Controversial Town Meeting Date Changed
The meeting had been scheduled to take place on the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover.
By a 3-2 vote, Seekonk selectmen voted Wednesday morning to move the date of this month's special Town Meeting from March 25, the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover, to March 27.
Selectmen Dave Parker and Nelson Almeida, who were originally the only selectmen opposed to holding the meeting on Passover, voted against the move because they did not like that a notice appeared in the Wednesday morning edition of The Sun Chronicle stating the new meeting date had already been approved. A legal notice must be posted at least 21 days before the meeting, and Wednesday was the final day to do that so the session could take place on the new date—March 27.
"I wasn't aware we were going to post this in the paper," Almeida said. "Nobody asked how I felt about this. That's just totally wrong in so many ways, so many ways."
Almeida and Parker said the meeting could be moved to April.
Selectman Bob McLintock said he too was bothered by the posting appearing in the paper before the selectmen had actually voted on the new date, but he did not believe the meeting should be delayed further.
Selectmen Chair Francis Cavaco said the most important issue on the Town Meeting warrant is the school district's request for funding to improve emergency personnel communications in the schools. He said further delays could put children in danger.
"If there's an incident in a school, the burden is going to be on this board of selectmen because we are pussyfooting around with the dates for Town Meeting," Cavaco said.
He added, "If we keep on postponing, pussyfooting around with the date, we are putting the children's lives in danger ... I'm sorry for bringing this out because this may ... give an invitation to those who have mental issues ... to attack the schools."
The meeting had been scheduled to take place Feb. 25, but was canceled hours before it was to take place because the warrant did not include the date, time and place for the meeting, as required by law. At last week's selectmen meeting, the board unanimously approved a tentative make-up date of March 25. Two days later, Almeida and Parker refused to sign the warrant because of the Passover conflict.
This issue led to a significant amount of discussion for the past several days in Seekonk about whether the meeting date should be changed. A special selectmen meeting was scheduled for Wednesday morning to consider changing the date.
Almeida said Wednesday he had changed his mind two days after tentatively supporting the March 25 date because he had given it some though and realized as a Catholic he would not want a meeting to take place on an important Christian holiday.
McLintock and Sagar said they believed this issue had more to do with politics than religion. Sagar said he supported moving the date, but would not vote for it if the official reason were to accommodate a religious holiday. He noted March 27 is a Hindu holiday.
"In all my years living in Seekonk, we have never used a religious calendar for scheduling meetings," Sagar said. "Our founding forefathers supported a strict separation of church and state. It is poor public policy to set a precedent that we will be guided by a religious calendar, when we have a government that is guided by laws."
McLintock said when he signed the warrant Friday for the March 25 date, he did not know the significance of Passover. He said he later spoke to his accountant, who is Jewish, and was told that it is an important family night. This was enough information for him to determine the meeting date should be changed, McLintock said.