The Time Has Come for Change

 

Theo Epstein made the tough decision.  As the General Manager of the Red Sox in 2004, he traded fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra.  The decision was criticized by many as shortsighted and flying in the face of years of tradition and success - opponents noted that a few episodes of a malcontented attitude should not mean a dismissal of a successful association.  Theo had the courage and vision, though, to stay true to what he knew was right.  Shortly thereafter, the Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy and would do so again three years later.

The moral of this well-known story is clear - the best decisions are not always easy, and are often criticized, as the long-term benefits are unable to be seen at the time.

I believe the time has come to collectively channel our inner Theos and make a tough but nonetheless important and historic decision.  Our local form of government must change.

Some will consider this conclusion a knee-jerk reaction to the offensive and abominable behavior Monday night, where police chiefs past and present and citizens alike were condescendingly rebuked and admonished by a self-important and misguided Chairman.   I am profoundly disappointed by what I saw, but Monday night's real message was not one man's display of hubris, it was a telling reminder that small town and back room politics thrive in Falmouth.  The system is broken and needs to be fixed.  Falmouth needs a Mayor.  The chilling message sent by Selectman Putnam was clear - "We are in charge and don't care what you say."  His dismissal of two Police Chiefs and one Captain might have been more simply stated as,  "Thanks for the input and for your combined 100 years of service to public safety, but my two years have better prepared me to make a judgment."

 John Adams' notion that we are a nation of laws and not men, the rule of law that defines our society, has somehow been lost on our local leaders.  A new system of local self-governing that vests that cherished concept in one accountable person will re-assert that central underpinning of our democratic system.

Over a year ago, I penned a column and planted the seed for what needs to be a focus of our local discourse in the coming months.  Here's what I said:

"Our Town Meeting has been stagnated by people who have stayed too long and are not willing to listen to anything outside their village-centered paradigm. Perhaps even the discussion of a mayoral form of government would awaken the curiosity and passion inside some of these immovable objects, inspire some young voters to dip their toes in the local democracy waters and bring this body back to its open and lively former self.  And what of our current executive branch? Would not a mayor eliminate the decision-making malaise that has plagued this group? I suspect at the very least a spirited discussion of the merits of having a mayor would serve to return some accountability to the five who some weeks seem to have forgotten the nature of their arrival to power - an affirmation by the voters themselves.  I am not making the point that we need a mayor. That discussion - that conclusion - must be made by a much wider audience than this pundit. I am, though, offering the thought that the time has come to ask the question that helped make a president: "Are you better off than you were four (or three, or 10) years ago?" If your answer is no, then the time has also come to ask the next one. Are we ready? Is it time?"

Since that question was posed in January of 2009, we have had many opportunities to answer it.  Monday night was but a symptom of what ails us.  I cannot point to a single time or event in recent memory that leads me to the conclusion that our current system is not ill, but we can all point to many that may, and likely would, have been handled differently - and I think better - with a single, accountable elected official calling the shots.  Wouldn't a mayor have acted swiftly and called in an order for hundreds of cases of bottled water during our recent water crisis?  That is but one example of many. 

Theo Epstein has reaped the benefit of his bold and gutsy decision.  It's time for us to do the same.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

 

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