Autumn in the North Cemetery.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sign, Sign Everywhere A Sign...

Ed. Note: There are currently 71 election signs posted on Route 20 between Route 131 and Route 148 for four candidates. Next time the issue of signs in front of businesses comes up in town, and the need for sameness, and limited exposure of signs in order to de-clutter the "blight" they cause, ask about election signs. What's good for the goose...

lection time. (sigh). I don't know, somehow it seems that all the hype before the vote is cast is done wrong. Oh, there are cases when it I do feel a connection with a candidate, but overall, it is the same 'ol, same 'ol.

When you are driving about town today count the number of election signs planted in the medians, lawns and elsewhere. some patches of ground have over a dozen signs planted. It starts with one sign for one candidate, then an opposing candidate feels it is a good spot, and they anchor a sign with their name on it in the same spot, and then another candidate. Equal time, and all is good.

But... .

Then the first candidate sees the competition is surrounding them, so out comes another sign, and it is stuck in the earth near the first one, but planted in a way to show this candidates name better, and twice as much as the others. The other candidates soon follow suit. In a short time the small patch of ground has several signs from each of candidates.

Does the number of signs one displays an indicator for the being the best candidate, or is it supposed to show the number of supporters each person running for office has?

I have no idea. Not a clue, but it is most definitely a competitive sport in these parts.

I was always under the assumption that a campaign sign was to get the name of the candidate out there along with the office they are running for. It is a simple process. A sign here, a sign there along the most traveled roadways will get the name out to the public.

In the town in which I lived for way too long before coming to Sturbridge, they had a town bylaw that prevented stationary campaign signs from cluttering up the landscape. The signs could only be mounted on something portable with wheels. This insured that the signs had to be moved, and would be removed after the election. Of course, it led to there being large 4 foot by 6 foot signs, but the number of them was far less, and they were removed immediately after the election.

Once a candidate announces their intentions to run getting their name out there is important, so campaign signs do play a role, but it goes beyond the "King of the Mountain" game with the signs. There has to be frequent debates, public speeches, direct mail to the voters, and letters to the editor announcing their positions on various issues.

Yesterday I received a letter from James Ehrhard. The letter was the same as was published in the local paper, but at the bottom of the letter was a personal, handwritten note to me asking for my vote. This is connecting with a voter. It was something that everyone received, but the added personal note made the connection. It was well done.

Now, I haven't decided on who will get my vote as of yet, but I do feel I need to acknowledge when something is said well, or an act is done with some thought. This letter was something done well.

I am still waiting for specifics from each candidate. The rhetoric is fine, and expected in a pre-election period, but I want to read the specifics of how each candidate will treat each issue facing the town today, and the ones we see heading down the road. Some have mentioned the Route 15 development, others have mentioned the Southbridge Dump, and our own Recycling Center, but I want to know how each candidate feels about all the issues, and then I want to compare them. It would be like shopping for a new flat screen TV online, pull up a list of TV's that interest you, check the box beside the ones you want to compare and then click the compare button. Each TV would be listed with all the specifications for each in a column making it very easy to find just the right TV.

We need something like that. We are all far too busy to weed through all the rhetorical letters, letters to the editor, and transcripts of debates to make the best decision. Our heads have become accustomed to comparing, and choosing based on the new online paradigm. It's just the direction the world has gone.

In the meantime, I would like to extend to each of the candidates an invitation to respond to one particular question, and have their response published here on this page. A question that is a bit out of the mainstream of topics, but one that will require an answer that is not "canned". Depending on how the candidate responds to the question, or if they respond at all, will be a good way to see just where their head is at. In the end we can compare their responses. It may not be the most scientific method, but it will rise above the signs, the canned political rhetoric, and supply their idea/thoughts/plan off the cuff.

The Question:

In the interest of public safety, where do you stand on the building of sidewalks on Route 131 from Route 20, to the Southbridge town line? Is this something that can be done with the reconstruction of the road? Considering the number of pedestrians in town, and others that may become pedestrians if there were sidewalks, why would you consider this a good idea, or a bad idea?

Send your response to

Please answer in one or two paragraphs. The responses will not be published until at least 2 of the candidates respond in order to prevent one-up-manship. After at least two responses are received there will be a waiting period of a day for the other candidates to respond (I will announce when at least two are received), after which the responses will be published, and other responses submitted will not be published. If only one response is received, then that response will be published.

Pretty simple. A benign, but important question. Something that requires some thought. The thought process alone will give a good indication how the candidate processes other issues.

OK, candidates, start writing.

If anything, this will be interesting.


  1. Let's do what the town of Shirley is doing, and start charging $25 for signs like real estate signs, election signs, and the like. There are multitudes of signs on single properties and it's just not necessary. That would help to pay for the new school, the town hall and center school renovation. This is an excellent point!

  2. If the town can charge me for a simple yard sale sign then why not charge for all the garbage on the roadsides? When I asked abouth the yard sale fee I was told it was to prevent a lot of them going up and making the town look cheap. These election signs are the most I have seen!!! It is a mess!


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