Town Meeting is serious business. This spring's version, with more sobering economic news and drastic reductions in departmental spending, was no exception. One of the things I love about it, though, is that many of our elected local legislators understand that you can undertake the serious business of local government without taking yourself too seriously. Such was the case this week, where our Town Meeting Members did the people's business and made some tough decisions, but generally kept their tongues firmly in cheek. With thanks to those who made us laugh, smile, and guffaw during this three-day legislative marathon, here are the spring 2010 Town Meeting trophies:
The TMT for best comedic performance was a tough one. Finance Committee Chairman Gary Anderson set the tone early on as he delivered some grave financial news with some joviality as he appropriately poked fun at this columnist for my own attempts at humor, noting that, "the needle on the jovial meter won't be moving much tonight." He followed with several humorous observations, including an amusing exchange on the same subject with Community Preservation Committee Chair Barbara Schneider. Our Police Chief Anthony Riello gave our finance guru a run for his money, though, offering a pretty admirable standup routine at the front of the Lawrence Memorial Auditorium while discussing the article on motorcycle noise on night three. He had the assembled citizens in stitches, drawing laughs while offering giggles on everything from jokes on selling town property on e-bay to raise revenue, to good-natured barbs to a number of Falmouthites, even drawing attention to FinCom stalwart Andy Dufrense's Santa-like beard. Joe Netto deserves consideration here too, drawing chuckles with his admission that he was "thoroughly confused, a little bit." In the end, thought, this TMT goes to The Finance Committee Chairman. Gary Anderson has a nearly thankless, uncompensated position, and has been mandated to bring sobering and uncomfortable news to the town each of the last few years. He has done so with adroitness and tact, and this time around, with much needed humor. Your jovial meter is pinned to the good side, Gary. Thanks.
This version of Falmouth's democracy bee was not all smiles, though. The TMT for best donnybrook was also a closely contested race, with the tête-à-tête between Zoning Board Chair Matt McNamara and barrister Ed Dewitt over the zoning article on multiple dwellings drawing similar notice as the angry outburst offered by Moderator Dave Vieira to perennial gadfly Rich Latimer. "I am speaking, Richard!" bellowed the meeting master, drawing a few oohs and ahhs from the crowd, just before a similar thumping of gadfly alternate Michael Freeman. The ZBA scrum takes this one in a squeaker, with Chairman McNamara getting a little help from Shore Street's Rich Sherman, who, in appropriately calling Dewitt an alarmist, helped tip the scales toward the ZBA's thoughtful and fitting resolution to a vexing problem.
A new TMT, the Thomas Jefferson/Scott Brown Democracy Award, goes to wordsmith and coastal resource advocate Jude Wilbur, who lamented the "top down-decisions" of the state and spoke longingly for our "primary right to self-govern." Hey Jude, you sure sounded like a conservative on that one!
The TMT for common sense goes to newly minted Planning Board member Ken Medeiros, who, on the same article, simply offered that the resolution presented by the Planning Board was elected officials responding to the needs of the people. His succinct and well stated presentation was a welcome respite from some of the wordiness during the three day bombast-festival. Finally, speaking of bombast, the prize of the TMTs, the Badge of Bombast, had some familiar faces in competition. While perennial contender Dan Shearer actually exhibited some good behavior and several salient points, previous contenders Ed Dewitt and Rich Latimer, who boasts multiple trophies on his mantle, competed hard for this dubious honor. Dewitt for his lengthy harangue on the multiple dwelling zoning article, where he acknowledged criticism for his previous comments on this issue where he had a clear conflict but nonetheless strode down the path of questionable conduct and conversation, and Latimer, who offered a lecture on the "evil" deeds of developers in town. Chamber Chief Jay Zavala was also an unlikely contender by virtue of his night three soliloquy on the additional rooms tax, which made some good points, but did so at great length with great, perhaps overwhelming, loquacity.
Rich Latimer, the Old Faithful of verbal geysers, must make room on the mantle for another TMT. He sealed the award while chiming in as the lone dissenting vote to close discussion on an article.
Other speakers drew some attention and were in contention for awards, particularly the incessant whispering between Selectmen Putnam & Mustafa which almost garnered a trophy for greatest mystery, but these were the headliners that deserve recognition.
Thanks to all who competed - the awards committee will be back in action with another version in November.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.