Let the record show, that in order for a short-handed Select Board to have a binding “majority vote,” the Board needs only a majority of the members present at a meeting, constituting a quorum, to make up the “majority vote.” In other words, if there are only three members of the five member board present, two of those voting members represent a majority, binding vote.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, one of my Select Board colleagues has since complained that we did not postpone the Board’s vote on the Spinney Enterprises Community Host Agreement on August 13 when she was absent, and that in failing to do so, breached some sort of formal or informal protocol.
According to the law, and the charter, we did not. And the record should further reflect that there is no such informal protocol. Majority votes are majority votes. The Spinney Enterprises Host Community Agreement stands. It is incumbent upon Select Board members to take their obligation to be at meetings seriously. If you’re not there, the train sails without you, and so long as we have a of members present, we’ll be acting on matters properly before us. So long as a majority of those members votes in the affirmative, an item will pass.
Do you know how I know that? The same Board member who has been so voiciferous about this issue actually started a meeting just this past May that I was three minutes late to, so that she could re-organize the Board in her favor. Did I complain? No. I was late. I own it.
My overall philosophy to government is a commitment to fairness. The rules need to apply to everyone. And in pursuing that philosophy, I’ve adopted a certain “approach,” which people have complained about. I’m aggressive, confrontational, and argumentative, they say. All true. I’m also passionate, fair, progressive, articulate, smart and absolutely right most of the time. And the only way that I know that I’ll be treated fairly in the future is if my neighbor is treated fairly now. How you are treated before my Board has absolutely no bearing on whether you are from here, or what your last name is. At least, it shouldn’t. And in service of that laudable approach, I suffer no fools gladly and I am more than willing to be unpopular in the name of my cause. Because why not? If you’re in your forties and are still worried about being popular, good Lord, I don’t even know what to say to you.
As members of the Select Board, we are collectively the executive head of the community, responsible for setting policy, overseeing the Town Administrator’s work, and implementing our vision for the Town. Above all, ours is a service role: we are here to serve you, not vice versa. We are here to apply the rules uniformly, and not cut our friends any breaks or look the other way when there are ethical lapses. This is true whether we’re talking about applications for community host agreements or bars on Grafton Common.
And I got to thinking about all of this in the context of the upcoming October 29 Special Town Election to replace Bruce Spinney on the Select Board. Having been on the Board for about fourteen months now, I can tell you that the job is 100% about approach and little if nothing else. We could approach big picture issues, but lately a majority of the Board has actively chosen not to and has taken a hands-off approach to running the town. That could change, but we need Board members who think it should.
We spend maybe 10% of our time on big-picture stuff, and that’s being charitable. Your road? Your kid’s education? Nah, brah. We do one day wine and beer licenses. Exciting! You have an application for that? I’m your guy. You want the Town to work collaboratively with other volunteer town boards and committees like School Board and Finance Committee to figure out its long term financial issues? Well, historically speaking, you’re out of luck. We shun Board members who rock the boat by suggesting such things.
But what if it were different? The Town Charter, which controls the scope of the Board’s authority, dictates that we have oversight of broader policy issues. That’s a pretty wide mandate. Really, the only limit to what we accomplish together is the will of three of five sitting board members.
And it just so happens that we have a position opening and this year the stakes are high. We’re running out of money to fund schools at the same level we have previously. We need to repair roads. We have union contracts coming up for renewal. We have a town administrator contract to coming up for renewal.
How would you like us to approach these issues? The same who-do-you-know way we have before? Or in a way that considers the needs of the enitre community? It just so happens that the choice is up to you on October 29.