Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Monday, February 25, 2008
"Marge, Have You Checked the Twins Lately?"
I found the following article in the Worcester Telegram today.
We are not alone.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Billboard gets too personal for officials
Others welcome signs often marked by dissent
BROOKFIELD— A large sign prominently displayed on Route 9 frequently features its owner’s political views and has become a thorn in the side of some residents.
The 8-foot by 4-foot double-sided sign, across from the local elementary school, belongs to John D. Holdcraft of Allen Road, who has a reputation for speaking out on local issues.
Mr. Holdcraft, 54, believes he is exercising his First Amendment rights, but Selectman James W. Allen thinks the man has gone overboard because he takes shots at town officials, mentioning them by name on the sign. Mr. Allen believes that makes the comments too personal.
“If he was more positive about things, more sensitive to other people’s feelings, I’d be more empathetic with what he’s doing,” Mr. Allen said. “I feel he shouldn’t be making personal comments up there. If he wants to make general comments, fine.”
Mr. Holdcraft said he has received encouragement about the sign, but it worries town officials because they don’t know whose name will be on it next.
“They’re really scared of it,” Mr. Holdcraft said. “I go from good to bad. I give zingers and I let people know what’s going on.
“I’m just trying to be a voice in the town and they’re saying I’m negative, but a town problem is a negative. We’ve got to come up with a positive solution. You just can’t keep looking the other way. That’s what they’re doing in this town. They’re sugar-coating everything and then the problem’s still there.”
The sign has been visible for about four years, Mr. Holdcraft said. It followed a long legal battle with the town over his leaving unwanted items, such as used furniture, on the same Route 9 lot for people to take for free.
Town officials believed Mr. Holdcraft, who maintains property in Sturbridge and Brookfield, was leaving discarded junk there and it was creating an eyesore.
“Fifteen years I had fought them and I finally beat them,” Mr. Holdcraft said. “Now its payback time for them.”
After the legal fight, some handmade signs were installed at the site and eventually the billboard-style, two-sided sign went up, which has been used to oppose various efforts in town, such as the construction of a highway garage, purchase of a firetruck and bylaw changes and to express views on conditions at the local library and a youth center. The sign’s messages are not limited to Mr. Holdcraft’s political views. They frequently contain reminders of upcoming community events.
“There’s a feeling that the sign creates dissension,” Selectman Rudy Heller said. “The sign is obtrusive. The sign is negative more often than not and that Mr. Holdcraft uses it to further his own personal agenda.”
Mr. Holdcraft said he would gladly give opposing views equal space on the sign, but “no one has ever asked me for that, though.”
Selectman Ronald J. Dackson has a different view from Mr. Heller and Mr. Allen.
“I have no problem with the sign,” Mr. Dackson said. “Anybody can express their opinion.”
“He puts a lot of things there,” he said. “The town meetings, the Christmas celebrations and Halloween activities.”
Asked whether residents had complained to him about the sign or Mr. Holdcraft’s views, Mr. Dackson said, “I haven’t heard anything.”
Mr. Holdcraft said residents have told him that they support the signs.
Mr. Holdcraft serves on the town’s Cable TV Advisory Committee, the Police Study Committee, the Cultural Council and the Advisory Committee on town finances. Recently there was a petition with 47 names, presented to selectmen asking for his removal from the Advisory Committee.
Residents have indicated that his activism goes counter to what the Advisory Committee is all about.
“This is a gentleman who hasn’t shown objectivity and the advisory board needs objective thought,” Mr. Heller said. “The advisory board does itself a disservice by appointing somebody who as soon as somebody walks into the town meeting and sees him sitting on the Advisory Board they lose credibility.”
Mr. Holdcraft believes that sentiment is foolish. He is trying to be informative and working for the betterment of the town, he said.
The real reason for the opposition, he said, is “I’m against their little clique, you know. They’re worried about their clique.”
From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette Feb. 25, 2008
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