In the 1993 comedy classic Groundhog Day, legendary comic Bill Murray plays weatherman Phil Connors, who covers Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for WPBH-TV, then wakes up the next morning, realizing it is that same day. He lives that same day over and over again until he gets it right.
It appears that a Falmouth version of that movie is unfolding before our eyes, but it just may be a tragic comedy. In the local version, entitled Quahog Day, local political activist Sheryl Kozens-Long is the headliner. In this version, though, she keeps waking up as George Morse, trying to pull his same political stunts, in the hopes that some day, she gets them right. Her baseless political attack on longtime Selectman Mary "Pat" Flynn is the politics of personal destruction at its worst. Taking out a recall petition out of simple disagreement with Pat is both a disservice to the public she has herself sworn to serve, and a crushing blow to her own political credibility. Apparently, Sheryl wasn't paying attention a couple of weeks ago when Sen. Scott Brown was swept into office on a wave of positive campaigning and a rejection of business as usual. People just do not want the negative stuff any more. They do, indeed, want real change. What we saw this week from the Chairman of the Historical Commission, though, was an unfortunate repeat of one of the low moments in recent local political memory, that is, using the recall of an elected official as a personal "gotcha" in an attempt to do nothing more than beat down a dedicated local official. That's the way it was with the unsuccessful Morse-led recall of Selectman Melissa Freitag, and that's the way it is with Kozens-Long's personal crusade against Pat Flynn.
A recall, by its very nature, screams of the necessity of an urgent and unavoidable dismissal of a Selectman. It is the local version of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" that only two U.S. Presidents have faced, and is equally serious for a local elected official. Here in Falmouth, though, it seems to have become a tool to express mere annoyance, having been used twice in the last couple of months. Kozens-Long alleges that Selectman Flynn is in "clear violation of the charter," but provides no concrete evidence to support such a serious charge. She has offered theories and conjecture, but nothing even remotely rising to the level of the truth. She also noted in her public comments on the subject that a recall is the only means that the citizens can express their displeasure with the actions of an elected representative. Someone please tell this star of Quahog Day that she can live this Morse-ified day over again and this time, do it right. The way to express discontent with an elected official is at the ballot box, not through initiative petition, and the elected official that is the target of this effort is up for re-election in May, just three short months away. To advocate for a special election costing $15,000, at a time when the town is contemplating furloughs and layoffs for its employees, is far more egregious that the nebulous and undocumented charges that Kozens-Long is hurling at an experienced, four-term Selectman.
Why not just oppose the re-election of the current Chairman? I have already publicly and in this space offered my thoughts that Pat's experience and thoughtfulness deserve another nod, but our wonderful democratic experiment grants us all the privilege of a voice - each of us our own powerful voice - at the ballot box. Sheryl Kozens-Long is attempting to thwart the use of that time-honored tradition by turning a provision in our charter that is supposed to be a serious, last-ditch effort to remove a truly wayward local official into a joke. Someone please tell her that her movie just isn't playing here.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.