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Billerica Selectmen Accomando and Gagliardi Support Censorship

Billerica-sign

By: Scott MacDonald – April 2014

Selectman Bob Accomando

Selectman Bob Accomando

On Monday March 19th, five Billerica selectmen candidates met for a final videotaped debate before the April 5th election. The debate touched on many important issues facing the Town of Billerica, including infrastructure improvements, economic development, and the town manager contract.

As the debate was coming to a close, moderator Sandra Giroux, posed the following final question to all the candidates.  ”Would you support a new town by-law that would eliminate all political signs, including resident sponsored vote-on-date?“ Incumbent Selectmen Robert Accomando and David Gagliardi both answered yes to that question.  Selectmen candidate hopefuls John Piscatelli, Dan Burns, and Rome Capobianco all answered no.

Selectman David Gagliardi

Selectman David Gagliardi

Presumably, the political signage question was asked because a few Billerica residents had previously complained at a selectmen meeting about the esthetics of some of the political signs they were seeing around town.

“I don’t think that these signs should be popping up in town, they are not professional.” said Billerica resident Anne Noel.  Resident Kevin Heffernan commented,  “I don’t know how to do it, but we got to get rid of these signs.”

Specifically, the complaints were directed at the large and colorful hand painted signs created and distributed by sitting Selectman George Simolaris. Selectman Simolaris later commented:

I made the signs to let the residents know what’s going on, something the local government fails to do. The people that are complaining about the signs do not want information to be disseminated, so that a small minority of people can continue to have a stronghold on government.

Many residents of Billerica are outraged that two sitting selectmen would make comments supporting infringement on their constitutionally protected rights. Billerica Town Meeting member Anthony Ventresca expressed the following:

I’m outraged that any public official would suggest restricting all residents’ political free speech, especially during an election cycle, when people most need to know about important issues. These are the basic civil rights, freedoms, and liberties that this country was founded on.  For any public official to have these views is very dangerous and they should not be allowed, by the people, to hold any public office.

Selectmen candidates John Piscatelli and Dan Burns have both made additional comments in reaction to Bob Accomando’s and David Gagliardi’s  public support of a town wide ban on all political signage.  John Piscatelli weighed in with the following comments:

I do not support limiting signs associated with political races. Our country was founded upon freedom of religion and freedom of political choice. Thus, limiting political signs is a first amendment violation. All said, political signs typically are displayed for 3 or 4 weeks a year. Accordingly, I’d prefer to see our leadership focused on our real issues, infrastructure, taxes, and economic development.

Selectmen candidate Dan Burns expressed similar sentiment in opposition of a town wide ban on political signage:

This is an issue of our first amendment rights. To seek to prevent political signs is outrageous. This country was founded on the rights of the individual and our government officials are sworn to uphold the laws, not go against them. To even think to go down the road to prevent political signs goes against everything this country stands for.

It remains to be seen if the Billerica Board of Selectmen will ever actually attempt to move forward with an outright ban on all political signs in Billerica.  What is clear, though, is two selectmen candidates have publicly expressed support for such a ban, and three selectmen candidates have publicly expressed opposition to it.   As they say, elections have consequences.

 

ValleyPatriot

ValleyPatriot

The Valley Patriot is a free monthly print newspaper serving Northern Massachusetts, and Southern New Hampshire. The print edition is published by the 10th of each month and is distributed to 51 cities and towns.

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2 Responses to Billerica Selectmen Accomando and Gagliardi Support Censorship

  1. Peter Reply

    April 1, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    I think you need to get your facts straight before writing an article like this Scott MacDonald. The 2 candidates in question are not for censorship. Like many people in town, they are for upholding a town by-law that clearly states how a sign can be displayed. One that Selectman Simolaris, and the 3 candidates that are running vehemently ignore. The signs are not colorful and magnificent, on the contrary, they are big, ugly, and some even mis-spelled. If Selectman Simolaris is so concerned with getting the word out about elections, being a selectman, he should go through the proper channels to aid in getting the word out. Instead the town is littered with signs that look like they are advertising the upcoming yard sale instead of the town elections.

  2. Scott MacDonald Reply

    April 1, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    The article stands on its own merits. The question posed to the selectmen
    was regarding the banning of ALL political signs in the Town of Billerica, which most certainly qualifies as censorship. If Selectmen Accamondo or Gagliardi wish to further expound on the specific restrictions they do wish to place on the citizens of Billerica to arbitrarily control the aesthetics of personal private property in Billerica, they are certainly free to express those opinions any time they desire. I would certainly never suggest to censor such free speech, even if they wrote it on a big sign.

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