Photo of Registry of Deeds at 208 Cambridge Street
My day job is being a title examiner, so I am extremely interested in one race that has not gotten much ink (although billboards, lawn signs and mass mailings are an entirely different matter). After 24 years, the current Register of Deeds for the Southern District of Middlesex County is retiring. Six Democrats are running, and the winner of Thursday's primary will have no opposition on the ballot in November. Few people outside my line of work have any idea what the registry of deeds is and what the register does, but the records in that building are nonetheless very important; they form the basis for the title to every piece of real estate in 44 cities and towns, including Cambridge. I have a few links to candidates nights and to interviews I conducted with two of the candidates (the others have not returned my multiple phone calls and/or emails) that may help you make up your mind:
http://www.newtv.org/video/decision2012/registerofdeeds/ (a candidates night sponsored by the Newton League of Women Voters at which Frank Ciano, Tom Concannon, Maria Curtatone, Tiz Doto and Maryann Heuston appeared; Robert Antonelli did not)
http://belmontmedia.org/watch/belmont-candidates-night-82712 (a candidates night sponsored by the Belmont League of Women Voters at which Frank Ciano, Tom Concannon and Maryann Heuston appeared; Robert Antonelli, Maria Curtatone and Tiz Doto did not; the register of deeds segment is first)
I have not made up my mind. In my opinion, the office needs a good administrator who can deal with problems of keeping up the integrity of the records*, making the records as accessible as possible to the public, dealing with a huge backlog in registered land records** and long lines for recording, and improving employees' work habits and morale. I also expect a register of deeds to have at least some understanding of what the records in his/her custody are and who uses them and how. None of these problems are insoluble, but they have been around for decades to a greater or lesser degree, and making a good choice now is our best hope for making them a thing of the past.
Please share these links with other voters in this area, and make sure you vote this Thursday.
*Many of the books are falling apart. Pages are missing from some books. No books exist for a substantial percentage of the records, just electrons. When the computers go down, we have no access at all to those records. Also, some documents were never scanned or were scanned only partially, leaving nothing but the index entry for us to rely on. Paper indices and electronic indices work differently, and that affects someone's ability to find relevant records in a search.
**This is one of the two recording systems in use in Massachusetts. Each piece of land governed by this system gets what's called a certificate of title, which sets forth the owners of the land and a description of it that has been determined by a proceeding in the Land Court and lists most types of encumbrances that affect it, such as mortgages and easements.
I have been married to the author of this piece for 28 years and helped with the audio.