Quick, name the Grafton Board Of Selectmen’s biggest accomplishment in the 2018-2019 year.
Go on. I’ll wait.
During Grafton TV’s Selectmen candidate Q&A session*, Board Chairman and candidate for re-election, Sargon Hanna, repeatedly suggested that, despite Grafton’s pressing fiscal issues, our real priority should be “unifying” the board of Selectmen within itself and encouraging other boards and committees to march to our beat. Careful to clarify that he’s not looking to stifle dissent, Hanna called for “respect” to be paid to the Board, and that egotism and polarization were our challenges moving forward.
Geez, I wonder what he meant and who he was talking about.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that he’s right, and that the five of us are so thin skinned and petty that we can’t get out of our own way. If that’s the case, why does the town even need us? Why do you, as a voter, need to put up with five nincompoops who take such offense to having their egos squashed that they can’t be bothered to work in unison toward the town’s best interest? In particular to Hanna, he was chair of the Board all year. Were our personality issues really such huge impediments that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t bring us together? Is that why we achieved nothing this year? After all, whatever did or didn’t happen this year, it happened on his watch. Does the buck stop with him? If not, what kind of leadership is that?
But let’s be more charitable to him, and assume he’s either wrong or deflecting through exaggeration. And the facts bear this out – there were relatively few close votes or contentious issues this year. We had two 3-2 votes all year long by my count. One was Gene Ploss, the other was the Grafton sustainability commission. So, it doesn’t seem as though “unity” was the reason we didn’t accomplish anything.
And unity wasn’t the reason we never disagreed, either. The reason we didn’t battle more was because we didn’t tackle any issue worth arguing over. In the face of a million dollar deficit that everyone with a brain saw coming, we chose to kick the can down the road all year. We didn’t tackle fiscal issues. Spinney and I were talked down to for addressing the budget at all. We basically handed out one day liquor and beer licenses all year long. That, my friends, is on our leadership and has nothing to do with personality.
Hanna seems to be running for re-election on what he’s going to do going forward, and is the only incumbent I can think of to not even bother telling you what he did for three years, and one spent as chair. Why not run on that? After all, as Board chair, he could’ve rolled out of bed on any given morning and decided that he was going to tackle our fiscal issues or conduct fact finding, or pave the way for an override in 2020 at the very next meeting. He chose not to.
I’ve served one year on Planning Board, three years on the Affordable Housing Trust, and three years on Finance Committee. This was – by far – the easiest year I’ve ever spent in town government in terms of workload. We just never did anything of substance all year.
My singular focus coming into office was next year’s deficit. I approached Hanna about the GSC as a concept in August. I floated the idea in a meeting in September. It went nowhere. I opposed projections showing $1,000,000 in new growth next year. I was right, but still accosted by Jenn Thomas and the TA. We had two TriComm meetings that accomplished nothing, except a head-nod by everyone toward the GSC.
I worked on the GSC charge. School Committee approved it. Finance Committee approved it. Hello board unity, amiright?!?
Jenn, Sargon and Craig voted it down this week in part because they don’t need “13 people with no idea what they’re doing” questioning how we operate. In related news, Sargon thinks “negativity” is why more people don’t get involved in local government.
To be honest, things didn’t get combative at all until I made a stink about the early renewal of the Town Administrator’s contract. Then things got ugly. Now I’m the bad guy, and we need “Board unity”. This alone should tell you all you need to know.
So, instead of doing the one thing the board is really charged with doing – tackling the big issues – we demurred and declared that debating these issues, like the budget and governing philosophy generally, was “negative” and that demands that we take it seriously were “egotism”.
We defeated the GSC in the face of a million dollar deficit next year with no plan to address this issue moving forward.
And we all know why it was defeated. Because I proposed it. Polarization and ego, indeed.
Vote May 21.
* debates require a back and forth exchange. Can we all grow up a little and acknowledge that pre-packaged Q&A sessions out of public view are crap, and that ideas should be vetted in the market place of intelligent discourse? Maybe?