Democracy in Action - Falmouth Style
Despite how you feel about the outcome of one, some, or many articles debated and decided at this week's Town Meeting, you would have to be lacking a pulse to not appreciate the wonderful example of near-pure democracy that is our representative legislative body. From the experts to the neophytes to the first time speakers, our Town Meeting always provides an opportunity for a new insight, some tired old refrains, and certainly always a laugh. Here then, are my nominations for our twice annual Town Meeting Trophies:
Best Gavel Bang - Richard Latimer's status as a gadfly and ever-present speaker on nearly every article finally wore thin with Moderator David Vieira. As Latimer attempted to make a political statement during a discussion on the Woods Hole Library, the Moderator summed up what many were feeling and suggested Mr. Latimer end his soliloquy. When Latimer continued, our Town Meeting leader simply and forcefully directed, "Sit down Richard!" The Moderator gets this TMT for this welcomed no-nonsense approach.
The "What were they thinking?" Award - This TMT is offered to the 39 Town Meeting Members who inexplicably voted against giving the Police Chief the authority to issue civil fines for those caught smoking marijuana in public. Huh?
Best Demonstration of Community Spirit - Longtime library supporter and East Falmouth watchdog Cynthia Bothelo must share this award with Leslie Morrissey, director of the Public Library. Ms. Bothelo attempted to restore some diminished hours in the library's North and East branches by taking money from several departments' professional development monies, listed as out of state travel. Ms. Morrissey, while gladly accepting the support of those wishing to restore hours, noted that she did not want that to happen at the expense of other departments. This debate was one of the more respectful and good natured of the evening. Matt Murphy added to the upbeat mood with his compliments on the affordability and management of our community. This discussion was one of the better reflections of what is right with our government seen in some time.
Best Successful Plug - Bikeway Champ and selfless volunteer Kevin Lynch, while discussing a charter change dealing with committee vacancies and the Zoning Board of Appeals, was able to sneak in a plug for the addition to the Shining Sea Bikeway, set to open in July. Not much gets past the Moderator, but Kevin was able to tout this successful project and do so with a smile. This TMT is for creativity and content.
Worst Excuse for and Excuse - While our Planning Board frequently has a tough time at Town Meeting, their opposition to the proposed rezoning of 31 Acres on Route 151 by noting that their position has been to maintain a "high speed traffic corridor" between Falmouth and Mashpee was the silliest thing heard during Town Meeting's two long nights. This specious argument offered by a usually thoughtful Chair Pat Kerfoot was a mask for what is still unexplained opposition to this article, as several parcels have been developed up and down Route 151 in the last 10 years under the watchful eye of our elected planners. The truth is always the best argument, and this dubious TMT is offered for a lack of it.
Badge of Bombast - The usual suspects Latimer and Shearer were in the running for this TMT recognizing too much talk and not enough sense, but the winner by far for this Town Meeting is veteran speaker Michael Freeman for his baseless opposition to funding repairs at the historic Waquoit Church. Spending community preservation money on historic properties has multiple precedents in Falmouth, and Freeman's bordering-on- mean-spirited suggestion that the building be restored with "fundraisers and auctions" had no place in an otherwise respectful debate. By the way, for the last time, someone please tell him that the microphone is always on and he doesn't need to blow into it.
There you have it. Another season, another great example of our local democratic experiment.
This article is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.