Do the Famouth Selectmen trust the voters?
That nip you feel in the air today is not the gentle breeze of a crisp April day, it is the chilling wind of democratic disdain. That broken shell of a man you see weeping on a park bench is not a local struggling for survival, he is the personification of democracy, beaten, discarded, and left to languish in tragic memories of better times, when he mattered and had a place in the consciousness of our elected leaders.
The Falmouth Selectmen will assemble tonight, as most Mondays, to conduct the business of the people. Unlike most Mondays, though, a cloud hovers over this board, a product of the shadows who drifted through the recent Town Meeting and lurk still in the crannies and crevices of Town Hall. These unnamed shadows have ensured that the trustees of our democratic process, the voters themselves, are unimportant and irellevant. They have laid claim to sole possession of knowledge of what is good and proper and have cast their spell on our decision makers, leaving us, the trustees, to shiver on the park bench with our dying friend, yearning for the warmth of the inner circle, where those that know better determine our fate.
The Selectmen will vote tonight, for the second time, whether or not to place the request for funding to complete the Falmouth High School on the ballot. The question before the town's chief elected officials is not one of support or opposition for the project, that has been firmly established. From Town Meeting Members to town officials, to the coffee shop prognosticators, opinion is widely held that although the project has suffered from managerial malaise, it must be completed. The question tonight is one of far greater importance to the future of Falmouth.
Do the Selectmen trust the voters
Or do they only trust themselves?
The answer given tonight will determine the nature and tenor of political discourse in our community for years to come. If the answer is tragically the latter, the message to the average working person is clear: "Stay home, we don't need your opinion. Your taxes, your thoughts, and your input are nice, but when it comes to that which matters, we don't think you've got what it takes to participate." What a powerful and damming message.
This issue is only before the Board a second time because a person or group of people made sure that standard language included in all articles making adjustments to proposition 2 1/2 was not included in the main motion made at Town Meeting for this article. Furthermore, the well established fact of a necessary 2/3 vote of the Selectmen was inexplicably revealed to the public and Town Meeting Members after the Selectmen had voted once and after Town Meeting had deliberated and decided the issue. A cynic would point to a deliberate subversion of the democratic process and a twisted Machiavellian "end justifies the means" manipulation. An optimist would point to an unfortunate oversight by otherwise well-intentioned officials and volunteers. The truth lies in the hearts of those officials and volunteers and will never be revealed.
But really, those shenanigans notwithstanding, the cure is simple and obvious: vote tonight to place the funding question on the ballot, and place trust in the trustees. To do so would be to validate our system of venerable and varied citizen voices. Our withering friend on the park bench would sit up with a start, renewed and refreshed by the confidence and belief that he indeed is central to our way of life.
If the vote tonight is otherwise, join me in shedding a tear for the loss of a friend, and in mourning the hole in the soul of our community.
*** POST-MEETING UPDATE ***
Our friend is alive and eager, and the soul of our community is intact. The varied voices will be heard. The Selectmen voted unanimously to place the funding question on the ballot. Many of them discussed trusting the voters and healing a divided community. This action tonight is a welcome beginning to the healing. I write frequently about leadership. From the time they began to wrestle the reins from the School Building Committee, Selectmen have responded and begun to fill the leadership void. Selectmen Ahmed Mustafa talked about "bringing forth the light from the darkness of yesterday." Tonight's vote has done that.