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Citizens for Limited Taxation

Wolfe hits Sisitsky, selectmen at candidate forum Thursday, March 18, 2003
Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Selectman hopeful Harold Wolfe last night blamed board Chairman Charles Sisitsky for the town's financial predicament, saying taxpayers should push for an under-ride after years of irresponsible spending.

Wolfe, one of three candidates for two seats on the board in the March 30 election, also wondered why downtown redevelopment has become a top priority and backed the push for an elected town manager.

But Sisitsky was his most frequent target during last night's candidates forum. "There was a huge economic surge in the 1990s and town spending just went amok," said Wolfe.  "We're overspending by more than $20 million a year.  It's financially incompetent to come to the taxpayers every year for more money.

"We've wasted so much money, and the people who need it aren't getting it.  The idea we're only going to be offered an override is offensive to me," said Wolfe.

Sisitsky, who was joined by Wolfe and selectmen Vice Chairwoman Ginger Esty at Wilson School for the debate, dismissed Wolfe's characterizations, saying he stands behind his 30 years as a public servant in Framingham.

He noted his push to protect the Birch Street wells on the New England Sand and Gravel land planned for a 665-unit development in Saxonville, and mentioned his efforts to protect the town in the sale of MetroWest Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Wolfe asked why Sisitsky is advocating for law-breaking with the proclamation welcoming people from all backgrounds, his role as public works director in Natick, and his desire to bury a State Ethics Commission complaint against Town Manager George King.

"These are totally baseless allegations," said Sisitsky.  "Not liking me is not a qualification for being a selectman.  I take a more positive approach.  We can't cut the heart out of Framingham just because we want to cut taxes.

"We've already gone through a number of serious cuts, and if we make any more, we'd be looking at major layoffs.  I don't see that as being fiscally responsible," he said.

Esty, who got to the forum about 20 minutes late, believes she deserves to be re-elected to one of the seats, leaving Sisitsky and Wolfe to battle it out for the other opening.

"I'm running on my experience," said Esty, who is a former public works commissioner and Town Meeting member.  "I'm the selectman who listens.  I'm the one who keeps trying to work with the neighborhoods."

Wolfe downplayed Sisitsky's suggestion that a town manager should be picked by selectmen and accountable to them.  Sisitsky said the Town Meeting article asking for the change puts the town "on a slippery slope to being a city."

"Most of the people on the board don't have the qualifications to do that job and we elect them anyway," said Wolfe.  "I don't think being town manager is that hard.  I can certainly do it.  Mr. Sisitsky could do it.  Most of you (in the audience can do it)."

And while Sisitsky and Esty noted they make regular visits to the town's Southside, Wolfe said he isn't known for such jaunts.

"I don't spend a lot of time here," he said.  "I'm from the Northside."

Wolfe sees room for a small cut in the municipal budget and a larger one on the school side.

"Teachers are overpaid," he said.  "The get paid $56,000 for a nine-month job in a town where the median income is $60,000.  They can stand a cut."

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