Sandwich Town Meeting November 28, 2019

Sandwich Little Leaguers lead Sandwich Town Meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance in this Enterprise file photograph from 2019. The planning board is considering bringing the pledge back to its meetings.

The Sandwich Planning Board—which for several years has abandoned the tradition of pledging allegiance to the flag before getting down to business—is considering coming back into the fold.

Jeffrey R. Picard, who just began his second year as chairman, said he had been thinking it would be an opportune time to resume the practice because regulatory boards will again be meeting in person after June 15—when COVID restrictions are completely lifted in Massachusetts.

“It would be easier as a group to reintroduce the Pledge of Allegiance in person rather than remotely,” Mr. Picard said at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 1. “I’m told we used to open with the pledge and then stopped.”

Not everyone thought it was a good idea, however.

“I am adamantly opposed,” said member David L. Darling. “I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Paul W. Coteus, the board’s newest member, said he, too, had concerns.

“Why bring it back? These things get weaponized,” Mr. Coteus said.

Mr. Picard said that, for him, the pledge is not a political issue.

“I am not pushing a political agenda. There is not a political bone in my body,” Mr. Picard said. “I enjoy serving and giving back. I have a strong commitment to what we’re doing and this is in line with that.”

Mr. Picard added that the pledge is also a way to honor those who serve their country.

“I am not a service member, but I think highly of them and respect what they do,” he said.

Planning Director Ralph A. Vitacco, who serves as town liaison to the planning board, said that of the “four big boards”—the board of selectmen, the school board, the zoning board of appeals and the planning board—the planning board is the only one that does not say the pledge.

That information caused member Mark Callahan to lean toward supporting reinstatement.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary, but if all the other boards do it, then I can take my personal opinion out of it,” Mr. Callahan said, adding that he liked the idea of honoring military members with the pledge.

James J. Dever, another new planning board member, formerly served on the school board and said he enjoyed the tradition of opening meetings with the pledge.

“I am strongly in favor,” he said. “At the school board, it was a nice way to kick off the meetings.”

Board member Jennifer Reisig agreed.

“I think it’s a nice way to start the meeting together,” she said. “It sets a nice tone.”

Mr. Picard did not request a vote on the matter. He said he would like to ask the opinion of longtime planning board member Robert E. King, who was not in attendance at Tuesday night’s virtual meeting.

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(1) comment

Paul Coteus

Although I applaud the coverage of our town’s Planning Board meetings, I wish to clarify the record regarding my comments on the recent discussion on the Pledge of Allegiance. I did ask why the board stopped the recitation of the pledge, and why they now wanted to bring it back. It was a question, not a statement of position. I also commented that these things can get weaponized but added that I hoped this was not an issue here. After the discussion, I stated that I would support the proposal.

Respectfully -Paul Coteus

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