Tuesday is the cruelest day and three questions to ask
Now that the kickoff parties, the initial ads in the paper, and the sprinkling of signs about town are well underway, it's time to consider the serious business of considering the four candidates for two slots on our Board of Selectmen.
Long-time incumbents Pat Flynn and Carey Murphy face a challenge from native Falmouthites David Braga and David Moriarty in the election a couple of Tuesdays from now. The candidates will be making their way around town, hopefully working hard for your vote and telling you what they will do if elected. That was always my favorite part of the job. Standing on the corner at CVS and waving during the morning and afternoon rush hour was a social event and a great way to get exposure and meet new people. The one fingered salutes and thumbs-down were a great way to get humble. Anyway, as the candidates make their way into your neighborhood and into your e-mail inbox, there are a few suggestions for some questions I'd like to see them answer. If a candidate knocks on your door or hands you a push piece as the post office, ask them the following:
Q: What specifically will you do to forge a more positive Board? I don't want platitudes on working well with others or hear the blame game on Ahmed's behavior, what specifically will you do to make one of the most contentious boards in recent memory even a little better? How will your professional and life experience contribute to the solution and not the problem? What do you think is the problem?
The answer to this will give us a window into the candidates - incumbents and challengers - and how they will approach one of the greatest challenges to progress in my memory - a board so divided and sometimes intractable that paralysis is the norm. A solution must be found to a Board that spends far too much time sinking and far too little time thinking. It won't be just the candidates' answers that will be telling, but how they answer. We can't afford a blamer right now. The lessons of Scott Brown still ring true - people want to hear what these folks will do for us, not what the others are doing wrong. Listen for that and decide accordingly.
Q: With the town's financial stability at a nadir, what specifically will you do to help? With dwindling reserves and the burgeoning need to borrow to buy necessities like police cruisers, our bond rating from Wall Street may be in jeopardy. What skills do you bring to help set a stabilizing course?
The answer to this one will not only give you insight into the candidates' financial acumen, it will demonstrate how much homework the challengers have done and/or how much the incumbents are paying attention to the most vital issue facing us - we spend more than we take in.
Q: In the late 90's, there was long-term stability in the corner conference room, with the same Board remaining constant despite annual elections for six years straight. What can you do to foster that kind of stability?
This query differs from the first question in that the incumbents will tell you that they have contributed to that stability even though the current board is more volatile than a Ziploc full of bleach and ammonia, and the challengers will tell you that they need a seat at the great curved table to prove themselves. The thing to watch for here, though, is whether they look back with disdain or fondness. How someone, particularly a candidate for public office, views the past can give great insight into how their minds perceive the present. Encourage an exchange on this one and really gain an insight into the candidates' outlook on this community through their vision (and version) of the past.
These are just a few. I'll be posing more in the few short weeks before the ballots are cast on May 18th. Don't be afraid to make up your own and share them with me.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enteprise.