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Malden City Council rejects two proposed ballot questions

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Councillor had sought approval for local referendums on Mystic Valley Charter School future, Roosevelt Park plan

By Noah-Simon Contreras

  A bid to have local voters potentially weigh in at the ballot box on two topical issues in the city was rejected by the Malden City Council at its first regular meeting of the new season Tuesday night.

    Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley had placed on the Council docket separate requests for the members to approve placing ballot questions on the November 2023 ballot regarding the license to operate for Mystic Valley Regional Charter School— which is based in Malden— and the Roosevelt Park plan.

    On the first issue, the proposal to have a question asked if Malden voters wanted to vote in favor or not of asking the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to deny a license renewal for Mystic Valley was moved by Councillor O’Malley.

   When Council President Craig Spadafora asked if any other member seconded the motion, none did, so the motion failed.

    On the second request, where Councillor O’Malley request the Council to approve placing a ballot question in November 2023 on a referendum for local voters to approve or disapprove the Roosevelt Park Improvement Plan (RPIP), which includes the installation of a series of rehabilitation and remediation actions, with synthetic playing surface for a portion of the park.

    After nearly an hour of discussion, Councillor O’Malley made a motion for that request— to put a referendum on the Roosevelt Park plan on the ballot— which was seconded by Councillor-at-Large Karen Colon Hayes.

    That motion failed by an 8-2 vote, with Councillors O’Malley and Hayes voting in favor, voting against putting a question regarding Roosevelt Park on the ballot were Councillor-at-Large Carey McDonald, Ward 1 Councillor Peg Crowe, Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon, Ward 3 Councillor Amanda Linehan, Ward 5 Councillor Barbara Murphy, Ward 6 Councillor Stephen Winslow, Ward 7 Councillor Chris Simonelli and Council President Craig Spadafora (at large). Ward 8 Councillor Jadeane Sica was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

    The discussion over the request on the Roosevelt Park plan largely centered on logistics, as in what election the ballot question could possibly be placed as well as a potential cost. Another question was what effect such a ballot question could have on a project that has been planned and voted on by the City Council.

   When asked directly by Councillor McDonald if the results of any ballot question would have any effect on a plan already in place such as the Roosevelt Park project, interim City Solicitor John McNaught replied, “No.”

    City Clerk Greg Lucey, when asked by Councillor McDonald and others on specifics of such a proposal, said that the next election after the state election this November 8 is not until the preliminary municipal election of September 2023.

   When asked if a special election could be held to support a ballot question, Lucey said that the last time Malden ran such a special election less than 3% of the total registered voters turned out, less than 900 voters citywide of over 33,000 registered.

    Lucey said the costs and logistics of such a proposal would be very high on both fronts. “Turnouts for special elections are extremely low historically, here across the state.”

     Ward 6 Councillor Stephen Winslow, a supporter of the Roosevelt Park plan, said “This issue has already been on the ballot. I have consistently and strongly supported the plan in place at Roosevelt Park, which includes artificial turf, along with my colleague Barbara Murphy (of Ward 5) and others.

    “My opponents in the past few elections and the opponents of Councillor Murphy have made their opposition to artificial turf very clear in their campaigns against us, and both of us have been reelected by voters in our wards by substantial margins,” Councillor Winslow said.

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