To the editor:
The “Andover Tomorrow” economic forum was a shameless public relations charade designed to breathe life back into the recently defeated rezoning/town yard effort for next year’s Town Meeting.
In a comparison of Andover to 50 other municipalities, the guest speaker, economist Barry Bluestone, presented Andover’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of attracting business. “Citizen Opposition” was noted as a negative for Andover. Professor Bluestone sheepishly said, “You have a very vocal citizenry when it comes to particular parcels of land? I guess? This is what we found out.” His comment was more of a question than a statement which made me suspicious. This was followed by one of the panelists bemoaning the defeat of the rezoning article at our Town Meeting last May. And then a question for Bluestone from another rezoning supporter who belittled the “very small vocal minorities” at Town Meeting for blocking “perfectly sensible, logical ideas.” The moderator wrapped up the event saying “I don’t have a specific issue to talk about tonight. There is no project we are talking about.” Really?
Here is what they didn’t say at the forum. After the meeting, I contacted Professor Bluestone who confirmed to me that the “Citizen Opposition” finding was not based on any independent research, but rather was given to him as a negative by the town officials who completed the Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool (EDSAT) survey. How about that? Town officials consider citizen opposition to be a negative for our town. Funny, they don’t seem too concerned when a vocal minority rubber stamps their bloated annual budgets or approves their non-essential pet projects at Special Town Meetings.
Our town leaders have dug us all into a very deep financial hole with unfunded liabilities for health care and pensions exceeding $350 million and they want residents to pay for all of it with higher tax rates next year. Andover cannot afford another non-essential $18 million to move the town yard. The small vocal minority that supports the rezoning effort for the so-called “Golden Triangle” need to address this concern and others or they will continue to face “citizen opposition.”