An old but vibrant machine controlled by Woods Hole and North Falmouth
As the new year almost dawns, it's time to reflect back on the year that was 2007. In Falmouth, that means looking back at the old year, and looking forward to what will surely be a politically eventful 2008. Before offering thoughts in the coming weeks on what is to befall us on the local political scene, thought it would be good to start our reflections on something a bit old, our last election.
I sure know where to find something old: old but very much alive. You need look no further than the Falmouth electorate; an old but vibrant machine controlled by voting precincts one and five, historically known as Woods Hole and North Falmouth. In the most recent municipal election in Falmouth, a dismal figure of fewer than three out of ten voters spoke together with a whimper: "We, the minority of Falmouth voters took the time to go to vote. We like things the way they are, we don't want change, and we'll spend your money in any way and as much as we can, thank you very much."
In the race for Selectman, the town's top elected post, voters returned a two-term incumbent and elected a previous nine-year veteran of the board who had been dismissed five years earlier. No mandate for change there. In fact, both candidates essentially offered the status-quo as a platform - that's a pretty good score for a challenger to win an election on a platform of re-joining the existing "old-boy" network! Anyway, the race seemed to be a pretty clear statement of support for the two victors, as the amount of votes separating the two top vote getters and the closest runner-up, a political newcomer who ran on a campaign of change, was a sizeable 435 votes. When the magic of precincts 1 & 5 (hereinafter called "the machine") is backed out of this total, though, that same separation is an uncomfortable 14 votes. How do the hairs on the back of your necks feel, incumbents?
The two main questions on the ballot, a request to take an additional 3.94 acres of privately owned land off the tax rolls and a request to ask the town to pick up a 30 percent share of the oft-debated New Silver Beach sewer project bore eerily similar results. Question one, on raising property taxes to buy land, won with a comfortable 617 votes. Back the machine out of the driveway and the difference is a sweat-inducing 88 votes. The sewer in New Silver Beach (which, by the way is in precinct 5), squeaked out a victory with 257 votes. With the machine placed firmly in park, the sewer goes in the tank (sorry, I couldn't resist), by 309 votes.
The trend is obvious and something that the coffee shop prognosticators have known for years: The machine sets public policy, determines winners and losers, and the eastern part of town is without a voice. I don't care where the Selectmen live, the bottom line is that the machine calls the shots. And they should, because they show up to vote. Every person who is not thrilled with the most recent results should ask their neighbor if they voted. Chances are they didn't. Folks who live in the machine precincts, again roughly the villages of Woods Hole through a bit of downtown and North Falmouth down 28A a bit, voted in about the same numbers as all of the voters in an area starting at around Shore Street and reaching out all the way past Davisville Road. Yikes! Think about that. As we are asked to approve more and more debt and capital exclusions, (how is that High School coming by the way?), ever-present budget increases, salary creep, and even a predicted override within the next couple of years, the average working family member and voter in this town is being suffocated by the mountain of unaffordable initiatives routinely blessed, sanctified, and pushed through by the machine.
So, as the new year begins, what role will the non-machine villages play in creating public policy? In electing the same old incumbents? Tune in and find out!