Falmouth's blog

Falmouth's World of Costly Conflict

The difference between adjudication and mediation as tools in dispute resolution can be profound.

To put it simply, when a case—resulting from a dispute or conflict—is adjudicated, a solution is imposed after opposing sides provide evidence and testimony. When a case is mediated, it is resolved in a matter that is non-adversarial and based in the solution of resolution, not in the dispute itself, or more importantly, not in the personalities and personal feelings of the disputing parties. Perhaps the master of mediation and ultimate dispute-resolver himself, Abraham Lincoln, offered his thoughts on this subject in clear self-deprecation as an attorney when he suggested, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”

I suggest that our community would be well-served with this proven approach. But alas, it appears that our decision-makers are wedged in a world of costly conflict, sorely in need of the kinder, gentler side of dispute resolution. Last week’s Enterprise report that our community leaders have spent nearly a million and a half dollars over the last five years in special counsel fees—public dollars spent recklessly in the form of extra legal costs over and above our normal legal budget—is an epic-sized problem that is far more than a financial concern. It speaks to the fight-first style of governing that is costing us millions in public dollars and scores more value in lost public confidence. The town has spent more than $400,000 the last two years alone on special labor counsel, fighting preventable—and resolvable—fights with our own employees.

It is an unequivocally erotetic exercise to simply ask: is it wrong to spend so much of our money fighting unnecessary fights? Why can’t we just get along? Is there a better way?

The answer to the latter and perhaps not rhetorical question is, simply, yes. There is a better way, and I’m offering my services—free of charge—to be part of it.

Let’s be clear. These out-of-control costs are not the general legal expenses incurred through our valued and professional legal staff. Our in-house team of three legal veterans—two dedicated and capable attorneys, and a respected and experienced paralegal—provides a high level of service and serves our town well. Their budget of slightly more than $300,000 is appropriate for a town our size and is money well spent. The extra budgetary costs borne through a combative philosophy and unyielding sense of executive entitlement are where help is sorely needed.

I want to be part of the solution. I was pleased and honored to have recently been trained as a mediator through the American Arbitration Association (AAA). At the training in Washington, DC, national leaders in the mediation field provided insight on the nuances and advantages of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through mediation. They taught attendees—whose experience ranged from being a federal judge to a construction manager, from an experienced litigator to a school board member—to focus not on finding fault or assigning blame, but to steer conflicts toward a prospective, cooperative resolution, mutually agreeable to all parties. This concept, while far from novel in most of the world, appears to be a legal anathema to our fighting Falmouth administrators. But why? Why can’t ADR be our first option? I’ll ask again: why can’t we just get along—in the public interest?

Here’s what I propose: our appointed executives, department managers, selectmen, and regulatory committees should voluntarily submit to participation in mediation as a first step in any conflict. I’m not the only AAA-trained mediator in town. We have, I am sure, a bevy of qualified locals who would give of their time to help resolve disputes through what the AAA itself calls “an informal, economical, and efficient way to address the substance of controversy.” I stand ready to help bring this concept to the corner conference room.

The handout at the training included a pithy and prescient quote from former Chief Justice Warren Burger. He said that, “The notion that ordinary people want black-robed judges, well dressed lawyers, and fine courtrooms as settings to resolve their disputes is not correct. People with problems, like people with pains, want relief, and they want it as quickly and inexpensively as possible.”

That is true in many ways here in Falmouth and particularly so with our burgeoning legal costs. We want relief—quickly and inexpensively. Let’s mediate.

Donnie and Smitty - Geysers of Goodwill

Lifelong Falmouthites Don (Donnie) Cross and Tim (Smitty) Smith played the drums together in their Falmouth neighborhood as chums growing up. They would practice constantly, exchanging stints rattling windows at each other’s houses, but their mutual noisemaking had an impact far beyond aggravating their siblings, parents and neighbors—it simultaneously solidified their bonds of friendship and mutual love of music.

While Donnie continued his musical pursuits and is today one of Falmouth’s best-known and most-loved musicians, regularly entertaining devoted throngs at venues like Main Street’s La Cucina and Woods Hole landmark, the Captain Kidd Restaurant, Smitty did not continue his pursuit of performance. The two, however, continue their shared affection for live music and its inextricable link to the folklore and culture of Falmouth. Their musical journey has taken them through some of Falmouth’s most legendary performers. As soon as Smitty and Donnie were old enough to patronize the former Casino-by-the-Sea in Falmouth Heights (and perhaps a bit beforehand), they saw every live band they could and would inch as close as they could to the performers to observe the skill and style of the drummers.

Two of the bands that had the most influence on these aspiring “melodiophiles” were Casino legends: John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, whose iconic ’80’s song “The Dark Side” played on virtually every Sony Walkman in America back in the day, and Steve Smith & the Nakeds, whose big, bold, brassy and fun-loving sound is exceeded only by the ebullient personalities of its band members.

When the Casino closed for good back in the ’90s, Smitty, longing for the memories, melodies, and personalities that defined his youth, hatched the idea of a reunion concert and enlisted the support of his old friend and fellow drummer, Donnie, to put something together. According to Donnie, though, it wasn’t enough to simply hold a gathering to reminisce about great music and memories from the crazy, hazy ’70s in Falmouth Heights. As active citizens, role models, parents, and committed locals, they wanted their effort to be more meaningful and carry with it its own legacy. The “Reunion of Summers Past” was born.

According to Donnie, the duo “made a pact to do it only as a fundraiser for a worthy cause. Our mission is to bring people together, especially from our community in a safe and organized event with music as the vehicle to promote a worthy cause.” They enlisted the support of another Casino legend, former head chef and entertainment guru Mike (Big Red) Giery, to organize the music and reached out to longtime owner of John’s Liquors, Mark Ferreira, whose skills as an event planner and pleasure purveyor are also the stuff of local legend, to guide them in putting together a successful event. A couple of years ago, the first installment occurred at Bigelow Marine Park on Scranton Avenue. The proceeds were donated to the Police Athletic Activities League and received rave reviews. The attendance and success of the event have grown since then. The organizers have enlisted dozens of volunteers and partners and gather input from all of them in what Donnie calls “a real grassroots and democratic effort.”

This year’s installment continued the tradition of dedicating the event to a worthy cause as noted by the founders—and this year’s cause is about as worthy as it gets. Proceeds from this year’s reunion, which will take place tomorrow at the park on Scranton Avenue, will benefit the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, an effort dedicated to providing support and assistance to families of fallen service members. “We memorialize our fallen by creating a permanent public tribute and provide advocacy services for local Veterans and families of the fallen serving in the Global War on Terrorism since 2001,” says the organization’s website at: www.massfallenheroes.org.

The event will featured a tribute to local veterans, by veterans. Around 2 PM, just before another local musical standout, Stage Door Canteen, took the stage to provide its premier big band sound, representatives from Mass Fallen Heroes who are themselves veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars took to the stage and pay tribute to local veterans who served before them, in a moving ceremony that will feature patriotic songs, a flyover by the Massachusetts State Police, and words of thanks and praise from the very men and women who fought for our freedom. Local veterans who gather at the Lawrence School at 2 PM were provided free transportation by Tim Kelly’s White Tie Limousine. This was a true effort by the community to benefit the community.

Donnie Cross and Tim Smith learned a few things while they pounded away on their drums during the simplicity of their soulful-sounding Shore Street youths. They learned that they shared a love of music—good, fun music. They learned that they loved Falmouth. They learned that part of loving their Falmouth was giving back to their Falmouth. They also learned that much like Katy Perry’s musical metaphor of a firework creating an image of uniqueness in us all when she noted that, “Cause, baby, you’re a firework—Come on, show ’em what you’re worth,” that these two fundraising Falmouth fireworks are a couple of geysers of goodwill for lovers of music and memories in our community.

Those lessons became part of the fabric of their lives, and are now part of the fabric of the community through their charitable community efforts. The community should continue to  support them and see what the geysers of goodwill have in store to soak us all with their fun

Next Steps in the Quest for a Better Falmouth

Last week, I discussed a bold and important effort by selectmen chairman Doug Jones to reach out and engage the community. I noted (and note again today) that our newly minted chief elected official deserved credit for not only charting a new course for public participation, but also for recognizing that the board, and the government it leads, have credibility issues with the public they serve.

I was struck by how the chairman’s honesty and candor resonated with the community. I was struck by how much his message buoyed a sinking public confidence. I was struck by how a simple admission of a problem and proposal of a solution boosted faith in our new chairman and his equally sincere and committed vice chairman, Susan Moran. Through posts, e-mails, and personal contact, I have been struck by the feedback that this simple gesture has elicited. Our citizens are thirsty for positive change and hopeful that it is indeed upon us. They reached out to me, and I to them, to provide opinions and suggestions on how to cure the crisis of confidence.

Along with the feedback, I have also received an abundance of suggestions on how to improve our town from a sampling of citizens who represent the full range of tiles in the mosaic of the community. From the coffee shop prognosticators to the soccer field soothsayers, from town employees to local employers, the feedback has been abundant—and constructive.

Here, then, for your consideration, Mr. Chairman, are some collected and collective thoughts on next steps in your quest for a better Falmouth:

Fix The DPW. With total spending topping $11 million annually, the Department of Public Works represents roughly 10 percent of our total spending, more than any other municipal department. The evidence is clear and pervasive, and the opinions near unanimous. This is a wayward and rudderless ship, starving for accountability and clear direction. It’s easy for me to simply harken back to the “good old days” of Bill Owen and George Calise, but no project was initiated, carried out, or completed without their meticulous attention and scrutiny. If that same attention to detail existed today, would we really have a public construction project blocking a major road (as in Falmouth Heights Road this past week) that leads to a major economic engine (the Island Queen ferry to Martha’s Vineyard) during the kickoff to the summer season? Despite the fact that the failed state boat ramp in East Falmouth was a state-funded project, wouldn’t attentive public works oversight have prevented a ramp that is now essentially inoperable, limiting the very public access it was purported to enhance? These are just the two most recent examples. From a transfer station that was promised years ago to make money, and doesn’t, to vacant positions that cannot be filled because the word is out in the industry of the tyrannical treatment of employees, the sorry state of our public works infrastructure is old news—but today’s primary challenge. The board of selectmen, acting with their full authority as the board of public works as designated in the town’s charter, should set clear, measurable goals for accountability and firm policies for oversight to rein in this multi-pronged monster of a challenge.

Value Our Human Infrastructure. The recent donnybrook between the fire union and the town manager was not an isolated dustup. It was a symptom of a larger and burgeoning disease of the deliberate devaluing of our human resources—our employees—who are our neighbors, friends, and part of the fabric of our community. Here’s just one of many examples: The next time you see one of our police lieutenants, please thank them for their service, then ask them why they have served without a contract since their positions were created more than three years ago. Our senior law enforcement officers, who command each shift and are the operational backbone of our street patrols, come to work every day knowing that some of them make less than the sergeants they supervise. How can this be construed in any other way than an affront to the people who put their lives on the line for us each day? As the officials ultimately responsible for collective bargaining agreements, the selectmen should put their resentments on the shelf and work something out. Today.

Open The Town’s Books. I went on the town’s website and searched for “FY16 Budget,” the yearly municipal spending plan that began this week. I got almost nothing, save for a budget message from last December and the Town Meeting warrant from April. For a town that spends more than $110 million of public resources annually, that represents a staggering lack of transparency in explaining how those millions are spent. I found no detail on the decision-making, and no invitation to share in the process. If we are to be truly engaged in our government, we must be allowed behind the curtain to see how it is funded. That’s good government—and that’s what we need. Many communities abide by the guidelines of the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) in the construct of their published budget. This format provides narrative, graphical, and detailed information on all facets of municipal spending. Don’t we deserve at least that? The selectmen should set a policy to do the same and publish the GFOA compliant budget on the website.

These are just a few priorities that resulted from the enthusiasm of the chairman’s initiative and resulting outreach. I am hopeful that this “to-do list” helps to continue our local leaders on that same positive course

A Brave New World of Public Participation

Noted and recognized as the founder of modern management, consultant, professor and author Peter Drucker noted that “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

I have written often in this space recently about the struggles of our local managers to do things right. Project after project seems doomed by a lack of accountability, planning, and attention to detail. When you couple that with the tight-lipped disdain shown to citizens and commentators who try to see behind the curtain and understand and provide input on decisions, the lack of confidence that is the constant subject of conversation in the coffee shops is not only understandable, it’s natural.

While leadership is not a panacea for this management malaise, having a good dose of it in the corner conference room would certainly help score an uptick in the aforementioned areas of accountability and attention to detail—and that is just what newly appointed chairman Doug Jones intends to do.

As I discussed with him his goals and objectives for his year as Falmouth’s chief elected official this week, he displayed a refreshing and even uplifting acknowledgment of a credibility problem with our local elected and appointed leaders. He aptly and frankly noted that “if there is a perception of inaction, then in some ways that’s a reality.” He followed up that welcome candor with a series of objectives designed to increase public awareness, engagement and, with both of them, the good government cornerstones of trust and confidence.

Peter Drucker would be pleased. Doug Jones is doing—or at least saying—the right things. Simply by recognizing and admitting that the board of selectmen, along with those who report to them, have work to do in building public confidence and credibility, he is demonstrating some sorely needed leadership.

When asked what objectives might fulfill that goal, Doug outlined a clear plan for outreach in many forms specifically designed to get in touch and get feedback from the citizens he serves. He noted that he would like to, “Make the board more accessible and open up input from people so they have a voice.” What may sound routine and elementary is actually a breakthrough—and deserving of praise. He specifically identified the town’s outdated and clunky website as a priority in this plan of increased outreach, sharing that he would like to see a community calendar providing detailed information on upcoming meetings or events, inviting the public to engage and participate. He also suggested that the website should be easy to access and navigate and asked a rhetorical but nonetheless important question: “How can we increase access to the town’s information?” The mere posing of that question is progress.

We discussed the importance and ubiquitous nature of social media and both agreed that it is an important adjunct to a web presence. He was upbeat and energized. He was sincere and forthcoming with acknowledging the town’s faults. He appears to have a genuine desire to make things better. The local leadership meter is ticking forward steadily.

I have been a frequent critic of town hall. Nonetheless, those who labor there continue to supply ample material to fill this space with lamentations. As I took an evening drive this week along Menauhant Road and my newly repaired tire rims screamed out in agony as I plunged into a series of dungeons of grooved pavement that were neither marked nor identified, I openly lamented the lack of basic information and cautions of road hazards coming from our public works professionals and watched as other car drivers suffered a similar fate, throwing their hands in the air in a combination of exasperation for the condition of the road and annoyance that their brief detour toward dented rims came without warning.

Doug’s brave new world of public involvement would change events like that from a banner for bad government to a sprezzatura for social media. From a website that engages, not confuses, its citizens, to social media posts that provide up-to-the-minute information to a plan to engage a weary citizenry, I have hope that this brave new world may be more than fiction.

I’ll give Doug credit for laying out a plan. I’ll even give him kudos for emerging as a leader. We can all judge the progress that ensues

Don Terry - Conqueror of Comcast

Don Terry has been to the pinnacle of power. He was a witness to and a participant in the unfolding of one of the great stories of political intrigue and presidential politics in our nation’s history. Over the course of more than five decades, his political and legal skills have brought him to the apex of administrative responsibility—both at home and abroad—yet one of his most cherished legal victories came very recently—and very locally.

To fully appreciate his legal prowess, though, Don’s journey to and residence in Falmouth should be put in the perspective of his long, successful, and storied career. As a young Congressional staffer in Washington, DC, Don was enmeshed in the issues of the day and, like most Americans, was fascinated and enthralled with the unfolding indignity and maneuvers coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On a quiet Saturday in October of 1973, as Don sat with his wife, Denise, enjoying family time and television with their three young daughters, the disturbing news unfolding on the screen caused him to ring his boss. Although it was not unusual for him to make such a call on a Saturday, as Rep. Jerome Waldie (D - California) was a member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and leaned on his young staff attorney for advice and support, this call was no ordinary work call, as this was no ordinary Saturday night. After a brief conversation with the congressman, the young staffer was instructed to stand by—and to be ready for a long weekend of work.

President Nixon had just lowered the professional guillotine on Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, precipitating the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, setting ablaze an already smoldering fire of discontent and distrust toward our nation’s chief executive. When Rep. Waldie phoned Don back after what would later be coined the “Saturday Night Massacre,” he simply inquired, “How much do you know about impeachment?” Although our Falmouth friend’s knowledge was limited at the time, he was about to learn a lot more. He got to work immediately and spent the next couple of days working around the clock, drafting articles of impeachment for President Richard M. Nixon that were filed the following Tuesday, something that had only happened once before (and, of course, once since). Don was not only witness to history: he wrote it.

We all know what happened next. The next several months were a high-stakes chess game, with Nixon finally checking out in August of 1974 before Congress issued the ultimate checkmate of a vote and subsequent trial of impeachment. That was not, however, the end of Don Terry’s contribution to the American experience. He continued his service in a variety of capacities, including as deputy assistant treasury secretary under President Carter and later national ethics czar. He finished his distinguished career working for the World Bank in international development and today consults for the United Nations as the world’s leading expert on the economic significance of remittances, the money sent back to countries of origin by migrant workers. He retired to Falmouth with his wife and enjoys his adopted hometown, giving back as vice president of the Carousel of Light, working tirelessly on behalf of Falmouth’s hometown merry-go-round.

And yet, given his stellar contribution to mankind and all the luminaries with whom he has worked and conversed, I saw Don’s face illuminate like the national Christmas tree and his eyes glisten like the golden dome atop the Massachusetts State House as we shared breakfast at the Country Fare on Main Street, and he told me of his recent legal triumph, and victory, for the common man and woman. His David and Goliath conquest is for all of us who are weary customers of the faceless business behemoth and government-sanctioned monopoly that is Comcast and those who are tired, frustrated, and just plain sick of ever-escalating fees and ever-poor service from their cable provider.

After receiving a flyer in the mail from Comcast enticing him to partake in its “triple play” promotion, where a single price for phone, Internet and cable would give him maximum connectivity at a minimum price, Don called and enrolled. Shortly thereafter, an oxymoronic customer service representative reached out and told him that his triple play had struck out, as the promotion was only for new customers. Remember, this is a savvy, experienced barrister and public administrator with whom Comcast was unwittingly messing. Don informed Comcast that he considered his original conversation and sign-up to be a verbal contract and that he was holding Comcast to its promotional price. They resisted, then refused.

Most of us in this situation would simply yield out of futility to the nameless behemoth and go about our days as an unsatisfied, trampled and trodden customer, but not Don Terry. The man who took on Nixon rallied and railed against his next Goliath. He filed a claim in small claims court, holding Comcast to its commitment, and calling it out on its triple play bait-and-switch.

The good guy won. After an appearance in court and some negotiations, Don held Comcast to its promotional price, scoring far more than triple play savings. He scored a home run of hope for all of us. Don’s willingness to stand up to the anonymous greed of a corporate giant may just inspire the next recipient of a broken Comcast promise to fight back as well.

From the pinnacle of power to the peak of American politics, Don Terry has amassed many titles, but none so glorious as his most recent: Conqueror of Comcast. Well done, my friend. Well done.

Losing Falmouth's Mentor

The term mentor originates from Homer’s great epic “The Odyssey,” where Odysseus enlisted the support of his old friend Mentor to look after, counsel, and teach his son Telemachus. Wikipedia tells me that the definition evolved from that point to mean “someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.”

This week, Falmouth lost a mentor. Someone who, like the mythological friend of Odysseus, looked after, counseled, and taught countless Falmouthites on good government, good relationships, and just being good, then imparted that wisdom to everyone he met. Eddie Marks was Falmouth’s mentor. He was my mentor. He was my friend. Today, there is a hole in the soul of our community at the news of that enormous loss, but we are a better, richer, and, yes, more wise community because of the life, the service, and the generous personal gifts of Edward L. Marks Jr.

I was most certainly a less experienced colleague when I was elected to the board of selectmen in 1993. Eddie had already logged decades of service by then—at the fire department, the finance committee, and the board of selectmen. He called me “kid” and “young man.” I, in turn, called him “old man.” Truth is, we were both like a couple of little kids, exploring government and good times together, making mischief while making a difference. We served with a unity of purpose, making policy and making memories—and working to make Falmouth a little better, one meeting, one issue, one smile at a time. Along our journey together over the next decade, he told and then showed me the keys to effective public service—listening and laughter. He told and then showed me the value of relationships. He told and then showed me that a drink after a meeting could accomplish as much—probably more— than any policy manual or regulation every could. We listened and laughed. We forged long-lasting relationships—with each other and with others. And we had fun.

A couple of years ago, I penned some thoughts in a column that capture what I then called “The Marksian View.” Here is that homage to Falmouth’s mentor:

“There is indeed no substitute for experience. Experience coupled with a sharp and accurate memory is an even greater and more powerful tool in the public policy arena. I’m a firm believer that anecdotal evidence and storytelling are just as useful in the policy-making continuum as empirical evidence and hard data. Last Saturday was a case in point. As I enjoyed a sun-drenched walk down Main Street, old friend and perennial good-natured gadfly Andy Dufresne zipped past me with the top down on his convertible, and upon grabbing a fleeting glance, pulled over and beckoned me over. Andy frequently captures me mid-stream during my weekend treks, and we always enjoy an affable if robust discussion of local issues. This week was different, though, and wound up being one of the more enjoyable Saturday mornings I’ve spent in some time. Our conversation turned to our mutual friend, former colleague, and all-around good guy, former selectman Eddie Marks. I jumped in the convertible, and Andy and I sped over to Perch Pond Circle, where we enjoyed a couple of cups of Rosie’s homemade brew (coffee, that is), and chatted with one of Falmouth’s legendary public servants on everything from former Police Chief Gene Kulander to the old cupola at the former Mullen-Hall School, which Eddie labored to save and restore.

“The guest list on our visit to the Falmouth of yesteryear included such local government stalwarts as former Finance Committee Chair Bill Smith, former Moderator and financial watchdog himself Bob Marshall, parliamentarian and respected Town Meeting Member Elizabeth Buckbee Lindtner, former Selectmen George DeMello and John Elliot, and former Enterprise newsguy Hugh McCartney. We reminisced about a bygone era, when opinions were expressed, sometimes vehemently, but participants in a debate always parted as friends—likely after a few drinks. We lamented the lack of camaraderie in politics today—in Falmouth and beyond. We chatted about projects on which we worked, from the Church Street bridge in Woods Hole to saving Highfield Hall, to the sidewalk on Acapesket Road. No history book, or, with all due respect to scribes like myself, newspaper account, can produce the detail, emotion and perspective of a steadfast and passionate veteran of local government like Eddie.

“Eddie’s capacity to retain and recount the specifics of the development of plans, budgets and projects—on the details of the sausage making that is public policy, even these many years later—is uncanny. He remembers specific debates and discussions from 20 or so years ago that have long since vacated my much younger and supposedly more spry and agile noggin. Andy and I left Eddie’s after having our fill of hot coffee and cool conversation—he in the convertible and I to finish my walk—but I once again learned that some of life’s best lessons, and some of the richest sources of information, lie far outside the classroom and are nowhere in print. That’s the Marksian View.”

I shared some of these same memories with Eddie when I visited him Sunday at Falmouth Hospital, hours before the end of his earthly journey. I believe he heard me. I believe I passed along the love and affection of a grateful community. I held his hand and told him how much he was adored—by me and by Falmouth. And I believe he knew. He taught us all those Marksian lessons far outside—but far more important—than those in the classroom. I will always believe he knew.

Tip O’Neill said that “all politics is local.” Eddie personified that phrase. He was the consummate public servant—constantly working on projects to make the town a better place by honoring its past. From that Mullen-Hall cupola to the water fountain on the library lawn that honored a long-since passed town counsel, to his dedication to his beloved Teaticket, Eddie taught me—and us—that local government works because of local people; and he was one of the best local people I ever knew.

In the online guestbook containing Eddie’s obituary and service information, another respected local, Daniel “Pup” Gould, captured the sentiment of a sad but thankful community with his words: “Eddie, You were an old-fashioned leader; the type we need more than ever. You were honest, reliable and responsive to your community. Perhaps the best characteristic was that you were humble and treated all citizens with respect. Fair winds.”

Well said, Pup. Yes, Eddie, my mentor and my friend, fair winds to you as you soar on eagle’s wings and shine like the sun on your journey to your next great community

A Praiseworthy Public Decision

I’m not sure if it was at the 7th-grade dance in the Lawrence School gym, where the light blue glittery eyeliner sparkled and caught my eye, or during band practice with Joe and LaVada Studley at Falmouth High School (we both played the sax), but early in my relationship with one of my favorite Falmouthites, Karen Karson, I knew we’d be friends forever. One of her specialties in junior high and high school was baking cookies—one of mine has always been eating them.

But our relationship goes way beyond cookies.

We share, and have always shared, the same values. Our shared commitment to family, hard work, public service, kindness toward and service to others, as well as our shared Italian-American heritage and love of all things gastronomic, have always bound us together. Of course, neither Karson nor Clarkson have an Italian ring to them. Karen’s maiden name is Antonucci, and my mom’s maiden name is Baroncelli; we are both proud of our heritage and the families who gave us our names and our values.

It is a continued commitment to those values that has kept our relationship strong for more than 30 years. One night many years ago, Karen came to the house for dinner. We also invited my old pal Doug Karson—with whom I had worked and forged a friendship during our time together working for Don Quenneville and Ernie Keating at Otis ANG Base. Doug and I wrote news releases and biographies together back then. Now, these years later, we continue to write the tale of our lives together. That fateful night, Doug and Karen came separately to dinner. They left as curious acquaintances (Doug thought she was a bit boisterous), became friends, blossomed into soulmates, and recently celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary. Their sons Jack and Anthony, who have grown from cute, giggling babies into fine young men, are great athletes and great citizens who possess those same values and commitment to family.

It is through that lens of a rich and mutual history that I viewed Karen’s recent courageous announcement that she was stepping down from her position as principal at North Falmouth Elementary School to take a teaching job at Morse Pond. Frequently, we admire and publicize public figures as they climb the ladder of prominence and offer kudos and esteem at their attainment of new titles and levels of distinction. Rarely do we offer similar regard and commendation when our trusted public servants make personal decisions in the most important interest—that of their family. Today, however, is just such an occasion.

Karen’s decision to leave an administrative position and return to the classroom to teach our young Falmouthites mathematics and help shape their future—a critically important skill in today’s technology-based society—is not simply noteworthy. It is praiseworthy. In an interview on her decision, Karen noted that, “Quite frankly, I need to spend more time with my family…I’m doing this basically because it’s best for my family.” That kind of sincere, honest, and humble step toward a stronger family and public statement explaining it to an entire community is rare in our public officials today. Let me be among the growing chorus of locals to openly thank Karen for reminding all of us what’s important—and having the courage to do it in such a public way. Jack and Anthony will become better parents, citizens, and men through the example set by their mom and my friend.

Too often, we judge others by our own sense of their status—by what it says on their business card and the value we place on that title. The real value of the people we meet on life’s journey, though, is in the significance of the names that others call them: mom, daughter, sister, and friend. Karen excels in all of those roles. For that, she has my love and admiration—and should have yours

Putting Needles to Good Use

“This is the most hopeful I’ve been in 30 years.” This would be an encouraging statement coming from anyone, on any subject—but it is profound and promising coming from Bill Dougherty, a seasoned and skilled veteran in the field of recovery in Falmouth and the longtime director of Recovery Without Walls (RWW).

Here’s the source of Bill’s hope and optimism: “I’m feeling free enough to feel okay.” And this: “Life is hopeful, but I don’t know why.” These quotes are from women who are part of Bill’s amazing team, women who have found a path to housing, employment and treatment through RWW. These women in particular found these paths to hope and help through a hellish journey through the ravages of heroin addiction, the killer disease that is devastating an alarming number of lives on our peninsula—and beyond. The source of their newfound hope is an experimental program, managed by Bill but supported by many in the recovery community that is having amazing—and encouraging—results. Six women, all previous heroin users, four of whom overdosed and were revived with the heroin antidote Narcan within the last two years, are involved with regular treatments of acupuncture. And it is working.

Yes, acupuncture. The scientific name for the program is auricular acupuncture, or the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol. The simple name for it is success. Although acupuncture as a treatment for a variety of ailments has been around for centuries, our western-centric medicine and the behemoth, faceless insurance companies that fund it, eschew any non-traditional solutions. However, results, both nationally and here in Falmouth, say that they are wrong.

According to findings published by Dr. Michael O. Smith in the Huffington Post, the use of auricular acupuncture has been a successful treatment for addiction—as an adjunct to counseling and traditional 12-step programs—for more than 35 years, centered at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, New York.

Bill Dougherty is now bringing that success to Falmouth and to our local fight to save lives. His trial of six women, recently expanded to a dozen and soon to grow to 18, is producing amazing results. All of the women involved report not only a reduction in craving for opiates, but they describe a level of relaxation and relief some have never, ever felt in their previously troubled lives. In all cases, the change was felt in the first session. And even now, months later, no relapse or significant cravings have been reported.

One participant, whom we’ll name Carly to preserve her anonymity, noted in a post-acupunture report to Bill that, “my experience was more profound…I was in such a meditative almost sedative state. I’ve been dealing with addiction for a long time, also anxiety and depression. When I use, I’m seeking relief from my thoughts, emotions, and myself. When I’m in session (acupuncture) I feel that relief and it lasts and becomes more profound every time. I feel like I can think clearer and not turn to a substance.”

For a woman who almost died of an overdose, this development of a solution, this advent of an additional tool in the toolbox of recovery that provides tangible relief and a quantifiable respite from the sinister sidekicks to addiction—depression and self-doubt—is a breakthrough.

Many addicts begin to use simply to get outside of themselves, that is, to not feel their own feelings of inadequacy. Those feelings are then compounded by the guilt, shame, and remorse of addiction and its inevitably horrific impact on the lives of the addicted and their loved ones. One participant actually noted to Bill that had she found acupuncture earlier in life, she might never have begun to use. For addicts who have suffered and families who have suffered alongside them, those words are transcendent.

Bill Dougherty and RWW have been changing and saving lives in Falmouth for more than 30 years. Now, this program is putting needles to good use and will help change and save even more. Bill and his team are meeting with former Department of Public Health commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, now the Cape’s addiction guru, to see if this program can have wider success. They always need help and support. Visit www.recoverywithoutwalls.org, or reach out to Bill directly at recoveryww@aol.com, and see how you can join the effort and be part of the miracle of recovery.

Shanty Deserves A Local Chance

This week, I googled the “history of Falmouth Heights” and encountered a brief but engaging glimpse at the origins of this treasured section of our community. In it, the author, Nick McCavitt, noted the following:

“Before the year 1870, what is now the Falmouth Heights area was known simply as the Great Hill. The area surrounding the Great Hill was largely untouched, save for the salt works that were found by the shore of Deacon’s Pond. All that changed when a group of Worcester businessmen happened upon the land after a visit to Martha’s Vineyard. Their original plan for purchasing the land was to turn it into a A-list summer resort that would include cottages, hotels, stores and various means of transportation over the 100 acres of the Great Hill.”


If Nick is correct, and some additional research suggests that he is, the very origins of Falmouth Heights were as a summer hang-out, a place where families came to enjoy the natural beauty and agreeable environs. Although the A-list plan didn’t pan out, the resort portion did. A sign on Falmouth Heights Road, sponsored by the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Improvement Association, identifies this village as the area’s “First Planned Resort Community,” confirming for all who live and visit that this place has a special identity as a summer destination.

Given that rich history, the histrionics of a few locals in discouraging another couple of locals from pursuing continued success at their family-friendly restaurant in the village were not only disappointing, they were inconsistent with the village’s own raison d’etre.

As I watched the recent selectmen’s meeting where the locally owned Silver Shores Shanty sought to extend its afternoon entertainment license from weekends to daily during the summer season, the loud and sometimes offensive rebuke offered by a small number of neighbors rivaled the “acoustic trespassing” of which they accused the Shanty. Our democratic republic is built on dissent, and our open government encourages input, but the throw-down exhibited by these residents was simply a naked attempt at ridding Falmouth Heights of one of the few places left where a family can simply enjoy a post-beach ice cream, a plate of whole-bellied clams, a cold beverage, and some local musicians. That sounds like Americana to me; it was portrayed as a noise pollution-emitting nuisance by them.

Now entering its third season of food and fun for Falmouthites and visitors alike, the Shanty is the Falmouth Heights version of the fabled “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Owners Bob Flynn and local standout Ted Murphy greet all comers with a wide smile and a welcome staff. They have created a fun-filled family atmosphere that hasn’t existed at that site since the renowned “Shrubs” served great food and even greater jokes there in my youth.

The objections to extending the license—for music during daylight hours—just didn’t add up. Our tourist economy depends on thriving businesses like this one, and the modest request was for tasteful, reasonable, and merited extension. The neighbors’ objections were unfair and unwarranted. Even Falmouth legend Andy Dufresne, whom I nominated for the “All-Falmouth Team” when I feted the occasion of his 80th birthday in a laudatory column, should be benched for his comments. His direct attack on selectman Sue Moran, scolding her and noting that he would “come at her” if she continued to disagree with him, was a low point in the discussion—and a low point of deportment for our usually beloved octogenarian gadfly.

Our stalwart selectman held her own, though. “Falmouth has to be aware of how much we depend on our economy—local folks employing local folks. We have to be careful on putting handcuffs on private businesses,” she opined, offering a voice of reason during an otherwise unreasonable debate.

And that’s really the only point made that bears repeating. The Shanty is a local place, owned by local folks, employing local youth, serving local food. They deserve a local chance —not local handcuffs.

Meals and Memories on Main Street

For nearly 70 years—since the World War II era-members of the Riley or Maguire families have made meals and memories at 273 Main Street.

Today, that tradition continues as this week marks the grand renaissance and re-opening of one of the mainstays of Main Street, Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub. A family labor of love for the Maguires since 1994, this re-opening also represents a window of opportunity through which a new generation of Main Street merchants is emerging. “This represents a dream come true,” explained Deb Maguire, half of the husband and wife duo (Liam, himself, is of course the other half) who have managed, loved, and shared their lives’ work with the Falmouth community for the last 21 years. Deb and Liam took over the restaurant on May 6, 1994—14 years after, to the day, they met. Now, their entire family contributes to the success of this local tradition.

Deb fondly remembers the day she met Phyllis Riley, matriarch of the family who managed, loved, and shared their family labor of love, the Town House Restaurant, on the same site for nearly 50 years before the Maguires took over: “She had a broom in one hand, and some Formula 409 in the other and had every aspect of the business inside her head.” Phyllis, who was in her 70s at the time, is still with us, sans broom and 409. Deb has followed in those footsteps in quarterbacking another community jewel at that locale, but has instead opted to pass the torch (or spoon) to the next generation of Maguires, sons Rory and Shea, to continue this family and Falmouth tradition. Both were heavily involved in the renovations, from sharing ideas to shedding sweat, and are poised to assume their rightful roles in leading the family business.

As I visited the nearly complete renovations at the pub this week, I was amazed at the transformation of this popular gathering spot. The “back room,” which for some was like the distant hinterlands of Siberia, has been transformed into a wide open space, a welcoming addition to the already substantial interior. The dining room is an expanse of mahogany and shiny wood floors, just begging for the thirsty throngs who will fill every inch next week for St. Patrick’s Day—and each day following. Even the bathrooms, long a source of consternation for otherwise satisfied guests, have been expanded and renovated with tile. Rory noted that as well-wishers, friends and other assorted Falmouthites have passed by with words of encouragement, most have inquired about the status of the facilities. The family heard—and acted. Now even the loo is warm and inviting.

Deb described the all-Falmouth team who helped create this renaissance. “We had a local contractor, a local bank—and even a father and son team along with us,” she noted. Local, indeed. Falmouth legend Mike Duffany and several members of his own family have completed the construction, which has included significant work throughout this downtown landmark. Even the floor in the kitchen and rear of the restaurant is completely new—dug down to the dirt with eight-inch chunks of concrete removed and replaced throughout with a new, modern surface. An addition in the back includes an office and a pizza, salad, and dessert station (pizza and dessert always work for me).

Deb Maguire noted to me, with a gleam in her eye and a wide smile, that running a restaurant is so much more than plunging toilets and washing dishes. She’s certainly correct—and has two decades of experience and success to prove it. Along with Liam, Rory, and Shea, she has worked tirelessly, not only creating a successful restaurant, but molding a lasting legacy and a local institution. The renovations unveiled to a loyal and excited fan base this week will set the stage for another generation of success and decades more meals and memories at 273 Main Street