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BOYLSTON, MA-The town got a jolt recently when it discovered that a 120-acre parcel was on the list of state-owned properties that could be sold by auction to pay for the Clean Elections law.

The parcel is the site of the former Worcester County Hospital and is adjacent to a jail and a prison. According to a town representative, the town got “a list from the state” and this parcel was on the list. “It was a surprise,” she says, adding that the state is holding off on selling the parcel for now.

The Clean Elections Law, which provides candidates who agree to spending limits with funds, was a citizen’s initiative that was passed by a two to one margin in 1998. According to David Donnelly, director of the Massachusetts Voters for Clean Elections, the legislature has refused to release the funds that were set aside to support the law. The state’s Supreme Court found the legislature in violation of the state constitution and has allowed the Mass Voters to sell off state assets.

Donnelly tells GlobeSt.com that there is a list of 204 parcels that the attorney general has earmarked as possible sales but Donnelly emphasizes that the recent and upcoming sales should be enough to fund the current clean election candidates. Already five sites, totaling 139 acres, have been auctioned off and another three sites are being auctioned in two days–the 72-acre former Lakeville State Hospital site in Lakeville; five acres off Route 2 in Concord near Fairhaven Rd. and Arena Terr; and two acres also off Route 2 in Concord near Baker Ave. and Gifford Lane. Donnelly says that the Lakeville site alone, which is assessed at $24 million, although there will be clean up costs associated with the property, should be enough to fund all the candidates.

Many towns with voters that supported the initiative now find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with state land in their midst being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Concord in particular has protested the sale of land in its town, contending that there are historic and environmental issues associated with those sites. Donnelly says that his organization opposes the Concord land sales for those reasons as well as “other fiscal concerns.”

Donnelly points out that the candidates are the ones with the monetary judgments in hand and they are the ones making the choices about the land sales. Donnelly also notes that the legislature has not tried to prevent any of the land sales. It’s only protest has been to stop the sale of their office furniture. “They have not lifted a finger to protest the sale of these public lands,” he says, adding that the $24 million that is supposed to fund the clean elections law–which the legislature won’t release–would be enough to halt all the land sales.

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