Money woes, Administration vs Finance Committee shuffle, bode ill
"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."
So said the great thinker Aristotle. I'm sure he didn't have the Falmouth Town Meeting in mind when he uttered those words, but he might just as well have. Town meeting is the just about as close as we get to pure democracy, even our elected version and the bi-annual opportunity for our citizens to truly share in our government. In a few short days, our local legislature will once again take up the important business of the town and deliberate everything from dollars to dump fees, from boat slips to pink slips.
Given the extraordinary financial constraints of the town, and the emerging scuffle between the administration and the Finance Committee, you can expect some protracted and lively debate on several items. If you don't have a warrant to follow the festivities on FCTV, our crackerjack team of Town Clerk Mike Palmer and IT Director Lynne Grant Major have it online at www.falmouthmass.us. Here's what I see as some potential highlights:
The million dollar capital improvement plan presented in Article 14 will go to the voters as a capital exclusion with a few questions, but pretty much without challenge. This new way of funding our important capital needs, that is a ballot vote and one-time tax hike, is necessary in these times of never ending needs but no-longer existing free cash. I'm looking forward Finance Committee Chief Gary Anderson's presentation on this one. He has beat the drum of fiscal restraint for a couple years now, and his predictions have all come true.
After recovering from the financial hangover from that spending, Town Meeting members will debate but ultimately approve articles 15, 16, and 17, for repairs to the North Falmouth and East Falmouth School roofs and some slip expansion and bulkhead repair at the harbor. On the roofs, Superintendent Marc Dupuis will tell us these are necessary repairs for these aging buildings. He's right. On the harbor work, Harbormaster Gregg Fraser will tell us that the increased revenues from additional slips will be a boost to our revenues. He's also right. Town meeting will agree with a bit of Shearer-esque rumbling, but the voters will see all three on the ballot in May.
Article 25 is a bit of a sleeper. Not much has been discussed and debated, but you can be sure that a passionate and organized group of motorists (many of the two-wheeled variety) will stand and object to this article, which, among other things, limits the noise from motor vehicles. Someone will ask how sounding a "bell, horn or other device" in a "harsh objectionable or unreasonable noise" is quantified. I consider those little bells on tricycles objectionable when some kid rings it twenty times in my driveway. Can I call the police and get him fined $75 for that? The tricycle may not be a motor vehicle, but you get what I mean. You just can't legislate taste. This one will go down in flames, or should I say, clangs.
The most interesting debate will be on a petition article submitted by Falmouth's newest gadfly, Teaticket resident and perennial petitioner Marc Finneran. His article 28, which simply requests "to ask the Selectmen to revisit dump issue, as per bag fee has already proven unprofitable, unpopular, and untenable," may just resonate with the assembled citizenry. I went to the Bourne landfill last weekend and paid $2.70 for an Explorer full of old furniture. The same load in Falmouth would have required a cash advance on my credit card. The Solid Waste Advisory Committee deserves our thanks and praise for trying to make things better, but I suggest they look around. The sofas and garbage bags popping up on vacant lots and empty cul-de-sacs are the reason the tonnage is down at the dump. Finneran may not have the smoothest presentation of any Town Meeting regular, but he knows what resonates. Town Meeting will dump the dump fee and send the SWAC and Ray Jack back to the drawing board.
There are many other important and debate-worthy items that will garner attention, including the sale of the Pacheco property on night two, which will hopefully sail through and fulfill the dream of those trying to Save Little Pond for the past few years. I'll be ready with the Town Meeting Trophies as soon as the debate subsides.
Aristotle was indeed right. Our government works best when we share in it to the utmost. Here's to some sharing, Falmouth Town Meeting style.
This column reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.