Troy's Take: Trophies For Town Meeting Talent
By: TROY CLARKSON, April 14, 2014
On a recent Sunday night, Donna and I stood in line in the biting cold and swirling wind on Main Street along with at least a dozen other dedicated (if not a bit crazy) Falmouthites to get a Dairy Queen. That can mean only one thing: it is springtime in Falmouth.
Another sure sign of the coming printemps is our local democracy bee at the Lawrence Memorial Auditorium, our Annual Town Meeting. That can only mean one other thing: Town Meeting Trophies.
Our local legislators spent some time this week debating several substantial issues, while loquaciously vying valiantly for these coveted awards. This year’s winners included some perennial competitors, as well as some new hardware recipients.
The TMT for best quotable quote was, as always, hotly contested. Deb Siegal earned a spot in the finals with her impassioned and sincere “that is our job” comment when referring to Town Meeting’s fiduciary duty to residents, and Lin Whitehead nearly grabbed her first trophy when she noted that “we’ve got a lot of just-in-cases” when lamenting the multiple stabilization funds being established by Town Meeting. This trophy had a clear winner, though. Venerable veteran of Town Meeting George Hampson offered a humorous truism that gained both laughs and support when he quipped, “Make the beautiful people pay” when referring to graduated costs for outdoor water usage. Well said, George. Enjoy your well-deserved recognition.
The Watchdog TMT goes to former town accountant Mary Ellen Alwardt for her astute analysis of some complex language related to the wind turbine article and her proper challenge to some not-so-straight answers from up on the stage. It’s always encouraging when a citizen with skills and experience in a particular area brings them to the floor to benefit the community. Here’s hoping that this is the first of many recognitions for this valued former employee and financial steward.
Several thorough, thoughtful, and meaningful presentations were made on a variety of significant issues by some dedicated locals. From turf at the high school to water in our homes, our local legislators took great care to vet the issues, process the information, and get it right. Several excellent presentations contributed to that exercise in good government. The TMT for Best Presentation was tightly contested. Mike Duffany lived up to his reputation as one of Falmouth’s finest volunteers and doers with his explanation of the successful turf field initiative for Falmouth High School. Linda Davis came close to a trophy for her sincerity on the wind turbine debate, reminding Falmouth’s elected decision-makers of their duty to all citizens. This TMT, though, goes to new recipient Kathy Driscoll for her detailed and earnest presentation in an uphill battle to convince voters to oppose voting for a water filtration plant. She presented her facts with a deft respectfulness yet sprinkled in some humor, reminding attendees that most water swirls down the toilet, not down our throats. Although the vote didn’t go her way, Kathy was a class act and served her fellow legislators well.
The Best Donnybrook TMT goes to the night two bouts between Moderator David Vieira and Town Meeting member Leslie Lichtenstein. As our local legislators grappled with multi-million dollar questions late in the evening, Leslie criticized the selectmen for placing such weighty issues later in the warrant. A dustup ensued, and words were exchanged, with the moderator acting less than moderately, openly scolding Leslie and reminding her that a motion could be made to adjourn. It was, and everyone went home, perhaps feeling a bit uneasy at a less than friendly conclusion to the evening. Leslie gets a TKO for keeping her cool; the moderator gets a Linda Davis-esque reminder of the duty to serve.
Ralph Herbst gets the Comic Relief TMT for his perhaps unintentional explanation of the turf field project, when he noted that the field will be used “375 days a year.” The moderator did compete for this lighthearted honor when, on night three, he offered a speaker a 30-second extension and noted that he did not have a stopwatch, and Ron Smolowitz competed with his night three jab at Fox News, but Ralph goes home with a trophy and we all get a chuckle.
More Troy's Take
The Badge of Bombast, the dubious distinction of a speaker long on wind and light on content is a recurrent bauble for wordy veterans like Rich Latimer and Dan Shearer. Both of those competitors, though, were generally focused and succinct in their remarks at this year’s legislative bonanza. This year’s badge, though, was a runaway win for departing Selectman Brent Putnam. He assured his own special place in this vaunted category when, during a lengthy debate on night two relative to the town’s big ask to construct a water filtration plant, he declared that he would offer the Reader’s Digest version of his comments, then proceeded to offer a blustery soliloquy that was certainly the long version of his opinionated tome.
Democracy works. Sometimes it is indeed a bit cumbersome and messy, but it works. In Falmouth, it works well. Kudos to our local legislators for reminding us of that.
(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.)