I had the
privilege of serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals for a number of years and
one of my favorite ways to kill an hour or so before a meeting was to go
upstairs in the Town Hall and read Town Clerk records from the 1800’s. This was
before the latest restoration of the building, and everything was in boxes
stacked-up all over the place.
were moldy and yellowed with age, but once opened they were alive once more. I
saw an entry next to the poor farm allocation for 1888 if I remember the date correctly
and the clerk made a change to the dollar figure entered. He used a pencil for
his work and erased the original figures entered. The pieces of the eraser were
still in the binding and at the bottom of the page almost as if the correction just
occurred. For one brief moment, time stood still.
I recently ran
across a journal of the the Ashland Taxpayers Association and it was déjà vu.
It too was moldy and yellow, but this time it was a little closer to our time.
So what was the
Ashland Taxpayers Association, who were involved, and when were they active?
The names and dates were interesting. Let’s go back to 1953.
watchdog movement was in full swing in the early ‘50s. An organization had
already formed in the ‘30’s to unify local cities and towns under the name of
the Massachusetts Federation of Taxpayers Associations and they were growing
steadily. Their mission was to recruit members in every community to form local
chapters with a common cause. These local chapters formed committees to review
the operation of town government with the intent to curb waste and unbridled
spending. Their information pamphlet cited “minority pressure groups are
organized to dip in the public treasury” and that “taxpayers must organize to
protect themselves, the public and government against these raids” This was
just one of the 10 reasons the federation cited as reasons we needed to band
together. The other nine were a little less bold, but I’m not sure any of this
would fly in today’s politically correct climate. But what was Ashland’s involvement?
From the first
entry in the journal of the newly formed Ashland Taxpayers Association:
meeting of he Ashland Taxpayers Association was held in the Community House on
November 25, 1953 at 8:00 PM with Robert J. Tarte Acting Chairman.”
The entry went on to elect officers for the
forthcoming term: Robert J. Tarte as President, Warren A. Dodge as Vice
President, Harry Albinger as Treasurer, and Charles A. Horne as Secretary. It
was respectfully submitted by Charles A. Horne, Secretary.
Ok, they are off
to the races. Their first target was sewerage in Ashland. They invited members of the
different town boards and committees to speak. Mr. Kenneth Edmunds from the
Sewerage Committee presented the status of the sewer problem in Ashland. Also attending
was a representative of the Mass State Association (of taxpayers) who promised
to share his information with Ashland
if they wished to “affiliate” with the state. I’m not sure why that caveat
needed to be in place, but Ashland
apparently agreed. Subsequent meetings created committees to study zoning,
attend Finance Committee meetings, and propose changes for inclusion on the
By the Spring of 1954, enough committees were formed
but needed membership to fill them. A membership drive was suggested, and a
Publicity Committee was formed (another committee?). It was not clear how many
new members were added to the association by this endeavor, but it appeared to
have worked. There was a list of 48 members included in the minutes of May 17,
reports were coming in and recommendations were discussed. Property
re-evaluation, the creation of a Public Works department, and the issue of town
water were the main concerns. The issue of expanded public services due to the
growth of Ashland
began as the year approached 1956. The Ashland Association appeared to be
following the guidelines of the State Association regarding common issues
facing the cities and towns, as well as increasing the association’s
By this time, my
dad, John Leacu, was secretary of the association. He had been a member since
1955. His entries in the journal were similar in scope to all the previous
secretaries. I vaguely remember him speak about the association in later years,
but I knew he was a committed member. His last entry in the journal was June of
1956. He simply recorded that the meeting was called to order at 8 PM and that
“It was agreed to suspend all further meetings until a specific necessity
Like any other organization,
the members reach a peak of participation and sometimes more time is spent on
retention than on the issues that brought them together in the first place.
Perhaps this was the case. I never asked Dad.
References: “Ten Reasons Why – “,
a publication of the Massachusetts Federation of Taxpayers Associations, Inc.
Journal of the Ashland Taxpayers Association
Steve Leacu for Directions