One of the enduring images of this week’s Town Meeting, one of the true slices of Americana left for us to experience and savor, was Moderator David Vieira encouraging a group of young Girl Scouts who had helped kick off our autumn local legislative session. “Girls, one of you could be up here some day,” he noted to them, offering both encouragement and a challenge to tomorrow’s leaders that one of them could indeed sit in the moderator’s seat one day. What made this more special is that one of those scouts was his daughter Emma. Our system isn’t perfect, but in moments like that, if feels pretty close to it.
After the Scouts and Brian Boru Pipe Band, who offered their usual stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace,” filed out, school Superintendent Lori Duerr reflected on her year at the helm of the Falmouth Public Schools, showing a video that highlighted many of the events from the last year, most notably the completion of the new multi-purpose field at Falmouth High, the launching of a high school drama program, and the highest-ever score for the Falmouth High Band in competition. As she concluded, she offered an emotional and gratitude-filled thank-you and received sustained applause. She clearly appreciates her Falmouth family, and it’s clear that they appreciate her.
It was a great couple of nights for local democracy. On, then, to the annual Town Meeting Trophies (TMT), our take on our local democracy bee and recognition of those whose contributions (or transgressions) deserve note.
The Marital Dedication Award goes to my wife and Town Meeting member Donna Buckley, who did her civic duty and showed up to legislate despite it being our wedding anniversary. The Don’t Share Unless You Can Share With The Whole Class Award goes to Assistant Town Manager Peter Johnson-Staub, whose stealthy visits to the moderator to whisper in his ear on more than one occasion were bad optics and unnecessary in today’s era of transparency.
Speaking of transparency, finance director Jennifer Mullen and her team get a Crystal Clear Transparency Award for the progress they’ve made on an outstanding and detailed presentation in the Town Meeting handout. Our local legislators are truly equipped with all they need to make informed decisions on our spending. Mike Duffany also gets a Take One For The Team Award for his evolving approach to the stretch code. Being a Green Community will be a huge step forward for the town, and Mike’s support of moving forward was meaningful progress.
The Tilting At Windmills Award (pun surely intended) goes to Ron Zweig, whose thoughtful and detailed presentation against a request for $2.3 million to dismantle the turbines in favor of another ballot vote was nonetheless soundly defeated. His intentions were well placed, his initiative was not. The Appeals Court of the Commonwealth, Town Meeting—and the community—agree that it’s time to move on. The courts have spoken. The people have spoken.
The You Can Fight City Hall Award goes to petitioner Nathan Holcomb, whose thorough but clear and plainspoken attempt to bring some reasonableness to the town’s wetlands regulations received a good and courteous debate. It may not have passed, but our legislative process and indeed our form of government is well served by factual and respectful discourse like this. Thank you, Nathan, for setting that tone.
Conversely, the Death Of Decorum Award goes to Moderator Vieira, whose charming and inspirational kickoff to Town Meeting was tempered by his sometimes angry, sometimes combative exchanges with a couple of local elected officials. We pride ourselves on the ability to disagree agreeably. Our moderator did not at times set that tone and live up to that standard.
The Comic Relief Award had some competition this year. Doug Brown’s suggestion that the military conduct some explosives training to help dismantle the turbines inserted some much-needed levity in a weighty discussion. Our near-nonagenarian Town Meeting veteran Andy Dufresne gets a nod for his reminder to his colleagues that he doesn’t care what people think about his votes. However, the exchange between veteran Town Meeting member Ron Smolowitz and the moderator on installing a zip-line at the turbine site also brought some much-needed smiles and takes the trophy.
Staying with the turbines, the Out Of Touch Award goes to former Wastewater Superintendent Gerry Potamis, whose view in singing the praises of the turbines as a “Cadillac” and a “used Cadillac” now is a disservice to those who suffered for years from the impacts of the now-defunct machines. The No-No Award goes to a usually thoughtful Barbara Schneider, whose unfortunate argument on beach nourishment at Menauhant Beach pitted people against one another based on geography, reviving a tired argument of east vs. west in Falmouth that was neither accurate nor helpful.
The Whoops Award goes to Bob Donohue, whose concern that one of the articles was perhaps “putting the horse before the cart” was likely putting the cart before the horse. The Good Listening Award goes to Selectmen Chairman Megan English Braga, whose explanation of why the selectmen supported deferring action on Article 9, which would have taken steps toward acquiring property for a new fire station, demonstrated that citizen feedback can still resonate, and our chief elected officials still listen.
The Nice Nostalgia Award goes to multiple winner Moderator Vieira, who posthumously recognized longtime volunteer and Town Meeting member Scoba Rhodes. Then he introduced his daughter Lynne, who recently returned to Falmouth, successfully ran to represent her neighbors at Town Meeting, and sat in her dad’s favorite seat.
As with all of our local legislative sessions, there were many ups and downs, many moments to savor, and some with a bad flavor. But in the end, our citizens showed up to do the people’s business. That deserves the best award of all.