Peter Balboni, owner of Pioppi’s Liquors, is facing pushback from some nonprofit organizations he has supported after he took out an advertisement in the Old Colony Memorial newspaper urging them to return the favor by backing his efforts to overturn Plymouth’s nip ban.
Some of the groups listed said that their policies prevent them from taking stands on political issues. That includes the Jan. 13 ballot referendum on whether to affirm Town Meeting’s October vote prohibiting the sale of alcohol in plastic containers 100 milliliters or less in size.
Balboni is leading the campaign to overturn that decision, which is set to take effect on July 1.
The ad published in the Dec. 28 print edition of the Old Colony Memorial listed 20 nonprofit organizations and read, “In 2023 we have supported you. Please support us and Plymouth businesses. Vote NO on 1. Stop the ban on mini bottles.”
A “yes” vote on Jan. 13 election would support the ban.
See Plymouth, one of the organizations listed in the ad, objected to being included.
“We were added without our permission,” said Lea Filson, executive director of the tourism organization. Filson said she called Balboni and asked him to immediately take See Plymouth’s name out of the ad.
“If somebody had just asked us, I would have explained that there’s just no way that we can offer an opinion either way because we do get both state and town funding, and also federal funding on occasion,” Filson said.
Balboni said he asked the Old Colony Memorial to remove See Plymouth from the list, but the ad did not appear in the Jan. 4 edition of the newspaper, the next published edition.
Balboni said he was not asking the organizations to support overturning the ban, but rather was asking individuals in those groups to support him.
“We supported these organizations, and I hope that individuals in those organizations support us,” he said. Balboni said he understands that none of the nonprofits can take part in a political campaign. He then abruptly ended a telephone interview before a reporter could ask further questions, saying he was in the middle of conducting inventory.
One of the organizers on the other side of the issue said the “Yes” supporters would have handled such an advertisement differently.
“If we were to do that, we would have asked people beforehand and we would have listed them as supporters, not asking for support,” said Ken Stone.
Legally, nonprofits that have been granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service may advocate for a ballot initiative, though they cannot advocate for individual political candidates.
But most of the organizations contacted by the Independent said their policies prohibited them from taking sides on the nip ban.
“The VFW are apolitical,” said Dennis Russell, commander of VFW Post 1822, which is included in Balboni’s ad.
The Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, another organization listed by Balboni, also distanced itself from the anti-ban movement.
“The Phil as an organization does not get into that political realm,” said Kim Corben, the orchestra’s executive director. “We don’t take a stand on those kinds of issues.”
Corben said Balboni did not consult with the Philharmonic before including it in his ad. “His business has been good to the Phil, but we don’t get into those kinds of issues,” she said.
The Plymouth Antiquarian Society and Pilgrim Hall Museum – also included in the ad – were equally noncommittal.
“We are local advocates for historic preservation, which is a key component of our mission to preserve and share Plymouth history,” said Anne Mason, executive director of the Antiquarian Society. “The nip ban is not directly related to this mission, and therefore we cannot take a position to either support or oppose it.”
“Our advocacy is directed to our mission and purpose, which is fostering engagement with Plymouth history,” said Donna Curtin, executive director of Pilgrim Hall. “It is not appropriate for our institution to advocate for issues outside the scope of our mission and we do not do so.”
Select Board Chair Dick Quintal – whose businesses, Quintal Brothers Produce and Squinny’s Pizza, have sponsored the Quintal’s Christmas for the Kids charity, another organization on Balboni’s list – declined to weigh in.
“I’ve been kind of staying out of it,” Quintal said. “It’s up to the people to decide.”
Quintal referred the Independent to his daughter, Lindsay McEnroe, who runs the annual event.
McEnroe said Balboni stepped in to help this year when there was a surge in families who needed help getting presents for their children, but donations were lagging. She said she was not aware of the ad and did not want to offer an opinion.
“I hate to give an ill-informed answer,” McEnroe said.
One of the organizations on Balboni’s list, the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, has in the past taken a position against the nip ban. It sent a letter to Town Meeting members in the fall urging them to reject it. But Amy Naples, the business group’s executive director, said she would have to go before the organization’s board again before the Chamber could take a position on the Jan. 13 referendum.
Several organizations said they had no objection to Balboni asking for their support even if they cannot provide it.
“I think that’s fine,” said the VFW’s Russell. “He is a great supporter of veterans. He is one of the big contributors. We really appreciate what he does for us and I can’t say thank you enough.”
Naples, too, did not seem bothered by Balboni’s request for support. “I don’t really have a huge reaction to it,” she said. “Pioppi’s has been a long-time member of ours.”
At least one business person voiced strong support for overturning the nip ban.
Jeff Cohen, whose foundation, the Jeff Cohen Foundation, was also listed in Balboni’s ad, said, “While my foundation wouldn’t do it, I personally and my company, One Stop Painting, will most definitely get behind it and give them 100 percent of my support,” Cohen said. “While my foundation doesn’t get involved in politics, I certainly do.”
Unlike other nonprofits, foundations such as Cohen’s may not directly support one side or another in a ballot initiative.
Sue Giovanetti, executive director of the Plymouth Coalition for the Homeless, listed in the ad, declined to comment. Giovanetti serves on the board of the Independent.
Kim Ballerene, president of the Jordan Hospital Club, which raises funds for the hospital, now known as Beth Israel Deaconess Plymouth, and Rob Kluin, spokesperson for Plimoth Patuxet Museums, said their organizations had no comment.
Several other organizations listed in the ad, including the Plymouth Public Library Foundation, Beth Israel Deaconess Plymouth itself, South Shore Health, the Plymouth Guild, USA Thanksgiving, and the Plymouth Rotary Club, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Independent was unable to reach representatives of the Plymouth Schools Music Association and the Plymouth Police Relief Association.
Fred Thys can be reached at email@example.com
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