Monday, May 23, 2011

There’s Hope for the Next Generation After All

In the classic movie, “Around the World in Eighty Days”, an Englishman and his party arrive in San Francisco in 1872 and find themselves amidst the spectacle of American democracy. Two gentlemen by the names of Mandiboy and Camerfield are going head-to-head at the ballot box. There are banners, fireworks, torchlight parades, a squadron of Mexicans on horseback, and saloon girls in corsets and fishnet stockings. One of the travelers wonders whether the Americans are choosing a new President. It turns out they’re choosing a Justice of the Peace.


Messers Mandiboy and Camerfield came to mind recently when I was friended on Facebook by a Mr. Jonathan Loya. Although I did not know him, I confirmed his friend request on the strength of some three-dozen mutual friends in the Tea Party. I soon began to see items in my news feed like “We knocked on another 67 doors today!” and “We just called 150 more homes today as part of our last push towards election day! In total, we have now reached 2,953 homes out of approx. 5000 in town, so we will hit the 3,000 mark tomorrow!” Impressed by his hard work, I looked at his profile to see what he was running for: it turned out to be Planning Board for the town of Holliston, MA.

I commented on one of his posts that I wished I lived in Holliston so I could vote for him. A few minutes later he IM’ed me to let me know there were other ways I could help his campaign.

Well, I walked right into that one.

I joined a standout for him this past Saturday. Although there were many candidates in downtown Holliston that morning, I found Jon easily. Although there were, alas, no saloon girls, he was standing by a big red banner that overshadowed anything the other campaigns had. I stayed for about two hours, which gave me ample opportunity to talk to the candidate.

Jon graduated Holliston High School is 2008 and is now a student at UMass Lowell. You can do your own calculation as to his age. He became interested in politics while following the 2008 Presidential election and then Scott Brown’s 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate. Jon describes himself as “fiscally conservative and socially tolerant”. When I asked him what influenced his views, he said, “It’s just common sense – don’t waste the taxpayers’ money.”

The main issue in the Planning Board election is the balance of economic growth against the benefits of preserving open space and small town New England charm. Jon took this issue head on during a debate against his opponent, Neil Osterweil. “Encouraging new business while still preserving the feel of our town,” Jon said, “can help alleviate the tax burden by creating a more substantial commercial tax base.” The need to alleviate the tax burden in Holliston is considerable. According to data from (Town-by-town assessed home values and billed property tax amounts
in Massachusetts, from 2000 to 2010), the town has one of the highest property tax rates in the Commonwealth – well above the 90th percentile. Although Mr. Osterweil also claims to seek balance between preservation and growth, his emphasis during the debate tended to be on the criteria he would impose on new developments before he could support them. He did make it clear there is one land use he welcomes unequivocally: farming. Some members of the community, however, question Mr. Osterweil’s commitment to any economic activity invented post-Industrial Revolution. During the standout, one resident told Jon, “If Osterweil wins there won’t be anything built in this town.”

In addition to creating conditions for tax relief, Jon wants to improve communication – in both directions – between the Planning Board and the community. Although Planning Board meetings are not currently broadcast in Holliston, Jon wants to change this. He also thinks the board needs to do a better job of getting input from neighbors before developments go forward.

Besides running for public office, Jon plays the saxophone in the band Throwback, which performs classic rock at local venues. Their demo recording of the Beatle’s Daytripper is quite good.

It’s people like Jonathan Loya who keep our democracy running – people who feel strongly about their communities and are willing to work hard to make them better. It is especially important for the young to get involved. The election is tomorrow, Tuesday, May 24 at Holliston High School (Map). If you live in the town, please consider voting Loya for Planning Board. Even if you don’t live in Holliston, there are still ways to help the campaign. Volunteers are welcome to come to the school and hold a sign for Jon (outside the 150 foot statutory limit, of course). Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

If you want to see Throwback live, their next gig is at the Trackside Grille in Ashland (Map), Saturday, June 11 at 8 PM.


  1. We can be rightly proud of our young people. Many of them are taking up the mantel of citizenship with a gusto.

  2. Metrowest Daily News says, "Voters elected Jonathan Loya to the Planning Board. He edged out Neil Osterweil, 1,388-1,051." Congratulations and well done, Jon!