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Sharon Special Town Meeting: High School Track Repairs, Billboard Use Approved

Articles that were voted down Monday night circled around the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the use of dental amalgam and granting special permit authority to the Sharon Planning Board in Sharon Center and the Wilbur School District.

Monday night's Special Town Meeting at Sharon High School covered a wide array of topics including zoning issues, simplifying some of the language in the bylaws, and how to best repair Sharon High School's running track.

Some issues raised during the nearly four-hour meeting called into question the very purview of Town Meeting, like a warrant centered around the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Sharon resident Paul Lauenstein urged voters at the meeting to join more than 70 other Massachusetts communities in sending a resolution to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling that granted corporations the same constitutional rights as people and decided that campaign contributions are a form a free speech, allowing unlimited amounts of money to be spent on elections.

“We The People, through our elected representatives, should be free to determine the character of the democracy that governs our daily lives. The Supreme Court’s decision to block the Federal Election Commission from limiting campaign spending undermines that freedom,” Lauenstein wrote to Patch in a letter to the editor. “It gives special interests the right to raise and spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections, fundamentally corrupting the nature of our democracy.” 

Opponents of the measure didn't oppose the merits of that argument, but whether it was appropriate to discuss it at all at a Town Meeting. They argued that Town Meeting should strictly focus on local and town issues, not national ones.

One resident, however, talked about how Chevron spent more than $1 million in local races in Richmond, California, eclipsing the $30,000 opponents spent. She said the Chevron-backed candidates won, making life easier for the company, which she said was an example of how the 2010 decision can effect local government.

Voters decided that the issue was indeed in the purview of Town Meeting when they voted to send the resolution. 

The only other two issues to be voted down Monday night discussed the use of demntal amalgam and the granting of a special permit authority to the Sharon Planning Board in Sharon Center and the Wilbur School District.

Articles 11, 12, and 13 dealt with the potential hazards of dental amalgam, an alloy of mercury and other metals used for dental fillings.

Laura Henze Russell, a resident who suffered a number of health issues related to an allergic reaction to amalgam fillings, proposed measures to encourage Sharon residents to learn about the issue and urge President Obama to direct the FDA to take advice from an advisory panel to restrict the use of Mercury Amalgam (article 11).

Russell also said she wanted a proposal that would require dental practices in Sharon to share with their patients the warnings they get about amalgam (article 12) and for the town and the school department to negotiate new, cost-neutral dental plans that offer the same coverage for non-amalgam fillings as there are for amalgam fillings (article 13).

Opponents, who won out in the voting, argued that there was too much information to digest for an informed vote, and that this it was not an appropriate issue for Town Meeting, but for the various state and federal organizations that typically make those decisions.

The only other motion that was denied was a proposal to granting special permit authority from the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Sharon Planning Board in Sharon Center and the Wilbur School District.

The measure was shot down over concerns that it would take away checks and balances between the two boards, while proponents argued that it would streamline the process for approving permits, creating a more business-friendly climate in those areas.

Other articles residents passed included renovating the Sharon High School track and allowing billboards to possibly go up on one Rte. 1 and I-95 in Sharon, despite concerns that they would be a “blight” on the town's appearance. Proponents successfully argued that they would bring in much needed revenue—about $100,000 a year, or $2 million over 20 years.

Besides voting on warrants, there was a holiday performance by the Sharon High School Select Choir and an award was presented to the football team, who for the first time ever became Hockomock League Champions and won the Division III Super Bowl.  

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