No matter what side of the wind turbine debate you were (are) on, it was great to see a compromise reached last week for one very important reason – it demonstrated that at the highest levels, our local government officials know how to listen and compromise. I’m sure this specific issue will take many turns (much like the now infamous blades of the turbines themselves) before a final resolution, but whether you are a fiscal hawk that is lamenting the shutdown of Wind I, a renewable energy enthusiast that is just plain lamenting, or an exuberant neighbor sleeping peacefully, one must be encouraged that our elected officials worked to forge a compromise. They genuinely listened to the impassioned testimony at Town Meeting, truly scrutinized the engineering and financial analyses, and decided to keep listening – to the noise from the turbines and to the neighbors – both as factors in whatever final decision is made, and to let both the noise and the passions attenuate a bit before reaching that verdict. Nice job, folks. For many, faith in the process – the local democratic process – and in our Selectmen - has been buoyed a bit. Kudos and thanks to Chairman Pat Flynn for demonstrating the leadership and community concern to bring this issue to a state of reasonableness.
It is in that spirit of listening and compromise that I think the Selectmen should declare a new era of courtesy and comportment in our local government. They have the opportunity, having proven their mettle with this issue, to use that smidgen of a bully pulpit (a truly miniscule smidge at this point, but a bit of political capital nonetheless) to redirect the tenor of the discourse, from their meetings in the corner conference room, to those of the coffee shop prognosticators, and attempt to bring some civility back to the peoples’ business.
The irony was not lost on me that two of the lead above-the-fold stories in Tuesday’s paper presented both an interesting juxtaposition and paradox; the lead story told of the best of Falmouth shining through as hundreds paid tribute to our veterans on the library lawn, while a story right beside that good news told of yet another heated exchange and public donnybrook courtesy of our elected leaders, this one on the subject of ambulance rates. The benediction at that solemn ceremony honoring the service of others included an adapted quote from our 35th President. “The highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them,” noted Otis Chaplain LCDR Jennifer Bowden. I wonder if some members of our Monday night madness crew at Town Hall were listening, when just a few short days later, they were uttering not-so-niceties at one another. It is becoming a Sisyphean task to listen to playground skirmishes masking as public policy discussions.
So, in this season of thanks and giving, I’m suggesting a moratorium on meanness, a halt to the hubris, and a cessation of sarcasm. No more “gotcha” moments from Brent Putnam and his endless jabs at Kevin Murphy for holding the Sealer of Weights and Measures job. No more talking over Pat Flynn as she tries to run a meeting with a sense of decorum, and please, no more Monday night soliloquies, from anyone.
We’ve got a talented and experienced manager newly at the helm. He at least deserves to begin his tenure in a cooperative and productive environment. The needling and nastiness that has been the norm for this Board for some time now should, really must, be placed in a lock box and give way to the spirit of communication and compromise that brought the turbine argument back from the brink and into a reasonable state of debate.
Yes, a reasonable state of debate. That would be cause for us all to give thanks.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.