Volume 18 • Issue 28 | Nov. 25 - Dec. 2, 2005

Some Southbridge privatization advocates criticize committee

By Vanessa Romo

Some Southbridge Towers residents who have been waiting more than 15 years for an opportunity to withdraw from the Mitchell-Lama program, fear the committee appointed to oversee a privatization study is biased and plans to obstruct the dissolution process.

“It appears to me that [the committee] is heavily weighed in favor of people who are not open minded about the study,” said Lou Travino, a longtime resident of Southbridge who favors privatization. “This has happened before. There’s supposed to be study and then, at an opportune time, they kill it,” he said, referring to similar efforts to organize a privatization survey in 1989 and 1998, and which were eventually aborted by the board of directors.

But Jared Brown, a member of the committee who also backs studying privatization, disagrees. “I think we have a fair committee and we will have a fair exploration of the issues,” said Brown, who founded Southbridge Rights, which led the fight for the referendum on the study.

Acknowledging the mistrust between residents who want the study and the board of directors, which has historically voted against it, Brown said he hopes the information will speak for itself. That’s why he negotiated with other committee members to have the minutes from the closed meeting posted in the buildings’ public spaces. “This will ensure transparency,” he said. “The more people know about what is going on the more they’ll trust the study.”

Asked about the perception from some that the majority of committee members are against the study, Paul Viggiano, Southbridge’s president, said that he appointed each of the committee’s nine members in order to represent a different group within the community. And he added, “While I tried to get it to be as representative as possible, pragmatically it comes down to numbers. It doesn’t really matter if people are for the study or against or neutral, because the numbers won’t lie.”

Viggiano also noted that the referendum included certain stipulations to ensure that the process is not unduly prolonged. The study has to be completed within 90 days of the start date. And, whatever firm is contracted must have experience in dealing with the reconstitution of a Mitchell-Lama co-op.

At the next internal meeting, scheduled for Dec. 1, members will present their lists of potential firms to conduct the study.


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