he said.

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