A Good Lesson in Good Government

You can call me an enlightened and engaged citizen. On the other hand, you can suggest that I need a life and some more robust entertainment therein. You can suggest that I’m a committed Falmouthite who cares about our community, or you can just suggest I be committed.

The basis for your determination is this: On Sunday evening, after a long and enjoyable weekend full of friends, family, and a bit of yard work, Donna and I sat down to unwind with a little television. After clicking past repeats on the Food Network and coverage overload on Donald Sterling, we settled on checking up on our local government and tuned to FCTV’s Channel 15. Many watch it, but few admit it as the evening’s destination. Yes, indeed, we sought local government as our entertainment for the evening. What we hoped for was a quick update on the week’s goings-on. What we got was a dose of confidence and pride in our local democracy and political process.

The show playing was, like the Food Network, offering a repeat, but this one was certainly worth watching and far more engaging than another ill-mannered bartender on “Restaurant Stakeout.” We watched the replay of the board of selectmen’s meeting from a couple of weeks ago when the board invited discussion on the placement of questions on our May 20 local election ballot. What would appear on the surface to be a dry, uninteresting, almost perfunctory vote, actually revealed a deep level of care and engagement by our citizenry and a welcome (if not rare these days) respectful and thoughtful dialogue by our elected executives.

During the meeting, some citizens lamented the lack of information out in public on the three ballot questions. They asked the board to inform and engage, to reach out to their neighbors and reach into the neighborhoods to explain the request for nearly $100 million in spending. Selectman Rebecca Moffitt responded not with admonition, but recognition. When she noted that, “We know these issues inside and out, but many people are looking for a better explanation and a cost breakdown per household for these projects,” she transformed the discussion and catapulted her colleagues into a new dimension of understanding—one that includes listening, reaching out, and engaging a public not only thirsty for clean and efficiently delivered drinking water, but for information similarly conveyed. Following Rebecca’s revelation, the board even suggested producing an informational flyer to share with their constituents. I pinched myself to make sure I hadn’t stepped through the mirror and was watching an alternative Board in Wonderland.

The floodgates of respectful discourse now opened, Donna and I marveled at how the admiration and dignity seemed to permeate the room. I was waiting for high-fives and hugs at the end, and although that didn’t happen, it was nonetheless a watershed moment. I haven’t been this pleased with Sunday night TV since I watched Falmouthite Jessica Mogardo compete on “Chopped.”

I am never hesitant to provide a good-natured poke and prod at our local leaders when one is deserved. I must, in good faith and fairness then, offer kudos when earned as well. High praise and commendation then, kudos and compliments to our board of selectmen. Not only for Sunday night’s entertainment, but for a welcome dose of healthy debate. The next thing you know, Pat Flynn and Brent Putnam might hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Maybe not. I’ll settle for healthy debate.

Anyway, the six candidates to replace outgoing selectmen Kevin Murphy and Brent Putnam would do well to log on to FCTV’s website and watch a rerun of their own. It’s the April 14th meeting, and it is a good lesson in good government. I’ll be doing my part to contribute to the dialogue, offering the next couple of columns to the ballot questions.

Now it is your turn. Shared information is only good if it is used. Get informed, then get to the polls.

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