Sunday, May 8, 2016

Taunton Municipal Airport (KTAN) expansion opponents will circulate new petition after mix-up

EAST TAUNTON — Another petition opposing the possible expansion of the Taunton Municipal Airport will circulate, said resident Jeff Anderson, a few days after questions were raised about an earlier petition’s wording.

Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Leger, attending the May 3 meeting in place of City Clerk Rose Marie Blackwell, began to read aloud from the agenda item, “Communications from Citizens.” The agenda item noted “Jeff Anderson and other East Taunton residents (153 signatures) — Expressing concerns with the expansion of East Taunton Airport and Airport Commission Representation.”

“Received and placed on file,” said Councilor Andrew J. Marshall, after Leger began reading.

Moments later, Marshall said the petition’s first page was not the same as the first page on another petition. The signatures were there from residents of East Taunton, several from Raynham and one from Berkley. Most of the signatures were by East Taunton residents.

Marshall said one page of “Stop The Airport Expansion” was not the same as another petition, also entitled “Stop The Airport Expansion.” Each petition asks for the Westcoat Drive municipal airport not to be expanded, whether the term used was to keep the airport from becoming a “Jet Port,” or “the next Logan Airport.” Five pages of the petition read: “This is a petition for East Taunton Residents to stop our small airport from becoming the next Logan Airport.”

One petition’s lead-in states more, that “it is also a petition to address the lack of representation of the East Taunton Community that is lacking on the Airport Commission. We recommend the removal of Bob Adams and Fred [Terra] and the reappointment of Charlie Malo.”

The next sentence questions Adams and Terra’s character “to uphold the Mission Statement of the Airport Commission.” It then reads: “We as a community feel that Charlie Malo has exactly what it takes to represent the Airport Commission as well as the East Taunton Community. We would also recommend the appointment of at least two actual East Taunton Residents.”

Marshall said that he had made some calls to petition signers. The issue over whether signers saw the different Page 1 of the more strongly worded and extended petition or the Page 1 noting a concern of the rurally set airport’s expansion was raised by Marshall.

“I’m not saying it didn’t happen or did happen,” Marshall said.

Anderson stood up from the audience and started to speak. He was cut off from doing so by the mayor, in keeping with the city’s parliamentary procedure. The matter was not brought up further during the public session.

Per city practice during council meetings, there is no time set aside during council meetings specifically to allow a resident or any other person to publicly speak about a concern or issue on any matter in Taunton.

City Solicitor Jason Buffington, in an email response, explained that this is per the city charter.

“There is no provision in the Taunton city charter on the issue. The charter sets up a representative democracy form of government for the city’s legislative branch. Some municipalities have a direct democracy type of legislative branch, which is often called an open town meeting,” wrote Buffington.

That is, unless a public hearing is scheduled on the agenda and people are invited to go to the microphone stand and speak on the matter of the specific public hearing. Citizens can write letters to the city clerk for inclusion in a council meeting’s agenda, or they can contact a councilor. All of the city councilors serve at large; there is no ward or particular geographic district. Sometimes, councilors do speak on behalf of constituents’ concerns. The name of the constituent is usually not announced aloud.

“We weren’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” said Anderson about Marshall’s concerns on May 3.

“That’s why we’re going to redo this,” Anderson said in a phone interview Thursday.

Hoye on Thursday said he has “nothing further to say about the petition other than I am adamantly opposed to runway expansion.”

The Airport Commission minutes of Dec. 30, 2015, posted on the city’s website, highlight concerns raised by Anderson in the petition, regarding airport expansion, especially with the East Taunton-based First Light Resort and Casino now under construction.

On a related matter regarding the airport, Malo is an Easton resident, said Councilor Estele C. Borges, after the May 3 meeting ended. In the airport commission’s minutes from its March 30 meeting, posted on the city’s website, Malo said to all those in attendance that his term as commissioner was ending in May and that he had asked Hoye to reappoint him to the commission.

Borges, also on May 5, said she had “not seen or heard anything about” another airport petition.

The Airport Commission meets the last Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the temporary City Hall at 141 Oak St. The Dec. 30 meeting was held in at the airport. The meetings were moved to city council chambers at the start of 2016 upon recommendation of Borges. She is the chairwoman of the Committee on the Needs of the Airport. Councilors David W. Pottier and John M. McCaul also are on that panel with Borges.

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