Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory 2010 style
Town Meeting is always interesting. This week's version of local democracy in action, though, offered a bit of a dramatic twist, as our citizen legislators found themselves discussing and debating their very existence. The high drama of the discussion on a non-binding resolution on forming a charter commission to potentially change our form of government was certainly a focal point of this two-night exercise in local government at its purest, but there were other moments worthy of notice. Here, then, is this fall's edition of Town Meeting Trophies (TMTs), fall 2010 edition:
The TMT for best comedic moment had some stiff competition this time around. Henry Dick drew some guffaws when he noted on Article 13, on adding an additional rooms tax, that he would not pay it and then be afforded some time off "in the penitentiary," while Jude Wilber drew a couple of smiles noting that he was supporting Ron Smolowitz' position on an article, but "not just because he's my boss." The comic highlight of the Town Meeting, though, came from new winner Dave Moriarty, who drew nodding heads and hearty laughter when comparing the town's financial plight to his own. "The town and me have the same problem," quipped the lifelong Falmouthite. "We're both not managing our money well," he continued. David gets his maiden TMT for bringing several smiles to an otherwise somber review of our fiscal predicament.
Dick and Megan Jones get a family TMT for lifetime achievement. Convincing the assembled body to take $250,000 out of scant free cash to install a water main in their Siders Pond neighborhood was, I suspect, more of an acknowledgment and quarter million dollar thanks for their years of service to our community than it was a recognition of the need to leapfrog other water projects. It reminded me of when a well respected Martha Vacarro won a floor vote a few years back with an impassioned plea for a similar project on Hidden Village Road in West Falmouth. Now we wait to see what other neighborhoods try to keep up with the Joneses. Literally.
The Mark Antony "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" TMT goes to Assessor Dave Bailey for his handling of questions on the need to spend nearly $120,000 in free cash for interest on a short-term note borrowing money for the town's cash flow purposes. When questioned on the reasons behind such a large cost for interest only and the preventability of this expense, our chief property valuator simply offered, "This decision was made by the former Town Manager," quite a sendoff from one of our former TMs top lieutenants before the ink was dry on his goodbye letter.
The keep it simple TMT goes to another first time winner, Rich Goulart, for his simple but powerful math in explaining the minimal impact of a .75% increase in the meals tax. He noted that the average dinner bill of around $50 would result in an additional 38 cents on the bill, then challenged the gathered town meeting members to think if they would notice the hike. They thought, they voted, and it passed.
Police Chief Anthony Riello gets the sharpen the pencil TMT for being able to accommodate a negotiated contract with our police sergeants (kudos to both sides for some creative discussions and a good solution) within this year's budget, and for openly and clearly explaining the results to our citizens. He had one of the best lines of the night, describing his assessment of the bricks and mortar of the PD. "The infrastructure of your Police Department is people," said our top cop. Indeed. We'll award the Chief with a twofer and bestow another TMT for most quotable quote.
The Badge of Bombast
Our most coveted award, the Badge of Bombast, is awarded twice annually after Town Meeting to the attendee who displays the best effort to hear themselves talk. This is usually hotly contested, with many frequent fliers competing for the honor. This go around, though, perennial contender Rich Latimer was a hands down winner. Rising to speak on nearly every article, Latimer appears determined to prove to us all his finely tuned ability for loquacity. Wear this badge proudly, Rich, and we'll see you in the spring.
So another, and perhaps one of the last, Fall Town Meetings provided both entertainment and good government. Another chapter of this wonderful tome and more awards await.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.