Today's Main Street Musings

Main Pain - Students from the MA Maritime Academy in Prof. (Brig. Gen.) John Flanagan's transportation class are studying the potential of closing Falmouth's Main Street to vehicular traffic in the summer months.  This proposal would redirect traffic north of Main Street, along Katherine Lee Bates Road and open up Falmouth Village like Boston's Downtown Crossing.  Gen. Flanagan, who is also Chairman of Falmouth's Transportation Management Commission, is to be lauded for fostering public debate and teaching his students an important lesson in civics.  That is where this proposal should end.  Lesson learned.  Lesson over. To close this artery, this lifeblood of our commerical sector, to the very traffic that sustains it would fly in the face of the very objectives laid out when the town spent over $3 million to revitalize the downtown just a few years ago.  As Chair of the committee that shot new life into this dying relic, I can tell you and Gen. Flanagan's students that many options, including pedestrian only, were considered and debated at length.  As public committees do, we even spent hours debating the merits of blue stone vs. brick (I'm still a brick fan, Peter Boyer) and the degree to which pedestrian access should be fostered.  This was accomplished with traffic calming measures, streetscape, and pedestrian scale lighting.  Falmouth also has the distinct advantage of hundreds of free parking spaces in the downtown, a rarity on this penninsula.  To alter what has become the most vibrant and lively downtown on Cape Cod simply for the sake of change, would be a Main Pain.

 New Choice, New Voice? - The Falmouth Selectmen and School Committee will meet in joint session Thursday night to select a new member to fill the unexpired term of Chelsea Baylor.  This meeting will come on the heels of a joint meeting with these two elected boards and the advisory Falmouth Finance Committee to discuss the Fiscal Year 2009 budget.  Any discussion projecting costs for 2009 is going to be difficult until the impact of additional borrowing for the now legendary Falmouth High School renovation is realized.  Based on what we've heard to date (and that's not much), I'm guessing we can expect a request for at least $10 million in additional funds at the town meeting next Spring.  We already heard that the School Buidling Committee has authorized moving $2 million intended for furnishings to accounts needed for ongoing construction.  School Committee Chair Don Johnson told us at Town Meeting that an extra $500k was needed for additional asbestos removal in house A, with houses B&C to start next month.  The lawsuit with the former architect who was fired won't be settled for "months or years," and the contract for the main construction company and oversight contractors are up next month.  KA-CHING.  We already have on the School Committee some qualified educational watchdogs who can ensure that the curriculum and MCAS scores meet our standards.  What we need is a committee member that will ask the tough questions and demand accountability from what is already the largest, most expensive, and least successful project in Falmouth's history.  Who among these candidates is willing to be an unpopular but necessary voice for the taxpayer?

Peace, in Pieces - The sponsors of Article 42, the petition request to send a letter to President Bush and Congress asking for an end to the war in Iraq won a slim but legitimate victory at Town Meeting.  The sponsors made an argument (albeit hazy and disjointed) that we should, as a community, send a message to Washington about ending the war.  The vote was taken, and the elected legislators in Falmouth spoke.  O.K.  I didn't agree, but that's our form of government, and I respect the process above all.  That's where this process should end as well.  To perpetuate the argument by now launching a quest to site a peace monument on town property is overkill.  The close vote and the outpouring of citizen opinions in papers and on the web is evidence of how gut-wrenching, emotional and intensely personal this issue is for most people.  To continue to wring this issue and try the emotions of loved ones of service members is breaking this tenuous peace into pieces.  Savor the victory and let it go.

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