Memo to Bob Whritenour:
There are a few things that you never mess with in local government: plowing snow, fixing potholes, and the dump. In my years in public service, I learned those lessons, sometimes the hard way. It looks like Bob has, like it or not, been schooled on this golden rule as well with the recent visceral reaction many citizens had to the removal of some local flavor and art at the transfer station on Thomas Landers Road. The reaction, which continues unabated, is understandable. Officials call it a transfer station, a sanitary landfill, or a waste management facility, but the people invariably will call it the dump - affectionately so - and feel ownership and a connection to this locale more than almost any other public facility. It's a place - the peoples' place - where locals can go, simply hang out, chat about the issues of the day, and maybe even find a hidden treasure at the Swap Shop. Removing homemade, homegrown art from the dump without public input is, now obviously, something you just don't do. The good news is that Bob saw this tempest in the making and agreed to restore the display. Bob, you may want to save a couple of Saturdays this summer to hang out at the dump and restore your credibility with the dump faithful - their (our) numbers are greater than you'd think.
Speaking of numbers, they just don't compute for me relating to the arguments I heard from a majority of the Selectmen this week on the proposal to implement a new tax on Falmouth homeowners in the form of a surcharge on locals who rent their homes in the summer to supplement their income. Despite the forced talk of "leveling the playing field" offered by the majority of board members, I never heard an explanation of what playing field is currently uneven. Hotels and homeowners are not the same thing. To tax them the same way is nothing more than piling on the homeowners, who already pay property tax and a personal property tax on the contents of their second homes in addition to the local laundry list of fees
There is no question in my mind that this new tax, which would ask Falmouth homeowners to make a monthly report to the MA Department of Revenue for three years as a result of renting out their home for as little as one week, would be an undue burden on an already overburdened population.
Falmouthites who attempt to pay their bills and balance their own checkbooks by taking advantage of their location and earning a few extra bucks by renting their homes will be classified as businesses if Selectmen have their way, not to mention being saddled with sending nearly a dime of every dollar to the Commonwealth. Yes, a portion of that money would come back to Falmouth, but on whose back? Local Realtor Dennis Murphy had it right. This tax could not come at a worse time, when a slumping real estate market, dwindling discretionary dollars, and global economic slowdown have us all feeling the economic jitters. To ask our own citizens to pony up more just isn't fair. I know friends who do, as Selectman Brent Putnam suggested, move out of their houses for a week or a few in the summer and camp out because they rely on the income from renting their house to balance the household budget. They are not getting rich, just getting by. Why don't the Selectmen get that?
And speaking of Selectmen, the news that two-term veteran Kevin Murphy is not running again came as a surprise to this political observer. While the push-pull of family and private life and public service is always a balancing act, I thought Kevin did it well and was able to maintain his status as a successful local businessman, a respected member of his community and a Selectman, which is no easy feat. I will miss his Murph-isms, like "that dog don't hunt here,\ and \if the money isn't spent, it won't be spent," but what I will miss most is his no-nonsense approach to getting the job done. Thanks for your service Kevin and for a job well done.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.