Polls Open 7 A.M. - 8 P.M. Tuesday
With the door-knocking, sign waving, and phone calls reaching a fever pitch this weekend, Falmouth's 2008 election season is drawing to a close, culminating in the town-wide general election on Tuesday, May 20. With that in mind, I labored to canvas the coffee shop prognosticators from the Talk of the Town Diner to the Davisville Grill this weekend to make some guesses on the outcome of the contested races and ballot questions.
Here, then are our collective thoughts and some quotes I heard along the way:
Board of Selectmen - "She just hasn't done anything for the east end," quipped an old Teaticket native and the grandson of strawberry farmers while he sipped his black coffee and savored some linguica at Mary Ellen's Restaurant on the challenge facing incumbent Catherine Bumpus. Swept into office three years ago promising a "fresh perspective," political missteps like the Woods Hole speed bumps and becoming too closely identified with the battle over affordable housing in Webster Woods have branded Bumpus a Woods Hole-only Selectman. While she tried to shake that image during the campaign, offering an "I'm for all villages" promise toward the end, the ghost of speed bumps past may just be too much. Challenger Brent Putnam displayed a refreshing energy in his campaign, returning to basic tactics like visiting residents door-to-door, while two-term incumbent Ahmed Mustafa has been just vague enough to stay out of hot water.
This race will hinge on turnout. If Bumpus can rally her troops in precincts one and five (Woods Hole and North Falmouth), she stays. If folks on the east end (Teaticket, East Falmouth and Hatchville) can muster a turnout over 30%, this incumbent is in trouble. Three years ago, 7 of 10 precinct one voters cast a ballot. Time will tell if that impressive feat can be repeated.
When all votes are tallied in this American Idol Falmouth election version, Town Clerk Michael Palmer acting as our own Ryan Seacrest will tell Mustafa and Putnam to hit the couches, as they will be safe. Bumpus gets to sing a song then go home.
School Committee - With two incumbents, Joe Ferreira and Tom Kirkman, opting out and not seeking re-election, incumbent Cynthia Cook would appear to be safe, even though she committed the Falmouth election version of a mortal sin by dissing the League of Women Voters and not participating in candidates' night. The three challengers, Rebecca Moffitt, Donna Mattison-Earls, and Terri Medeiros, had the pleasure of tossing around the hot potato of creationism during their debate. After recovering from that clunker, though, each candidate made their issues and priorities clear.
Moffitt ran a well-organized and visible campaign. In the random selection for ballot placements, she came out on top. That's the way it will be when the votes are counted as well. This well-spoken and no-nonsense retired teacher was impressive from the moment she appeared on the local election radar last year when seeking an appointment from the Selectmen and School Committee for a vacant seat. On election night, she will be followed by the incumbent Cook, then Donna Mattison-Earls as victors. Medeiros will have a credible showing, then be poised to get the appointment for another vacancy which became available too late to appear on the ballot.
Library Trustee - Two spots open here, with one incumbent, Barbara Espey, running to retain her seat. The second incumbent, Frank Duffy, has opted to hang up his bookmark. As an aside, Duffy, who has worked for decades as Falmouth's Town Counsel, has quietly and honorably served in this elected position while providing invaluable leadership and advice to his colleagues in his avocation. It is a rare find to have a local government professional that wants to be involved in his hometown when the time clock stops ticking. Frank is that rare find and he will be missed. "They should name one of those new nooks or crannies in the Libaray after him," said a Town Meeting veteran while rushing out of the Eatery at 146 with his breakfast sandwich. Not a bad idea.
Anyway, for this election, the incumbent Espey will certainly be returned to the Board, along with previous Trustee, admired and retired educator, and dispatcher extraordinaire Otis Porter, as good feelings still abound in the gorgeous and functional renovated library. Rodney Hinkle, who wowed the crowd at the candidates' night at Morse Pond and demonstrated why his own trustees saw fit to make him a Dean and Professor at the college where he worked, will perform admirably and will hopefully keep trying. This fairly new Falmouthite has something to offer!
Housing Authority - I am not sure how any candidate with a name like Mayberry can lose, but even guys who conjure up images of Andy Griffith's near-perfect hamlet have a tough task ahead when challenging a fella who is an incumbent AND on the Affordable Housing Committee AND Chair of the Community Preservation Committee AND a former Superintendent of Schools AND a former High School Principal.
In the candidates' debate, Ernest Mayberry was thoughtful and sincere. That simply isn't enough to unseat a respected incumbent like Peter Clark.
Question 1 - The case has been made plainly and clearly that a "no" vote on this question, which would deny $18.8 million in funding to complete the renovations at Falmouth High School, will cost more in future construction dollars and in filling the hole in the soul of our community. Falmouth gets this one right and votes yes.
Question 2 - This question and its cousin named Question 3 were like junior legislators yeilding their time during the public debate to the veteran High School Question. The Department of Public Works capital and infrastructure improvments that will happen as a result of a yes vote, though, are critical. Falmouth voters know this and will approve by a wide margin.
Question 3 - See above, and replace DPW with Fire Department. Falmouth voters get it right again.
"Falmouth ususally gets it right," said a retired firefighter durng my final stop on my pre-election tour of the coffee shops. "We may spit and sputter, but we do our homework and do the right thing in the end," he explained while shaking his head as a baggy-panted teenager threw a 5 cent empty soda can on the ground. The old man picked up the soon-to-be-nickel, grinned wryly at me as we finished our visit and said, "Hey, I'm not rich. I'll stop to pick up a nickel, but I'll spend one too if it's the right thing to do." Amen. See you at the polls on Tuesday.