Falmouth's blog

Another Fun & Friendly Falmouth Day

The friendly admonition to runners and spectators alike, as nearly 13,000 stories of personal perseverance were set to unfold in Woods Hole last Sunday morning, August 16, told the simple but unforgettable tale of another phenomenal installation of a Falmouth tradition. “Be nice to each other and have fun,” said the starting line announcer, stating the obvious, but reminding all of us that those two themes are at the heart of every Falmouth Road Race–and were most certainly the core of this 43rd edition.

As my longtime pal, and one of Falmouth’s favorite volunteers, FCTV producer Kevin Lynch and I traversed the town and many of the Road Race-related events last weekend, those themes of fun and friendliness pervaded every moment. We spent hours interviewing and chatting with runners, supporters, organizers, and visitors, and each, although their stories differed, struck those familiar refrains in sharing their road race memories. 

On Saturday afternoon, August 15, we visited with local legend Eddie Doyle, as he supervised and cheered on another successful Falmouth Walk, a family-oriented fundraising prelude to the big race which raises thousands for local charities, including the Falmouth Housing Trust and the Falmouth Military Support Group. Annie Connolly and Carole Kenney, the tireless leaders of each of those organizations, were on hand to walk and cheer themselves, supported at the finish line gathering by the ice cream creations of Richard (Smitty) Smith, whose delicious donations make so many local events so much sweeter.

From there, we headed over to the pre-race expo in the Robert Antonucci gymnasium at FHS, where thousands picked up their numbers, their goodie bags of Falmouth Road Race swag, and some tips and information on healthy running and healthy living from the dozens of vendors providing plenty. We learned of the contents of the swag bags from some energetic volunteers from the Mashpee High School chapter of the National Honor Society and chatted with swag bag chief Lori Andrade on what it takes to put together 13,000 of them. Kevin and I had the good fortune to spend some time with the inspiring father-and-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, who show and teach us far more from their close and abiding relationship than they do with their annual moving trek from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights. I enjoyed a quick catch-up with the recently retired but still dynamic and vigorous Falmouthite Jay Zavala, who was manning a booth for the Falmouth chamber’s upcoming “Jingle Jog.” As always, his lovely wife, Susan, was by his side, equaling his effervescence and good will. We chatted briefly with race guru and race president Scott Ghelfi, who humbly and kindly credited the hundreds of local volunteers for making the weekend events

As the sun came up on race day, Kevin and I stopped in and checked in with Police Chief Ed Dunne, whose well-oiled machine of multi-agency security worked seamlessly on the ground and in the air to keep us safe. We then headed over to the Lawrence School, where the bleary-eyed but eager runners were boarding school buses for an early morning ride to the starting line. The buses run with precision, looping from Lakeview Avenue to Water Street in Woods Hole and back again–a boomerang of effective transportation run by just one of the race’s teams of volunteers.

At Lawrence, as the sun was peeking over the weathervane atop the historic cupola, stretching like the would-be racers themselves onto the ballfield where the runners engaged in pre-race nutrition of protein drinks and bananas, pre-race excitement and encouragement, and even pre-race prayer, the air was filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. After a good morning chat with FPD Sergeant Mike Simoneau and hopeful runner Amanda Ravens, we boarded a bus ourselves, trying to find some pre-race optimism. We found it for sure. Our bus was loaded with an entire team of ebullient, lobster antennae-wearing runners, whose lighthearted laughter and banter did not match the specter of the humidly oppressive seven-mile trek ahead of them. When I noted to the group leader that his organizational skills would come in handy in a political campaign, my new friend Don Patterson told me that his uncle is treasured veteran town clerk Michael Palmer. ’Nuff said.

We arrived in Woods Hole, and both the heat and exhilaration were palpable. I gathered a quick update on security from FPD Captain Jeff Smith, then enjoyed a visit with veteran runner Ken Gartner and his son Henry, who was set to run in his first Falmouth. I heard several stories of pre-race inspiration, including tales of athletic altruism from Hanoverians Susan Glover and Anne McNamara, who made the trip from the South Shore to support Team MR8, founded in honor of Boston Marathon victim Martin Richard. I managed to have an interesting and delightful chat about the Falmouth of yesteryear with one of the “Falmouth Five” Brian Salzburg, who, along with four other members of that truly elite group, has run each race from its inception in 1973. It was fitting that I shared a Sunday morning smile and salutation with Scott Ghelfi at that moment, as his kind and respectful stewardship of this iconic experience has kept the community feel at the forefront of this event.

As the throngs began to sense the pending start, the singing, sprinting, eating, and drinking (water and Gatorade, of course) graduated to a more contemplative concentration. I still managed to squeeze in a quick visit with Greg and Sandee Parkinson, respectively the family’s lead doctor and the lead runner, although word on the street was (and is) that youngest son Christopher, who practiced his sprints as a caddy at the Golf Club of Cape Cod, might have supplanted his mom to grab the latter moniker. I also savored the chance to quickly connect with a couple of FRR veterans, Don Delinks and former state representative Tom Cahir, who was running in his 34th Falmouth.

Just before the starting gun went off and Kevin and I joined sportswriters and photographers, including the Enterprise’s own Rich Maclone aboard the press truck, I enjoyed a quick chat with three of my favorite Falmouthites, Alan, Phyllis and Julie Silver, who may be in Falmouth only part time, but add a year’s worth of good-will and memories with every passage of the calendar.

As our journey to Falmouth Heights began, an enthusiastic fan rang a cowbell for the passing elite runners on Church Street. As we neared the soon-to-be-preserved Nobska Light and noticed more than a dozen boats enjoying a seafaring vantage point anchored in the ocean, I glanced at the timer–and it was at slightly more than four minutes. While I collected my consciousness at the thought of any human being able to run a mile in four minutes, the cheers continued as we raced ahead of the pack. Amid the yelling and yodeling, I managed to share a wave along the way with Kim deLalla Greenlaw at her family perch on Oyster Pond, with the fantastic floor man Tim Kerr along Surf Drive, and with Uncle Craig Clarkson and his clan cheering on Cousin Katie on Shore Street.

As we made our way toward the finish, where the lead pack dwindled to seven and the nearly 13,000 behind trudged through the sweltering summer sun, I spotted cherished local artist Karen Rinaldo shooting photos near her studio at the Clam Shack, then noticed old pal Jeff Stouffer at the turn near Charlie Bardelis’s Island Queen.

We jumped off the press truck and into the press tent as winner Stephen Sambu breezed across the finish line, followed closely in the newly established “countdown” competition by women’s winner Diane Nukuri. I had the chance to interview both–they are not only great runners–they are also winners in life and great people, part of what makes Falmouth such a great race.

The throngs then followed, some minutes later, some hours, but all had stories of triumph and determination. I saw Walpole’s Jacqui Dolan sprint across, just as the gazelle-like Rita Pacheco finished her trek while Hanover’s Claire Reilly logged another completion alongside Robbie Berquist and Tim Mullen, while family athletic supporter Ann Foster cheered them on. I then waved in acknowledgement as the personal stories of locals Mike Burton, Jen Murphy and the father-and-son team of Reggie and Matt Soares were all enhanced with a Falmouth finish. The City of Champions was well represented, as Brocktonians Mary Waldron and city councilor Bob Sullivan made the undulating and challenging course look easy.

I met up with Donna on the ballfield, and we were showered with more stories of success and charity, including a moving visit with Moe Guernon, who introduced us to daughters Shayla and Alexandra Guernon, who were running on the Dana-Farber team to raise funds and awareness in memory of their uncle Paul J. Kelley Jr., who recently lost his own race against cancer. That was just one of the unforgettable tales of the day. As Donna and I were walking back up the hill to head home, a couple of ladies labored toward the finish, and finish they did. The amazing personal accounts of Lisa Kelliher and Erin Burke added another spectacular chapter as they crossed the finish line, tackling their fears and showering us all with inspiration.

At its core, that’s what this race is about. As exciting as it is to watch world-class athletes sprint to the finish, it’s even more fulfilling to watch everyday people find the grit, faith, and determination to fulfill a dream, complete a goal, and inspire an entire community. Thanks to all who shared their stories to enhance the lore of another fun and friendly Falmouth day.

Coincidence or Arrogance?

How big is big enough?
How honest is honest enough?

Both are simple questions with difficult and complicated answers. Here in Falmouth, right in the heart of our downtown, both are being tested, formulated, and perhaps even conjured nearly every day.

When the issue of building a hotel at the east end of Main Street first surfaced, it seemed like a natural progression of revitalization in an area that had recently been rezoned to encourage reuse and redevelopment.   I’ll be honest - the prospect of both economic development and infrastructure improvement in that part of our downtown intrigued and perhaps even excited me.  I casually followed the issue as it developed, and nothing occurred – at least at the beginning – to dissuade my optimism.

Then, last summer, when neighbors raised concerns that the developer was providing a piecemeal unveiling of their plans, resisting requests to provide a comprehensive plan for the site, I started to get an uneasy feeling.  While the concept of ‘a hotel’ seemed like a good idea, the developer’s resistance to present a comprehensive picture of ‘the hotel’ portended for some an adversarial process rather and a collaborative one.  With the benefit of hindsight a year later, it is clear that they were right. As neighbors and other interested citizens raised concerns about the size, scope and appropriateness of a 108-room hotel that sprawled within a few feet of some neighbors’ properties, the developer’s design team made minor aesthetic changes to the plan, but has acted in response to regulatory concerns, not in cooperation with concerned neighbors.  The answer to the question of how big is big enough has not moved toward consensus.

Around  the same time as that development of a large, imposing Marriott in Falmouth village was unfolding, a seemingly unrelated and far more innocuous development directly across the street from the proposed hotel garnered much less interest.  The announcement last May that the Mariner Motel, owned and operated by the same family for nearly thirty years, had been sold to another family, was met by many with both praise and a sigh of relief.  The family who purchased the Main Street landmark for $1.7 million announced that the Mariner Motel would continue be run as a family business and no building permits would be sought, according to a published report at the time.  With the kerfuffle across the street, there were sighs of relief with the news that this 30-room facility was not part of the overall Marriott plan. 

Or was it?

I called the Mariner Motel this weekend, looking for a room for an upcoming visit from a family member.  After chatting with a very helpful reservation agent, I asked if I could use my Marriott points at that facility, wondering if perhaps the old and new were in fact somehow affiliated.  I was told no, but that the owner was a ‘big wig’ with Marriott and wished to keep that information discreet. My heart sank and I started digging – and did not like what I saw.  The information I gathered is all publicly available and is provided here for consideration by both the public and public regulators.  

The corporate entity that is developing the Marriott at 556 Main Street is called Falmouth Hospitality, LLC.  It was created in October of 2013.  The corporate entity that purchased the Mariner Motel at 555 Main Street is called Blum 7 Hospitality Management, Inc.  That company was formed in March of 2014.  Those geographically close but seemingly otherwise unrelated corporate transactions do not raise any concerns until you dig a little further. The President of Blum 7 Hospitality Management, Inc. is Jan Blum. A simple review of Jan Blum’s LinkedIn page reveals that his full-time job, when not managing the Mariner Motel, is as Area Director for the Marriott International, overseeing hotel operations for “25 Marriott managed hotels in MA, MD, VA, NC and SC.” Before his promotion to Area Director, Jan worked as the Director of Franchise Operations for Marriott International, where he,  “facilitated new hotel openings and conversions for Marriott branded hotels.”

So to review the facts as we know them, the new owner of a facility at 555 Main Street is moonlighting with managing a small motel while he manages 25 Marriott facilities, and before that he supervised the opening of new Marriott facilities.  He purchased that motel within a couple of months of the announcement that a new Marriott would be proposed right across the street at 556 Main Street. 

While it is entirely possible that this is simply an amazing coincidence, it is also possible that something more clandestine – and sinister – is going on here.

Further research revealed that Robert Walker, the principal of Falmouth Hospitality, LLC, has had a spirited history with local regulatory boards.  A story from June of 2013 in the Westford version of wickedlocal.com, just months before he formed the holding company for the Falmouth project, notes that Walker told the Westford Planning Board that, “You don’t got a god damn clue,” in response to their negative vote on a site plan review.  While that behavior is unrelated to the Falmouth project, it certainly and publicly speaks to the willingness of the developer of a project that would significantly and forever change our downtown to work with local boards. Walker has sued several communities over regulatory decisions. That fact is easily obtainable with a simple Google search.

The arrival of Blum and Walker in downtown Falmouth at the same time may be a case of an innocent and unintended confluence of events.  Conversely, it may be a case of corporate narcissism and the arrogance of untruth.  The only way to find out is to ask.

So, what now? 

The development rests in the hands of our regional planning agency, the Cape Cod Commission, whose mission is clearly stated on their website.  They exist, simply and profoundly, to “keep a special place special…to protect the unique values and quality of life on Cape Cod by coordinating a balanced relationship between environmental protection and economic progress.” Furthermore, in the enabling act that created the Commission, its founders noted that, “The region commonly known as Cape Cod…possesses unique natural, coastal, scientific, historical, cultural, architectural, archaeological, recreational, and other values; there is a regional, state and national interest in protecting, preserving and enhancing these values; and these values are being threatened and may be irreparably damaged by uncoordinated or inappropriate uses of the region's land and other resources.”

That interest and those values are at stake.  Right here.  Right now. 

When members of the Falmouth Planning Board courageously and correctly raised concerns about the size and scope of the project, Town Planner Brian Currie incorrectly admonished them to simply, “Review what is in front of you,” hinting to them that they did not have the ability to look at the broader plan and the bigger picture.  As elected officials they do – and now is the time that they should.

This project, simply as a result of the unanswered questions raised in my research, begs further review and due diligence.  The full Commission is soon making their decision based in part of the project’s impact on community character.  Until the questions about the scope of the entire project – on both sides of the street – and the real entity or entities behind it are answered, the impact on community character simply cannot be determined.  As a result, in the interest of our community, of our community character, and in the interest of the good government they were created to be, the Cape Cod Commission must deny this request, and preserve the integrity of the process and the people it serves.

Falmouth Commodores - All Stars in Our Hearts

Falmouth’s favorite barber Phil Stone (sorry, Andy Dufresne) and I stood on the hill at Guv Fuller Field last Sunday, a breezy, cozy, quintessential Falmouth summer afternoon.

As we watched Falmouth’s team—the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League—take the field for their last game of the season, Commodores general manager and lifelong Falmouthite Eric Zmuda joined us in both conversation and fanciful reflection, as Phil painted a Rockwellian picture for us of the early years of Falmouth’s team, when the games were played at the ballfield in Falmouth Heights and a young superstar named Roche Pires used to launch home runs onto the roof of what is now the British Beer Company.

Phil seemed to drift himself back to those formative years, when Falmouth’s team was named the “All-Stars.” His family owned a house on Central Park Avenue, right on the ballfield in left-center field, and you could almost see the baseball sailing through the thick, salty air from home plate, bouncing on the roof of the nearby building that seemed like a mile away, with a young future barber jumping for joy and cheering from his front yard. Phil, returning from his visit to the Falmouth of yesteryear, returned his attention to the on-field activities and wistfully noted to Eric and me, “Y’know, that’s true today. They’re still the All-Stars.”

Eric and I, as Phil himself nodded in appropriate self-realization, smiled broadly and glanced knowingly at one another, realizing that we had just experienced one of those rare life moments that formed both a lasting memory and a defining truism.

Yes, indeed, Phil. Today’s Commodores—in addition to being Falmouth’s team—are indeed Falmouth’s All-Stars. What makes that statement truly true and truly exceptional is that our local all-star team encompasses a mosaic of the entire community—from the players to the families who host them and house them, to the coaching staff, to the volunteers, to the board of directors, to the community and business partners that support the daily details of a world-class sports franchise.

This all-star team has members from every village and every segment of the greater Falmouth community, and last Sunday’s wrap-up game of the season brought all of those folks together, along with hundreds of adoring fans, to show our community just how much our local all-stars mean to us all.

Even before the first pitch was thrown, this celebration of community was hitting ’em out of the park. Team president Steve Kostas assisted the local Marine Lodge of Masons in honoring Commodores lifetime board member Al Irish, whose 70 years of volunteer service were highlighted with a circle of love and support that brought many attendees to their feet with applause and wiping their eyes with tears on their cheeks.

Steve then honored—individually and by name—each of the team’s interns and batboys, a genuine personal touch that is both the hallmark and the core of this team. As President Steve read familiar Falmouth family names like Kinsella, Souza, Vieira, and Sherwood and handed team photos and signed baseballs to young volunteers, the crowd roared with delight—both because local youth were involved with this slice of Americana and because this team and its leaders took the time to recognize and highlight that.

Recognizing that sense of community, Cape Cod Baseball League commissioner Paul Galop then took the field and awarded the team the coveted Commissioner’s Cup, an annual honor granted that, in the words of the commissioner himself, “goes to the team that demonstrates professionalism on and off the field.”

In a chat after the award, the commissioner explained what he meant, noting that President Steve and GM Eric were “spectacular” and that he could not find enough superlatives to describe their leadership—and our team. The photo with the cup and the commissioner, joined by beloved coach Jeff Trundy, was a snapshot not just of the culmination of thousands of volunteer hours and an equal amount of corporate and community support. It was also a snapshot of the values that make this team so much more than a sports franchise. They are, as Phil so aptly noted and the commissioner repeated, all-stars on the field, in the community, and in our hearts.

I agree. The Commodores’ place—in our community and in our hearts—begins with the dedicated crop of volunteers at the core of the team. Steve and Eric, joined by more than a dozen dedicated locals on the board of directors, donate their time, open their homes, and just plain show up year-round, to help the starting nine take the field.

Those volunteers are joined by supporters from every corner of the community. As the interns and batboys jogged onto the field to receive their honors, a new, spectacular and solar-powered scoreboard flashed proudly in the outfield, a gift from the Falmouth Road Race.

Commodores’ stalwart concessionaire Artie Robichaud and his team made sure the burgers were juicy and the drinks were cold, while corporate sponsors like Eastman’s and the Woods Hole Group did their part to support the off-field details. Other longtime supporters, like Smitty’s Ice Cream and Rocky Gomes and his turf aficionados at the DPW are always there, year after year, to make Falmouth’s team of all-stars the best.

Thank you, Phil, for reminding us of that simple but powerful notion that an all-star is defined by so much more than wins and losses, and thank you to President Steve, GM Eric, and all the supporters of Falmouth’s All-Stars

Falmouth's World of Costly Conflict

The difference between adjudication and mediation as tools in dispute resolution can be profound.

To put it simply, when a case—resulting from a dispute or conflict—is adjudicated, a solution is imposed after opposing sides provide evidence and testimony. When a case is mediated, it is resolved in a matter that is non-adversarial and based in the solution of resolution, not in the dispute itself, or more importantly, not in the personalities and personal feelings of the disputing parties. Perhaps the master of mediation and ultimate dispute-resolver himself, Abraham Lincoln, offered his thoughts on this subject in clear self-deprecation as an attorney when he suggested, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”

I suggest that our community would be well-served with this proven approach. But alas, it appears that our decision-makers are wedged in a world of costly conflict, sorely in need of the kinder, gentler side of dispute resolution. Last week’s Enterprise report that our community leaders have spent nearly a million and a half dollars over the last five years in special counsel fees—public dollars spent recklessly in the form of extra legal costs over and above our normal legal budget—is an epic-sized problem that is far more than a financial concern. It speaks to the fight-first style of governing that is costing us millions in public dollars and scores more value in lost public confidence. The town has spent more than $400,000 the last two years alone on special labor counsel, fighting preventable—and resolvable—fights with our own employees.

It is an unequivocally erotetic exercise to simply ask: is it wrong to spend so much of our money fighting unnecessary fights? Why can’t we just get along? Is there a better way?

The answer to the latter and perhaps not rhetorical question is, simply, yes. There is a better way, and I’m offering my services—free of charge—to be part of it.

Let’s be clear. These out-of-control costs are not the general legal expenses incurred through our valued and professional legal staff. Our in-house team of three legal veterans—two dedicated and capable attorneys, and a respected and experienced paralegal—provides a high level of service and serves our town well. Their budget of slightly more than $300,000 is appropriate for a town our size and is money well spent. The extra budgetary costs borne through a combative philosophy and unyielding sense of executive entitlement are where help is sorely needed.

I want to be part of the solution. I was pleased and honored to have recently been trained as a mediator through the American Arbitration Association (AAA). At the training in Washington, DC, national leaders in the mediation field provided insight on the nuances and advantages of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through mediation. They taught attendees—whose experience ranged from being a federal judge to a construction manager, from an experienced litigator to a school board member—to focus not on finding fault or assigning blame, but to steer conflicts toward a prospective, cooperative resolution, mutually agreeable to all parties. This concept, while far from novel in most of the world, appears to be a legal anathema to our fighting Falmouth administrators. But why? Why can’t ADR be our first option? I’ll ask again: why can’t we just get along—in the public interest?

Here’s what I propose: our appointed executives, department managers, selectmen, and regulatory committees should voluntarily submit to participation in mediation as a first step in any conflict. I’m not the only AAA-trained mediator in town. We have, I am sure, a bevy of qualified locals who would give of their time to help resolve disputes through what the AAA itself calls “an informal, economical, and efficient way to address the substance of controversy.” I stand ready to help bring this concept to the corner conference room.

The handout at the training included a pithy and prescient quote from former Chief Justice Warren Burger. He said that, “The notion that ordinary people want black-robed judges, well dressed lawyers, and fine courtrooms as settings to resolve their disputes is not correct. People with problems, like people with pains, want relief, and they want it as quickly and inexpensively as possible.”

That is true in many ways here in Falmouth and particularly so with our burgeoning legal costs. We want relief—quickly and inexpensively. Let’s mediate.

Donnie and Smitty - Geysers of Goodwill

Lifelong Falmouthites Don (Donnie) Cross and Tim (Smitty) Smith played the drums together in their Falmouth neighborhood as chums growing up. They would practice constantly, exchanging stints rattling windows at each other’s houses, but their mutual noisemaking had an impact far beyond aggravating their siblings, parents and neighbors—it simultaneously solidified their bonds of friendship and mutual love of music.

While Donnie continued his musical pursuits and is today one of Falmouth’s best-known and most-loved musicians, regularly entertaining devoted throngs at venues like Main Street’s La Cucina and Woods Hole landmark, the Captain Kidd Restaurant, Smitty did not continue his pursuit of performance. The two, however, continue their shared affection for live music and its inextricable link to the folklore and culture of Falmouth. Their musical journey has taken them through some of Falmouth’s most legendary performers. As soon as Smitty and Donnie were old enough to patronize the former Casino-by-the-Sea in Falmouth Heights (and perhaps a bit beforehand), they saw every live band they could and would inch as close as they could to the performers to observe the skill and style of the drummers.

Two of the bands that had the most influence on these aspiring “melodiophiles” were Casino legends: John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, whose iconic ’80’s song “The Dark Side” played on virtually every Sony Walkman in America back in the day, and Steve Smith & the Nakeds, whose big, bold, brassy and fun-loving sound is exceeded only by the ebullient personalities of its band members.

When the Casino closed for good back in the ’90s, Smitty, longing for the memories, melodies, and personalities that defined his youth, hatched the idea of a reunion concert and enlisted the support of his old friend and fellow drummer, Donnie, to put something together. According to Donnie, though, it wasn’t enough to simply hold a gathering to reminisce about great music and memories from the crazy, hazy ’70s in Falmouth Heights. As active citizens, role models, parents, and committed locals, they wanted their effort to be more meaningful and carry with it its own legacy. The “Reunion of Summers Past” was born.

According to Donnie, the duo “made a pact to do it only as a fundraiser for a worthy cause. Our mission is to bring people together, especially from our community in a safe and organized event with music as the vehicle to promote a worthy cause.” They enlisted the support of another Casino legend, former head chef and entertainment guru Mike (Big Red) Giery, to organize the music and reached out to longtime owner of John’s Liquors, Mark Ferreira, whose skills as an event planner and pleasure purveyor are also the stuff of local legend, to guide them in putting together a successful event. A couple of years ago, the first installment occurred at Bigelow Marine Park on Scranton Avenue. The proceeds were donated to the Police Athletic Activities League and received rave reviews. The attendance and success of the event have grown since then. The organizers have enlisted dozens of volunteers and partners and gather input from all of them in what Donnie calls “a real grassroots and democratic effort.”

This year’s installment continued the tradition of dedicating the event to a worthy cause as noted by the founders—and this year’s cause is about as worthy as it gets. Proceeds from this year’s reunion, which will take place tomorrow at the park on Scranton Avenue, will benefit the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, an effort dedicated to providing support and assistance to families of fallen service members. “We memorialize our fallen by creating a permanent public tribute and provide advocacy services for local Veterans and families of the fallen serving in the Global War on Terrorism since 2001,” says the organization’s website at: www.massfallenheroes.org.

The event will featured a tribute to local veterans, by veterans. Around 2 PM, just before another local musical standout, Stage Door Canteen, took the stage to provide its premier big band sound, representatives from Mass Fallen Heroes who are themselves veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars took to the stage and pay tribute to local veterans who served before them, in a moving ceremony that will feature patriotic songs, a flyover by the Massachusetts State Police, and words of thanks and praise from the very men and women who fought for our freedom. Local veterans who gather at the Lawrence School at 2 PM were provided free transportation by Tim Kelly’s White Tie Limousine. This was a true effort by the community to benefit the community.

Donnie Cross and Tim Smith learned a few things while they pounded away on their drums during the simplicity of their soulful-sounding Shore Street youths. They learned that they shared a love of music—good, fun music. They learned that they loved Falmouth. They learned that part of loving their Falmouth was giving back to their Falmouth. They also learned that much like Katy Perry’s musical metaphor of a firework creating an image of uniqueness in us all when she noted that, “Cause, baby, you’re a firework—Come on, show ’em what you’re worth,” that these two fundraising Falmouth fireworks are a couple of geysers of goodwill for lovers of music and memories in our community.

Those lessons became part of the fabric of their lives, and are now part of the fabric of the community through their charitable community efforts. The community should continue to  support them and see what the geysers of goodwill have in store to soak us all with their fun

Next Steps in the Quest for a Better Falmouth

Last week, I discussed a bold and important effort by selectmen chairman Doug Jones to reach out and engage the community. I noted (and note again today) that our newly minted chief elected official deserved credit for not only charting a new course for public participation, but also for recognizing that the board, and the government it leads, have credibility issues with the public they serve.

I was struck by how the chairman’s honesty and candor resonated with the community. I was struck by how much his message buoyed a sinking public confidence. I was struck by how a simple admission of a problem and proposal of a solution boosted faith in our new chairman and his equally sincere and committed vice chairman, Susan Moran. Through posts, e-mails, and personal contact, I have been struck by the feedback that this simple gesture has elicited. Our citizens are thirsty for positive change and hopeful that it is indeed upon us. They reached out to me, and I to them, to provide opinions and suggestions on how to cure the crisis of confidence.

Along with the feedback, I have also received an abundance of suggestions on how to improve our town from a sampling of citizens who represent the full range of tiles in the mosaic of the community. From the coffee shop prognosticators to the soccer field soothsayers, from town employees to local employers, the feedback has been abundant—and constructive.

Here, then, for your consideration, Mr. Chairman, are some collected and collective thoughts on next steps in your quest for a better Falmouth:

Fix The DPW. With total spending topping $11 million annually, the Department of Public Works represents roughly 10 percent of our total spending, more than any other municipal department. The evidence is clear and pervasive, and the opinions near unanimous. This is a wayward and rudderless ship, starving for accountability and clear direction. It’s easy for me to simply harken back to the “good old days” of Bill Owen and George Calise, but no project was initiated, carried out, or completed without their meticulous attention and scrutiny. If that same attention to detail existed today, would we really have a public construction project blocking a major road (as in Falmouth Heights Road this past week) that leads to a major economic engine (the Island Queen ferry to Martha’s Vineyard) during the kickoff to the summer season? Despite the fact that the failed state boat ramp in East Falmouth was a state-funded project, wouldn’t attentive public works oversight have prevented a ramp that is now essentially inoperable, limiting the very public access it was purported to enhance? These are just the two most recent examples. From a transfer station that was promised years ago to make money, and doesn’t, to vacant positions that cannot be filled because the word is out in the industry of the tyrannical treatment of employees, the sorry state of our public works infrastructure is old news—but today’s primary challenge. The board of selectmen, acting with their full authority as the board of public works as designated in the town’s charter, should set clear, measurable goals for accountability and firm policies for oversight to rein in this multi-pronged monster of a challenge.

Value Our Human Infrastructure. The recent donnybrook between the fire union and the town manager was not an isolated dustup. It was a symptom of a larger and burgeoning disease of the deliberate devaluing of our human resources—our employees—who are our neighbors, friends, and part of the fabric of our community. Here’s just one of many examples: The next time you see one of our police lieutenants, please thank them for their service, then ask them why they have served without a contract since their positions were created more than three years ago. Our senior law enforcement officers, who command each shift and are the operational backbone of our street patrols, come to work every day knowing that some of them make less than the sergeants they supervise. How can this be construed in any other way than an affront to the people who put their lives on the line for us each day? As the officials ultimately responsible for collective bargaining agreements, the selectmen should put their resentments on the shelf and work something out. Today.

Open The Town’s Books. I went on the town’s website and searched for “FY16 Budget,” the yearly municipal spending plan that began this week. I got almost nothing, save for a budget message from last December and the Town Meeting warrant from April. For a town that spends more than $110 million of public resources annually, that represents a staggering lack of transparency in explaining how those millions are spent. I found no detail on the decision-making, and no invitation to share in the process. If we are to be truly engaged in our government, we must be allowed behind the curtain to see how it is funded. That’s good government—and that’s what we need. Many communities abide by the guidelines of the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) in the construct of their published budget. This format provides narrative, graphical, and detailed information on all facets of municipal spending. Don’t we deserve at least that? The selectmen should set a policy to do the same and publish the GFOA compliant budget on the website.

These are just a few priorities that resulted from the enthusiasm of the chairman’s initiative and resulting outreach. I am hopeful that this “to-do list” helps to continue our local leaders on that same positive course

A Brave New World of Public Participation

Noted and recognized as the founder of modern management, consultant, professor and author Peter Drucker noted that “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

I have written often in this space recently about the struggles of our local managers to do things right. Project after project seems doomed by a lack of accountability, planning, and attention to detail. When you couple that with the tight-lipped disdain shown to citizens and commentators who try to see behind the curtain and understand and provide input on decisions, the lack of confidence that is the constant subject of conversation in the coffee shops is not only understandable, it’s natural.

While leadership is not a panacea for this management malaise, having a good dose of it in the corner conference room would certainly help score an uptick in the aforementioned areas of accountability and attention to detail—and that is just what newly appointed chairman Doug Jones intends to do.

As I discussed with him his goals and objectives for his year as Falmouth’s chief elected official this week, he displayed a refreshing and even uplifting acknowledgment of a credibility problem with our local elected and appointed leaders. He aptly and frankly noted that “if there is a perception of inaction, then in some ways that’s a reality.” He followed up that welcome candor with a series of objectives designed to increase public awareness, engagement and, with both of them, the good government cornerstones of trust and confidence.

Peter Drucker would be pleased. Doug Jones is doing—or at least saying—the right things. Simply by recognizing and admitting that the board of selectmen, along with those who report to them, have work to do in building public confidence and credibility, he is demonstrating some sorely needed leadership.

When asked what objectives might fulfill that goal, Doug outlined a clear plan for outreach in many forms specifically designed to get in touch and get feedback from the citizens he serves. He noted that he would like to, “Make the board more accessible and open up input from people so they have a voice.” What may sound routine and elementary is actually a breakthrough—and deserving of praise. He specifically identified the town’s outdated and clunky website as a priority in this plan of increased outreach, sharing that he would like to see a community calendar providing detailed information on upcoming meetings or events, inviting the public to engage and participate. He also suggested that the website should be easy to access and navigate and asked a rhetorical but nonetheless important question: “How can we increase access to the town’s information?” The mere posing of that question is progress.

We discussed the importance and ubiquitous nature of social media and both agreed that it is an important adjunct to a web presence. He was upbeat and energized. He was sincere and forthcoming with acknowledging the town’s faults. He appears to have a genuine desire to make things better. The local leadership meter is ticking forward steadily.

I have been a frequent critic of town hall. Nonetheless, those who labor there continue to supply ample material to fill this space with lamentations. As I took an evening drive this week along Menauhant Road and my newly repaired tire rims screamed out in agony as I plunged into a series of dungeons of grooved pavement that were neither marked nor identified, I openly lamented the lack of basic information and cautions of road hazards coming from our public works professionals and watched as other car drivers suffered a similar fate, throwing their hands in the air in a combination of exasperation for the condition of the road and annoyance that their brief detour toward dented rims came without warning.

Doug’s brave new world of public involvement would change events like that from a banner for bad government to a sprezzatura for social media. From a website that engages, not confuses, its citizens, to social media posts that provide up-to-the-minute information to a plan to engage a weary citizenry, I have hope that this brave new world may be more than fiction.

I’ll give Doug credit for laying out a plan. I’ll even give him kudos for emerging as a leader. We can all judge the progress that ensues

Don Terry - Conqueror of Comcast

Don Terry has been to the pinnacle of power. He was a witness to and a participant in the unfolding of one of the great stories of political intrigue and presidential politics in our nation’s history. Over the course of more than five decades, his political and legal skills have brought him to the apex of administrative responsibility—both at home and abroad—yet one of his most cherished legal victories came very recently—and very locally.

To fully appreciate his legal prowess, though, Don’s journey to and residence in Falmouth should be put in the perspective of his long, successful, and storied career. As a young Congressional staffer in Washington, DC, Don was enmeshed in the issues of the day and, like most Americans, was fascinated and enthralled with the unfolding indignity and maneuvers coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On a quiet Saturday in October of 1973, as Don sat with his wife, Denise, enjoying family time and television with their three young daughters, the disturbing news unfolding on the screen caused him to ring his boss. Although it was not unusual for him to make such a call on a Saturday, as Rep. Jerome Waldie (D - California) was a member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and leaned on his young staff attorney for advice and support, this call was no ordinary work call, as this was no ordinary Saturday night. After a brief conversation with the congressman, the young staffer was instructed to stand by—and to be ready for a long weekend of work.

President Nixon had just lowered the professional guillotine on Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, precipitating the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, setting ablaze an already smoldering fire of discontent and distrust toward our nation’s chief executive. When Rep. Waldie phoned Don back after what would later be coined the “Saturday Night Massacre,” he simply inquired, “How much do you know about impeachment?” Although our Falmouth friend’s knowledge was limited at the time, he was about to learn a lot more. He got to work immediately and spent the next couple of days working around the clock, drafting articles of impeachment for President Richard M. Nixon that were filed the following Tuesday, something that had only happened once before (and, of course, once since). Don was not only witness to history: he wrote it.

We all know what happened next. The next several months were a high-stakes chess game, with Nixon finally checking out in August of 1974 before Congress issued the ultimate checkmate of a vote and subsequent trial of impeachment. That was not, however, the end of Don Terry’s contribution to the American experience. He continued his service in a variety of capacities, including as deputy assistant treasury secretary under President Carter and later national ethics czar. He finished his distinguished career working for the World Bank in international development and today consults for the United Nations as the world’s leading expert on the economic significance of remittances, the money sent back to countries of origin by migrant workers. He retired to Falmouth with his wife and enjoys his adopted hometown, giving back as vice president of the Carousel of Light, working tirelessly on behalf of Falmouth’s hometown merry-go-round.

And yet, given his stellar contribution to mankind and all the luminaries with whom he has worked and conversed, I saw Don’s face illuminate like the national Christmas tree and his eyes glisten like the golden dome atop the Massachusetts State House as we shared breakfast at the Country Fare on Main Street, and he told me of his recent legal triumph, and victory, for the common man and woman. His David and Goliath conquest is for all of us who are weary customers of the faceless business behemoth and government-sanctioned monopoly that is Comcast and those who are tired, frustrated, and just plain sick of ever-escalating fees and ever-poor service from their cable provider.

After receiving a flyer in the mail from Comcast enticing him to partake in its “triple play” promotion, where a single price for phone, Internet and cable would give him maximum connectivity at a minimum price, Don called and enrolled. Shortly thereafter, an oxymoronic customer service representative reached out and told him that his triple play had struck out, as the promotion was only for new customers. Remember, this is a savvy, experienced barrister and public administrator with whom Comcast was unwittingly messing. Don informed Comcast that he considered his original conversation and sign-up to be a verbal contract and that he was holding Comcast to its promotional price. They resisted, then refused.

Most of us in this situation would simply yield out of futility to the nameless behemoth and go about our days as an unsatisfied, trampled and trodden customer, but not Don Terry. The man who took on Nixon rallied and railed against his next Goliath. He filed a claim in small claims court, holding Comcast to its commitment, and calling it out on its triple play bait-and-switch.

The good guy won. After an appearance in court and some negotiations, Don held Comcast to its promotional price, scoring far more than triple play savings. He scored a home run of hope for all of us. Don’s willingness to stand up to the anonymous greed of a corporate giant may just inspire the next recipient of a broken Comcast promise to fight back as well.

From the pinnacle of power to the peak of American politics, Don Terry has amassed many titles, but none so glorious as his most recent: Conqueror of Comcast. Well done, my friend. Well done.

Losing Falmouth's Mentor

The term mentor originates from Homer’s great epic “The Odyssey,” where Odysseus enlisted the support of his old friend Mentor to look after, counsel, and teach his son Telemachus. Wikipedia tells me that the definition evolved from that point to mean “someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.”

This week, Falmouth lost a mentor. Someone who, like the mythological friend of Odysseus, looked after, counseled, and taught countless Falmouthites on good government, good relationships, and just being good, then imparted that wisdom to everyone he met. Eddie Marks was Falmouth’s mentor. He was my mentor. He was my friend. Today, there is a hole in the soul of our community at the news of that enormous loss, but we are a better, richer, and, yes, more wise community because of the life, the service, and the generous personal gifts of Edward L. Marks Jr.

I was most certainly a less experienced colleague when I was elected to the board of selectmen in 1993. Eddie had already logged decades of service by then—at the fire department, the finance committee, and the board of selectmen. He called me “kid” and “young man.” I, in turn, called him “old man.” Truth is, we were both like a couple of little kids, exploring government and good times together, making mischief while making a difference. We served with a unity of purpose, making policy and making memories—and working to make Falmouth a little better, one meeting, one issue, one smile at a time. Along our journey together over the next decade, he told and then showed me the keys to effective public service—listening and laughter. He told and then showed me the value of relationships. He told and then showed me that a drink after a meeting could accomplish as much—probably more— than any policy manual or regulation every could. We listened and laughed. We forged long-lasting relationships—with each other and with others. And we had fun.

A couple of years ago, I penned some thoughts in a column that capture what I then called “The Marksian View.” Here is that homage to Falmouth’s mentor:

“There is indeed no substitute for experience. Experience coupled with a sharp and accurate memory is an even greater and more powerful tool in the public policy arena. I’m a firm believer that anecdotal evidence and storytelling are just as useful in the policy-making continuum as empirical evidence and hard data. Last Saturday was a case in point. As I enjoyed a sun-drenched walk down Main Street, old friend and perennial good-natured gadfly Andy Dufresne zipped past me with the top down on his convertible, and upon grabbing a fleeting glance, pulled over and beckoned me over. Andy frequently captures me mid-stream during my weekend treks, and we always enjoy an affable if robust discussion of local issues. This week was different, though, and wound up being one of the more enjoyable Saturday mornings I’ve spent in some time. Our conversation turned to our mutual friend, former colleague, and all-around good guy, former selectman Eddie Marks. I jumped in the convertible, and Andy and I sped over to Perch Pond Circle, where we enjoyed a couple of cups of Rosie’s homemade brew (coffee, that is), and chatted with one of Falmouth’s legendary public servants on everything from former Police Chief Gene Kulander to the old cupola at the former Mullen-Hall School, which Eddie labored to save and restore.

“The guest list on our visit to the Falmouth of yesteryear included such local government stalwarts as former Finance Committee Chair Bill Smith, former Moderator and financial watchdog himself Bob Marshall, parliamentarian and respected Town Meeting Member Elizabeth Buckbee Lindtner, former Selectmen George DeMello and John Elliot, and former Enterprise newsguy Hugh McCartney. We reminisced about a bygone era, when opinions were expressed, sometimes vehemently, but participants in a debate always parted as friends—likely after a few drinks. We lamented the lack of camaraderie in politics today—in Falmouth and beyond. We chatted about projects on which we worked, from the Church Street bridge in Woods Hole to saving Highfield Hall, to the sidewalk on Acapesket Road. No history book, or, with all due respect to scribes like myself, newspaper account, can produce the detail, emotion and perspective of a steadfast and passionate veteran of local government like Eddie.

“Eddie’s capacity to retain and recount the specifics of the development of plans, budgets and projects—on the details of the sausage making that is public policy, even these many years later—is uncanny. He remembers specific debates and discussions from 20 or so years ago that have long since vacated my much younger and supposedly more spry and agile noggin. Andy and I left Eddie’s after having our fill of hot coffee and cool conversation—he in the convertible and I to finish my walk—but I once again learned that some of life’s best lessons, and some of the richest sources of information, lie far outside the classroom and are nowhere in print. That’s the Marksian View.”

I shared some of these same memories with Eddie when I visited him Sunday at Falmouth Hospital, hours before the end of his earthly journey. I believe he heard me. I believe I passed along the love and affection of a grateful community. I held his hand and told him how much he was adored—by me and by Falmouth. And I believe he knew. He taught us all those Marksian lessons far outside—but far more important—than those in the classroom. I will always believe he knew.

Tip O’Neill said that “all politics is local.” Eddie personified that phrase. He was the consummate public servant—constantly working on projects to make the town a better place by honoring its past. From that Mullen-Hall cupola to the water fountain on the library lawn that honored a long-since passed town counsel, to his dedication to his beloved Teaticket, Eddie taught me—and us—that local government works because of local people; and he was one of the best local people I ever knew.

In the online guestbook containing Eddie’s obituary and service information, another respected local, Daniel “Pup” Gould, captured the sentiment of a sad but thankful community with his words: “Eddie, You were an old-fashioned leader; the type we need more than ever. You were honest, reliable and responsive to your community. Perhaps the best characteristic was that you were humble and treated all citizens with respect. Fair winds.”

Well said, Pup. Yes, Eddie, my mentor and my friend, fair winds to you as you soar on eagle’s wings and shine like the sun on your journey to your next great community

A Praiseworthy Public Decision

I’m not sure if it was at the 7th-grade dance in the Lawrence School gym, where the light blue glittery eyeliner sparkled and caught my eye, or during band practice with Joe and LaVada Studley at Falmouth High School (we both played the sax), but early in my relationship with one of my favorite Falmouthites, Karen Karson, I knew we’d be friends forever. One of her specialties in junior high and high school was baking cookies—one of mine has always been eating them.

But our relationship goes way beyond cookies.

We share, and have always shared, the same values. Our shared commitment to family, hard work, public service, kindness toward and service to others, as well as our shared Italian-American heritage and love of all things gastronomic, have always bound us together. Of course, neither Karson nor Clarkson have an Italian ring to them. Karen’s maiden name is Antonucci, and my mom’s maiden name is Baroncelli; we are both proud of our heritage and the families who gave us our names and our values.

It is a continued commitment to those values that has kept our relationship strong for more than 30 years. One night many years ago, Karen came to the house for dinner. We also invited my old pal Doug Karson—with whom I had worked and forged a friendship during our time together working for Don Quenneville and Ernie Keating at Otis ANG Base. Doug and I wrote news releases and biographies together back then. Now, these years later, we continue to write the tale of our lives together. That fateful night, Doug and Karen came separately to dinner. They left as curious acquaintances (Doug thought she was a bit boisterous), became friends, blossomed into soulmates, and recently celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary. Their sons Jack and Anthony, who have grown from cute, giggling babies into fine young men, are great athletes and great citizens who possess those same values and commitment to family.

It is through that lens of a rich and mutual history that I viewed Karen’s recent courageous announcement that she was stepping down from her position as principal at North Falmouth Elementary School to take a teaching job at Morse Pond. Frequently, we admire and publicize public figures as they climb the ladder of prominence and offer kudos and esteem at their attainment of new titles and levels of distinction. Rarely do we offer similar regard and commendation when our trusted public servants make personal decisions in the most important interest—that of their family. Today, however, is just such an occasion.

Karen’s decision to leave an administrative position and return to the classroom to teach our young Falmouthites mathematics and help shape their future—a critically important skill in today’s technology-based society—is not simply noteworthy. It is praiseworthy. In an interview on her decision, Karen noted that, “Quite frankly, I need to spend more time with my family…I’m doing this basically because it’s best for my family.” That kind of sincere, honest, and humble step toward a stronger family and public statement explaining it to an entire community is rare in our public officials today. Let me be among the growing chorus of locals to openly thank Karen for reminding all of us what’s important—and having the courage to do it in such a public way. Jack and Anthony will become better parents, citizens, and men through the example set by their mom and my friend.

Too often, we judge others by our own sense of their status—by what it says on their business card and the value we place on that title. The real value of the people we meet on life’s journey, though, is in the significance of the names that others call them: mom, daughter, sister, and friend. Karen excels in all of those roles. For that, she has my love and admiration—and should have yours

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