Unprecedented? Perhaps. Unexpected? Not at all. Unprepared? Yes, indeed. Unconscionable? Yeah, maybe even that.
The winter storm dubbed the blizzard of 2015 may be behind us, but the debate on its impacts, the analysis of the efficacy of the town’s cleanup, and the snow itself, lingers. Although the storm left record levels of snow on our roads, it also left the makings of a debate on the town’s preparation and its ability and willingness to provide a commodity far more important than salt and plows—information—in an age when that, above all, is critical.
I conducted a post-storm survey in a couple of ways. On Wednesday afternoon, I took a drive around town to make an assessment of road conditions. I would have checked the town’s social media presence to check up on those from home, but the town is still mired in a Flintstone-esque morass of a commitment to traditional (read outdated) communication with the community. I checked Facebook and Twitter and saw lots of consternation and dozens of pictures of snowy front yards, but no updates from Town Hall Square on the status of the cleanup. Not one post, tweet or blog. Even the website, which most communities use as the window into their operations, was slammed shut, save for a courtesy note providing little information.
One bright and transparent light amid the darkness of the town’s unwillingness to join the ranks of open government is the emergency management operation. Kudos to them for a Facebook page that provided excellent information on the shelter and storm safety. They are an example of what our town could— and should—do to connect with its citizens.
During my travels, I snapped a photo of a sign placed by a citizen on Hope Road in Falmouth Heights. The weary citizen posted “Please Plow” on the street sign, making an exasperated appeal for attention. The results were similar on Dartmouth Street, Hawthorne Street, and Green Harbor Road. No homemade signs were placed on those street signs, but nary a plow had seen their homes. For the second phase of my survey, I posted the picture from the ironically named Hope Road on Facebook and asked for comments. Nearly 200 entries later, it was clear that, although opinions varied on the effectiveness of the cleanup, many agreed that information was lacking. There were the usual polarization and rabble-rousing posts, but many offered thoughtful observations. That was good. Most thanked our hard-working and dedicated employees and contractors. That was good, too. Some lamented the lack of resources available to our storm workers. That also was good. What was great was providing residents a forum to discuss their views, suggestions, and lessons. If only the town was listening.
Lots of good in a bad storm. So what can we learn from this? Here are a couple of thoughts:
Those who offered thanks and gratitude for our plow drivers and public safety workers are correct. They are a hard-working and dedicated lot. However, those who questioned the town’s lack of commitment to providing them adequate assets and resources are also correct. I’d like to see the town provide a detailed assessment of personnel, equipment and private contractors assigned to snow removal for the last five years. Are private plow contractor rates staying competitive? I’m thinking no. Is equipment maintained so it won’t break down? I’m thinking no. Do we take care of our plow drivers and public safety people when they’re on for 36 hours? I’m thinking no. I received reports of employees eating freezer-burned frozen hot dogs because no food was available after 24 hours of work. Is that appropriate? Is that valuing our human resources? I’m surely thinking no.
Those who drew a distinction and raised questions about the difference between snow removal on Route 28 on Teaticket Highway versus Route 28 on Main Street are correct. My observations of the same road in the same town in the same storm were the most powerful example of the town’s lack of preparation for and resources allocation to the storm. Black pavement in one area, a collection of moguls just yards away. One is being plowed by the state, the other by the town. That’s not an issue of the drivers, the plows, or the volume of the snow. That is simple resource allocation. The director of the DPW and the town need to make funding and maintaining our equipment, our contractors, and our employees a priority.
Those who wondered how information was being accepted and shared and complained on the lack of it flowing in both directions are also correct. Town officials may not like social media. They may not like the 21st century. They may not even like pesky newspaper columnists who expose their shortcomings—but all three are here for the duration—and must be accepted and embraced. Well, at least the first two must be embraced. Seriously though, the town’s continued inexplicable refusal to reach out and engage its citizens—and to accept questions, suggestions, and yes, criticisms from those same people—is indeed unconscionable.
And before you take to social media or the blogosphere to lament my assessment of the town’s failings, remember the words of the great observer of democracy Alexis de Tocqueville, who noted that, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” The same goes for Falmouth. By highlighting some areas of improvement and stimulating discussion, we can move toward the progress and improvement that we all seek and from which we all benefit.
The war metaphor is commonly used to describe our public policy confrontation of the substance abuse epidemic that is unquestionably the most important and imperative public policy challenge of our time.
Our societal attempts to address the death and destruction wrought by drug and alcohol abuse are often characterized as the “War on Drugs,” or the “Battle against Addiction.” Those descriptions are correct in their metaphorical value, as this is a literal fight for survival, with citizens of all ages, races, creeds, and socioeconomic status dying daily. Addiction and its horrific impacts on our community, our society, and our families are indeed a war; it is a war that we must win.
Locally, several field generals and soldiers are waging this war daily here in our community. From retired General (literally, he’s a general) Don Quenneville, who hung up his flight suit and donates countless hours as chairman of the board for Gosnold on Cape Cod, overseeing addiction treatment and recovery coaching; to Bill Dougherty, whose nonprofit agency, Recovery Without Walls, provides a path to employment, housing, and a sense of purpose for women in recovery; to friends and loved ones who carry the heroin antidote Narcan with them and have helped save dozens of lives in the last year, our community is fighting—together—to win each day’s battle in this overall guerre with the highest of stakes.
Another prominent—if perhaps unheralded—general in the battle against addiction in our community is a person who is dedicating time, resources, and his own efforts to reverse the daunting trends: Sheriff Jim Cummings. I caught up with the sheriff and longtime Falmouthite at his office this week and was able to gain an understanding of the efforts he has brought to the Barnstable County Correctional Facility in an attempt to address addiction among the inmates, a problem for more than 80 percent of those who are housed there.
Sheriff Cummings has embraced a host of approaches—some that are on the cutting edge of corrections—to not only reduce abuse among his inmates, but to help them transition back into productive lives once they leave the structure and protection of being in jail. “I see the same people, the same good people,” noted the former state trooper, who has seen his share of bad guys in a long and distinguished career. He explained and we discussed that, after taking office in 1999, the alarming statistic of more than three-quarters of his inmates with identified substance abuse problems caused the sheriff to seek alternatives to simply caging inmates, then releasing angry, addicted men and women back to the streets of Falmouth and Cape Cod.
One of the tools the sheriff uses, and one that is gaining him national recognition, is the use of the drug Vivitrol with inmates. A non-narcotic drug that reduces cravings for opiates and alcohol, Vivitrol has proven effective, while not being addictive, in reducing substance abuse among inmates. The manufacturer, Alkermes, Inc., even provided the sheriff with 50 free doses to pilot a program at the jail.
The program, initiated and supported by state Representative Randy Hunt, was borne of the fact that nearly half of the inmates who were being processed into the correctional facility admitted a problem with opiates. This program allows the department to be a “drug dealer in reverse,” said our affable sheriff, noting his personal commitment to helping people, some of whom he’s known for decades, get a second, or third chance at life. “I see people with a name I recognize and think they’re too old to be coming back here; then I realize that it’s a son or grandson of someone I know,” he noted, highlighting the generational, and genetic, challenges of substance abuse.
The sheriff’s Vivitrol program has gained recognition nationwide. He just returned from a national conference in Florida discussing his efforts.
He also actively supports a program that provides a defined curriculum and rigid guidelines for inmates interested in comprehensive treatment. Called RSAT (residential substance abuse treatment) this program has seen amazing success, reducing recidivism by more than 40 percent for its participants, and has been recognized by the Department of Justice. The program, coupled with pathways to health insurance, jobs, and post-incarceration counseling and support, is producing appreciable—and amazing—results. A video has been posted on the sheriff’s website, www.bsheriff.net, that powerfully demonstrates the value of this important initiative.
Of course, the naysayers, particularly in today’s society where respectful public discourse is becoming rarer by the tweet, blog, and post, scoff at the costs of providing this level of treatment to prisoners. The sheriff rightfully points out that the cost to house an inmate for a year is about $50,000, so funds dedicated to reducing return visits is money well spent.
Jim Cummings has room for nearly 600 prisoners. Today’s population hovers just over 400. A little more than 100 of them are involved in the Vivitrol program, and 70 are enrolled in RSAT. Jim Cummings, the sheriff, is working hard on the front lines of the battle against addiction to bring victory for his inmates. Jim Cummings, the Falmouth resident and member of the human race, is fighting hard to bring victory for us all. We owe him a debt of gratitude for both
With temperatures hovering recently in the single digits, anything that is 43 degrees sounds like a wonderful warm-up. Tell that, however, to the dozens of Falmouthites and visitors who took a dip in the not-so-balmy 43-degree waters of Buzzards Bay on New Year’s Day to support the Cape Cod Center for Women (CCCW). The problem, of course, was not getting in the water—it was in getting out. With the air temps at least 10 degrees colder than the water, the shivering, shrinking, and shrieking were in plentiful supply. Those outcomes, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm for those gathered to support the critically important work of the CCCW.
As I stood on the beach behind the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, which offered its facility, its warmth, its support, and even its hot clam chowder to participants and supporters, I chatted as others chattered, and marveled at the commitment of these polar plungers, all in the name of supporting an organization which, in its own words, dedicates its time and resources to “building the foundation for a better life for clients to ensure that they do not return to a home life threatened by violence.”
Event organizer, CCCW supporter, and all-around good guy Dr. Greg Parkinson and I stood at the entrance to the Sea Crest, as the aroma of bacon from a sumptuous New Year’s brunch wafted out the door and greeted runners as they completed their races, a five- or 10-kilometer jog, the first leg of the day’s “Run ‘N Dunk” festivities. As runners completed that first leg, rather than revel in their fitness feat to kick off 2015, they instead prepared to disrobe and dive into the frigid waters on Old Silver Beach. “It’s cold outside, but I’m warm inside,” noted the good doc, who has coordinated this event for many years, which raises thousands each year to support the center’s shelter, a safe haven for mothers and their children impacted by domestic violence. The center, however, provides so much more than just a free, 24-hour safe house. It provides a crisis hotline, transportation for its clients, counseling and coaching, child care, and even clothing and toys for children. The money raised by the New Year’s icy bathers helps provide a pathway to new hope and opportunities for families. It helps save lives and change futures. More information is available at www.capeshelter.org.
Attendees understood the warmth felt by Greg. As I chatted on the beach with David Schneider, longtime manager of the Coonamessett Inn, we both chuckled as I wrote in my notebook, my jacket zipped up tight to my chin, a pen clutched in my gloved hand, while he stood on the beach in sockless sneakers, a beach towel wrapped around his shirtless chest. “I’m giving back,” he noted, having learned his focus on philanthropy from one Cape Cod’s most philanthropic businessmen, his boss and our mutual friend, Bill Zammer. David looked intensely at the mighty sea in front of us, the whitecaps seemingly taunting the slowly and deliberately disrobing dedicated dunkers. We watched, as people took selfies and shared smiles on the sand, slowly removing hats, gloves, and other gear, getting ready for the frigid but worthwhile task before them. As I pledged to join him next year, David smiled and quipped that I should because the CCCW is a great organization and Falmouth is a great community. I agreed on both counts.
Sea Crest manager Clark Guinn agreed as well. “Falmouth is a special little town,” he said, smiling broadly as dunkers passed by on their way to the beach. “We live here and we believe in the community,” he continued, as a nervous-looking reveler passed by in a bathrobe. Clark and I shared a knowing glance—that unspoken acknowledgment that we were in the presence of some pretty wonderful—if perhaps a tad crazy—people.
As Greg reminded dunkers that towels were for sale (of course, to raise money for the center), he admonished participants to keep their clothes on until they descended onto the beach. Laughing out loud at the irony of a respected physician telling people to keep their clothes on before getting half-naked on a beach in freezing weather before diving in the ocean, I was filled with warmth myself—not for the warm winter coat that covered me—but for the glowing love of community that enveloped me.
Then, amidst screams, gasps, and yelps, more than 50 supporters took a New Year’s dip in water almost cold enough to freeze, to benefit people they would probably never meet. Some darted in and out, others lingered for a bit, somehow savoring their frigid adventure. All emerged from the ocean with smiles bursting through their chattering teeth, knowing the good work they had done.
The last to leave the frosty water was Rick Kelly, a Falmouth resident who told me that he finds the event “refreshing.” His nearby friend clarified. “He’s a retired Mass state trooper, a Marine, and he’s nuts,” was his warmly clad buddie’s assessment. Rick’s retort encapsulated the day for all in attendance, I’m sure for a grateful organization, and certainly for a grateful community. This dedicated public servant, who spent a lifetime serving others and still does so in retirement, offered words of simple wisdom. “We love Falmouth. This is a nice event for a great cause,” he said, standing on the beach in his bathing suit, sharing the warmth of his generosity.
Well, Rick, Dr. Greg, and the Cape Cod Center for Women, Falmouth loves you back
My old pal Ron (Ronnie D.) DeSouza, a schoolboy friend from Davisville Road, and I would ride around town in his hand-painted lime green Grand Torino station wagon, listening to the Blues Brothers on an 8-track player and taking in the sights. He’d pick me up at my part-time place of employment, John’s Liquor Store, and we’d be off on a Falmouth adventure. We’d stop into D’Angelo’s on Main Street, which was a tiny wood-shingled building across from where its larger cousin is today, and grab a steak and cheese with extra cheese and onions. As we pulled out and looked at the strange A-frame structure that was the “Blueberry Muffin” restaurant (previously the House of Wong and Mary’s Dream), we’d race toward Davis Straits, waving to brothers Jack, Richie, and Bob Burke at their new venture, Jack & the Beanstalk, at the site of the old Howard Johnson’s, now the Bank of America at Falmouth Heights Corner. We’d roll past Stop & Shop (now Staples), wave to Officer Bob Ronayne running radar in Falmouth Plaza, then maybe hit some balls at Joe’s Driving Range (Teaticket Park).
Our adventure would then take us for some arcade games above Ben Moreland’s dry cleaners at the Davisville lights before heading back downtown for band practice at Fuller Field behind the white-shingled, World War II-era Gus Canty recreation building. After a couple hours of direction from Joe and Lavada Studley and the enthusiastic leadership of drum majors Mike Marotta and Heather Stone, we’d jump back into Ronnie’s green machine, riding down Scranton Avenue past Brantz and Wendy Bryant’s Regatta and take a ride along the coastline, maybe stopping in at Mike and Kathy Miller’s Food Buoy in Woods Hole before screaming back up Woods Hole Road (hoping that Officer Ronayne was not still running radar) before grabbing a pizza for dinner at Paul’s (some good things stay the same).
Those were carefree days. All we had to worry about was showing up at Falmouth High School, listening to the morning announcements from principal Peter Clark, hearing the news of the day from Craig Stevens on the closed-circuit TV, and doing our days learning with educational standouts like Paul Cali, Rick Grunin and Tony Casso.
Besides Paul’s Pizza, some other Falmouth things in the local consciousness then are still present today. In our carefree youth, we had no idea that the topic of wastewater was as omnipresent in the local discourse as much then as it is now. Back then, a raging debate on the site of a new wastewater treatment facility was hotly and frequently debated at the lunch counter at Christopher’s Restaurant (now CVS at the Stop & Shop lights). Falmouth legend has it that as far back as 1909, the existence of a raw sewer outfall pipe in Woods Hole facilitated a debate on the need and location of a treatment facility. When an engineer recommended a Fay Road sewer plant, many neighbors objected, leading to decades of discussion and debate, culminating in the 1980s with the construction of a new facility off Blacksmith Shop Road where the current plant stands today.
During the 1980s chapter in this sewer saga, when consultant CDM recommended the Blacksmith Shop Road site, I’m sure neighbors who lived in the area raised concerns about building a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and associated infiltration basins on top of a glacial moraine, but the dogmatic will and political muscle were there to get it done.
I’m no geologist, but I know enough about the geology of Cape Cod to know that when the glacier that formed our peninsula melted, it left a big pile of sand, save for one pretty well defined strip of rocks, boulders, and clay known as a moraine. Anyone who has put a shovel in the ground anywhere on Cape Cod knows the former, and anyone who has done the same in the Craggy Ridge neighborhood, which is adjacent to the current WWTP, knows the latter. This question was raised to the experts from CDM, but assurances were made that all was well. The plant was built, and, alas, things didn’t go so well. Less than a decade later, a multimillion dollar upgrade was necessary to improve the infiltration of treated wastewater and relieve the Craggy Ridge neighborhood of foul smells. The experts and intellectuals had a bevy of explanations and excuses, but the simple fact was (and is) this: crap may roll downhill, but it doesn’t roll well through clay and boulders. That blunder cost the taxpayers of Falmouth millions.
Fast-forward a generation and we are back to the future. A current discussion on the location of proposed effluent discharge beds on Research Road to accommodate the proposed Little Pond sewer sounds eerily like a replay of the 1980s debate. I half expect the experts to come out wearing Members Only jackets and “Miami Vice” T-shirts. Although the consultant this time, GHD, is offering similar assurances on the viability of infiltration, the fact remains that the unpredictability of underground water flows in the middle of a glacial moraine is an unsolvable problem. The West Falmouth neighbors have been through enough. These are the same neighbors, by the way, who have been plagued by the noise, flicker, and associated ailments from the wind turbines. They deserve peaceful enjoyment of their own properties. How is it humanly possible to have not learned that lesson?
Yes, much has changed since the 1980s in Falmouth, but ignoring entire neighborhoods for political expediency has not. The reversal of this not-so-sweet smelling poo-pourri of public policy should be the first order of business for the selectmen in the new year.
The gifts are unwrapped. The fridge is packed with colorful Tupperware containers containing untold quantities of unspecified leftovers. “Batteries not included” has become profanity in your home (or at least inspires it). Your family’s version of Cousin Eddie from “Christmas Vacation,” who came on Christmas Eve for the night, is still on your couch in his boxers with a beer in his hand.
Things aren’t all bad. With New Year’s Day opening the door to 2015, Falmouthites from Megansett to Menauhant are looking forward to the arrival of a new annum and are making pledges, promises, and resolutions for the next trip around the sun.
To help out, here are my New Year’s resolutions and wishes for a flock of Falmouthites:
For town clerk Michael Palmer, a consensus for voting locations that resolve the current conundrum. For Representative David Vieira, continued wisdom and patience in moderating and encouraging that solution, met with sufficient kudos from a grateful community for his efforts. For newly minted Senator Vinny DeMacedo, a wish for the kind of acceptance and support he has demonstrated to Falmouth since the November election. He has been visible, involved, and committed to Falmouth issues even before taking office. Let’s hope that Falmouth embraces him similarly.
For FCTV guru Debby Rogers, another successful year of some of the finest community TV around, and for four agreements forevermore. For FCTV’s prolific producer Kevin Lynch, another year of the blessings of healthy family and friends—and more live call-ins on the show. Speaking of FCTV personalities, here’s wishing “Falmouth First” host and eminent barrister Kevin Callahan a year filled with smiles and successes. Falmouth should resolve as a whole to bid new chamber chief Mike Kasparian a fruitful and successful tenure. For those dedicated Falmouthites who are working to preserve Falmouth icon Nobska Lighthouse, much success and perseverance. For the talented thespians at the Falmouth Theatre Guild, another successful crop of shows, and for the Falmouth Education Foundation, much success in helping to expand the minds of Falmouth’s youth and the financial support to help them do it.
Let’s hope that 2015 brings beach superintendent Don Hoffer the support and nourishment (on the beach, that is) that he needs to continue his good works, and that his star employee Jenna Clarkson gets a well-deserved trip to Europe. For Don’s town government brethren at the DPW, particularly Edwin (Rocky) Gomes, continued appreciation for all of his unsung works.
For old friends Jim Bowen and Rich Sherman, a site for a carousel, and for new friends Don and Denise Terry, persistent esteem from their new hometown. For Enterprise publisher Bill Hough, a couple of best-selling books, a new blue apron, and plentiful laughs at the Bear ‘N Boots. On that subject, here’s wishing Main Street’s newest success story on Restaurant Row and its owners, Gates and Kate Rickard, a new year filled with new heights of culinary achievement. For their neighbors and fellow gastrophiles Mark and Cindy Cilfone, a kitchen full of friends and patrons. For Annie Hart Cool, a Valentine’s Day of music and merriment, and for John Salerno, every day of the same.
For Sheriff Jim Cummings, best wishes for his help in the transition to new leadership at the State House, and thankfulness for carrying the message of urgency to our new governor on the critical nature of the need for substance abuse treatment and the scourge of addiction. For all of our law enforcement community, comfort in knowing how their daily sacrifices are valued.
And finally, for Falmouth legend Cathy Norton, an eternity of peace and boundless supply of appreciation from an entire community, and for her family, comfort in knowing how much she was admired and loved.
So as the new year dawns and another goes to bed, many thanks to all of Falmouth for making memories and for coloring each tile of the Falmouth mosaic
Children scurrying around the Village Green, giggling as they glanced up at Santa in his sleigh, positioned for takeoff. Main Street notable Mark Cilfone standing on the sidewalk in shorts, passing out complimentary cups of thick, steaming hot chocolate deliciously topped with an ample swirl of real whipped cream. Across the street, more copious aromas of chocolate were wafting through the dense, cold, December air from Ghelfi’s, as satiated Falmouthites savored seasonal treats. The faint rumbling of a motorcycle and the wail of a siren could be heard in the distance. All these things together mean one thing: the annual Falmouth Christmas Parade.
Sunday’s 51st version of this annual Falmouth holiday event, despite the fact that Mother Nature dished out a bitter and blustery afternoon, was warmly received by the adoring throngs perched on the sidewalk along the route. As Donna and I made our way from Palmer Avenue to our perennial perch in front of Stone’s Barber Shop, we shared holiday hellos with many of Falmouth’s festive.
Eric and Lisa Zmuda took a moment to offer seasonal salutations, just as Dr. and Mrs. Ray Gagnon, joined by their successful son Dr. John, offered a warm family greeting. As we passed Falmouth Police Officer Ron Carpenter expertly directing revelers and traffic scofflaws alike at Shore Street Extension, I noticed a pensive Peter Cook leaning up against a tree, perhaps contemplating his next thespian adventure. There were dogs in blankets with bells on, kittens festooned in Santa hats, and multitudes of Falmouthites wrapped up tightly, anxiously awaiting the day’s event. We passed the former Towne Tavern, where several former loyal merrymakers, including Greg Costa, stood in a vigil of parades past. Across the street, the FCTV crew, including parade veterans Simon Craythorn, Valerie May Douglas, and Tony Sadera, checked and re-checked wires, connections, and camera angles, preparing to bring this Falmouth tradition to those unable to make it to Main Street.
As we arrived at our destination and took our spots on the sidewalk at Stone’s, a wide smile emerged for Donna and me, as we were able to spend the parade with our grandnephew, first-time parade reveler Kolby Kent Macrae, along with his parents, Brittany Clarkson and Brandon Macrae. We were joined by family favorite Derick (Uncle Fred) Sterling just as the reverberating booms of a marching band began.
As always, the parade was nobly led by the Falmouth PD honor guard, including the honor duo, brothers Kevin and Brian Kinsella. Colonially clad, town crier David Vieira followed, announcing the coming festivities. Newly minted chamber CEO Mike Kasparian was an effective ambassador of good will, joined by board member Brooks Bartlett, both proudly presenting Chamber Citizen of the Year Joe Martyna. Our local leaders were well represented, including Congressman Bill Keating, who offered a hearty holiday hug, and his across-the-aisle able colleague, newly elected state Senator Vinny DeMacedo, who also offered a heartfelt holiday halloo. Town manager Julian Suso was smiling broadly and representing the corner office well, ably assisted by selectmen Susan Moran and Sam Patterson, marching in their first parade as chief elected executives. Police Chief Ed Dunne and Fire Chief Mark Sullivan also eschewed their cruisers for a walk downtown.
As the FHS Band serenaded us with perfectly pitched Christmas favorites, a seemingly endless sea of blue, representing Falmouth’s substantial representation in scouting, walked by and waved. Perennial parent leaders Drawde Geishecker and Chris Alves were among the many supporters joining tomorrow’s leaders. The Falmouth Dance Academy, under the leadership and diligent direction of Kim Delalla-Greenlaw, always offers an impressive entry. This year was no exception, as its perfectly timed Christmas-clad dancers took first place in the children’s walking division. The sirens of Falmouth Fire Rescue Department gave way to the Community Emergency Response Team, its parade entry expertly driven by the talented and debonair Dan DiNardo. PIXY 103 fave Lori Lori Welch waved to her fans, as the John Wesley Methodist Church offered “Bicycles in Bethlehem,” an enjoyable entry that garnered first place in the adult walking category.
The Falmouth Theatre Guild, which boasts oodles of loyal performers among its ranks, entertained paradegoers from start to finish. Its cavalcade of local stars included Rob and Robin Bowerman, Dan McSweeney, and Brian Buczkowski, whose stage talents have delighted many a Falmouthite. And speaking of loyal performers, Falmouth’s hometown team, the Commodores, offered its own award-winning entry, taking first place for a children’s float, featuring local notables Steve Kostas, Cheryl Brennan, and town hall’s own Mark Kasprzyk. Local helping hands Neighborhood Falmouth had an entry, including helpers Bobbye Coyle and Davien Gould, and local landscape artisan Paul Miskovsky captured the season beautifully in his expert entry.
As I glanced across the street and caught a seasonal smile from talented crafter Shauna Robinson, enjoying the parade with the dynamic husband and wife duo of Kevin and JoJo Mikolazyk, I heard a hearty “hello!” coming from Rotarian John Vidal, who was comfortably nestled in the cab of his truck, while fellow doers of good works Sean Gallagher and Bill Kerfoot braved the cold. The JML Care Center featured several seasoned citizens on its parade bus, including my friend Kevin’s dad, “Joe Ray” who, at 92 years young, might just have been the most seasoned parade participant.
The enthusiasm—and jollity—was palpable as the Real Cape float shared its music and merriment with the crowd, led by “Hippie” blogger Damien Palanza. The Amvets Post 70 paid tribute to our veterans with its offering, including Phil (Flea) Furtado as its parade ambassador. Seconds later, the “Ho Ho Ho” of the star of the show was heard in the distance, as the Falmouth Elks proudly presented Santa. The man in the red suit even had a bodyguard in BPOE trouper Dutch Drollette.
Making our way back to Palmer Avenue, the hellos kept coming. Donna and I caught up with the lovely Louisa Gould and shared a hug and hello with Falmouth’s first couple, town clerk Michael Palmer and wife, Marie. We noticed that the fragrance of chocolate still floated from La Cucina, so we stopped by to share a post-parade breather with the aforementioned affable Mark Cilfone. As we enjoyed chatter and chocolate, we met new Falmouth residents John and Julie Karas, who retired from Connecticut and now call our community home. They shared what we know—Falmouth has welcomed them and made them feel at home. We continued the journey to our home, warmed by Mark’s hospitality, meeting new friends, and the memories of more magnificent Falmouth moments.
David Vieira is a great conversationalist. As a local native and the state representative representing half of Falmouth, that skill comes in very handy as he makes his way around the district, advocating for and conversing with constituents he has known all of his life and those he has known all of a day.
Performing double duty as Falmouth’s elected moderator, David also knows a thing or two about civic participation and voting. From his early role as the moderator at Falmouth High School’s mock Town Meeting to his work as the legislative leader in American University’s undergraduate government to his roles today in both Falmouth’s and the commonwealth’s legislative bodies, he is undoubtedly also a leading local expert on the legislative process.
Putting all of these skills together, David Vieira knows compromise.
This week, he will bring his conversation and compromising skills to the Falmouth Public Library in an attempt to develop community consensus on the issue of voting in our schools. Following the lead of our own local legislators, who voted in support of a petition article offered by informed local activist Marc Finneran that implored the Falmouth School Committee to reverse its previous decision to cease voting in elementary schools, Mr. Vieira is teaching us all an important civics lesson just by scheduling a forum to discuss the topic.
Much has been written and said for and against the issue of voting in our schools, but David is transcending talk and actually focusing on a solution. Partnering with Enterprise publisher Bill Hough as a co-sponsor, he is hosting a public forum at 7 PM Thursday, December 11, in the library’s Hermann Foundation Meeting Room to present his plan and gather input. He has crafted a plan that preserves what he identified as the top priority—the safety of our young people—but also provides an important focus on voting and civic participation that may very well result in more people heading to the polls to vote in the future, an important and necessary pursuit as well, with voter turnout hovering below 30 percent at most local elections.
“I want voting to become a habit for our young people,” said this Falmouth favorite son when we discussed the issue this week. Who can argue with that? David’s plan, though, is also respectful of those who worked initially to end voting at the elementary schools. His proposal would designate all seven schools as polling locations, and encourages all schools to participate in mock elections in the days leading to the actual voting day, creating the habit he desires. In a further effort to enhance student safety, the plan suggests that election days become professional development days in which students are not attending school, a common practice in many communities. This plan would satisfy the hotly debated safety concerns of some parents while enhancing educational opportunities for local students and maybe, just maybe, opening the world of civics and elections to hundreds of young Falmouthites. This is a compromise where all involved benefit, where all sides of an argument can claim a “win,” and where we both protect and serve our students. It is more than a compromise. It is an accomplishment.
In his own words, David invited a community to have a conversation. He noted that “Falmouth Enterprise publisher Bill Hough and I are convening a forum and directly inviting the Falmouth School Committee, Town Meeting member precinct leaders, Falmouth Board of Selectmen, the Falmouth Educators Association, Cape Cod Collaborative leadership, Falmouth VIPs, Falmouth town clerk, and Falmouth League of Women Voters to discuss building a civic engagement initiative around the concept of educating youth to vote and protecting access at the schools. This initiative is in response to the recent vote of Town Meeting to ask the Falmouth School Committee to reconsider its vote to ban voting in elementary schools.”
Inclusive, comprehensive, and respectful, we need more conversations like this one to tackle public issues. We need more politicians like Dave Vieira to be willing to initiate them.
In his invite to potential attendees, our legislator noted that this dispute, which has lit up social media since Town Meeting’s definitive action, has actually created an opportunity.
“Let’s make civic lemonade out of the lemons that this debate has cultivated,” he quipped, bringing much-needed levity to what has become a politically charged issue. I couldn’t agree more. The compromising conversationalist is making government work for the people it serves. That’s not only good leadership—it’s good government
Prolific American author Louis L’Amour understood local government. His father was a local politician in the Dakota Territory early in the western novelist’s life. So, when he offered his opinions on democracy, he had personal observations as a foundation for his thoughts. On democracy, he noted that, “to make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
Well, Louis L’Amour would have been proud to observe the machinations and deliberations in the Lawrence Memorial Auditorium this week, as Falmouth’s twice-annual living example of democracy unfolded. November Town Meeting brought out our local elected legislators and, staying true to the axiom offered by L’Amour, they participated, contributed, and partook in many important—and lively—debates and decisions.
The advent of the Annual Town Meeting also means that we dust off the coveted cache of baubles for each legislative session, the Town Meeting Trophies (TMTs), and recognize Town Meeting members and other participants for their memorable moments.
To start things off on a high note, the Comic Relief TMT, a highly desirable takeaway for the speaker who delivers the best chuckle-inducing moment or most memorable one-liner goes to Town Meeting newbie Don Mallinson. While pitching his successful bid to ban plastic bags in town, Don recognized the late hour on night two and abbreviated his planned presentation. “The mind can absorb only what the rear-end can endure,” he noted charitably to many appreciative guffaws. We can’t predict how many votes went his way because of his derriere deference, but he nonetheless delivered the best line of the two-night session and deserves his first TMT.
Not all of the discussions were as lighthearted and witty.
There’s always a donnybrook or two when passions run high and dozens of opinions clash in a legislative gathering that brings more than 200 local legislators, elected by their neighbors to represent their village, together to conduct the people’s business. Sometimes, the clashes are humorous. Others not so much.
This week’s parliamentary plenary had a couple examples of dustups: one that fit like an old shoe, familiar and comfortable, and the other that left me shaking my head and would have been best left to the speakers’ imaginations.
There’s always an annual bout between moderator David Vieira and veteran legislator Rich Latimer. This year’s version debating whether the Town of Bourne’s Solid Waste facility is a landfill or a transfer station (it is actually both) was mildly entertaining but did leave me wondering how Rich so easily gets under David’s usually thick skin. It was, however, a good example of passionate democracy unfolding before us and our annual example of two Town Meeting veterans who care enough to bark at each other.
Another example of a Town Meeting tête-à-tête, however, was less instructive. Town manager Julian Suso’s reminder to the attendees that a previous speaker belonged to a public employee union was a naked attempt to discredit both a thoughtful and thorough presentation on an article, and a respected veteran of Town Meeting and Falmouth Fire Rescue. The dubious “Under the Bus” TMT goes to our town manager for his regrettable treatment toward Scott Thrasher.
The Big Winner TMT goes to perennial gadfly Marc Finneran who, after repeated annual attempts to pass legislation with a petition article, actually successfully advocated for two initiatives—both good ideas and both which passed by comfortable margins. Marc effectively championed greater transparency in reporting the town’s legal caseload and convinced Town Meeting to ask the school committee to reconsider its abolition of neighborhood voting in schools. No matter your position on these articles or their proponent, we all owe Marc a debt of gratitude for his perseverance and his willingness to challenge us to build a better Falmouth.
The Honesty TMT goes to town counsel Frank Duffy, whose frank (pun intended) and succinctly truthful answers have merited recognition with a TMT before. When asked a question related to how a road taking in Woods Hole was different from a road taking in East Falmouth, Frank simply answered, “I’m not sure.” If that same level of forthrightness was practiced by all on stage, the session would have likely gone very differently.
The Quintuple P (prior planning prevents poor performance) TMT goes to our town hall senior staff, including the town manager and finance director, for what appeared to be several preventable gaffes that reflected poorly on our corner offices. If they understood the Q-P concept, then perhaps the moderator would have not had to angrily bang the gavel after Article 19 and declare that, “We’re going to take an adjournment and somebody better do the math,” after multiple tally amounts for a $4 million capital plan were offered for the final vote.
Or, perhaps if the town manager had coordinated with the recreation committee before offering up their building for a combined dispatch center, then an important step forward in public safety communications would not have been scuttled.
And, just maybe, if more research had been done on the purchase of a $615,000 town hall annex, then Town Meeting old-timer Andy Dufresne would not have had to publicly admonish the manager. I’m usually proud to be a Falmouthite. There were a few moments this week when I grimaced at that thought.
The Badge of Bombast, the most coveted and prestigious TMT, had a plentiful list of contenders this session. Annual nominees Rich Latimer, Dan Shearer, and even the always pithy Joe Netto were in contention for both the frequency and length of their pleadings. However, a new winner emerged from relative obscurity and took this year’s prize. Bob Donahue, who has been inching his way toward local bombastic notoriety the last few years, has finally reached the promised land of grandiloquence.
So, there were winners and losers for the Town Meeting Trophies at this week’s legislative assembly, but we were all winners being represented by more than 240 Falmouthites who care enough to get elected, get seated, and get heard. Well done.
Here’s the good news: with the election over, we get a reprieve from droning, incessant, negative TV ads on the candidates. Here’s the bad news: our television viewing will now return to droning, incessant ads pitching furniture, cars, and male performance enhancers. Not much of an improvement.
However, here’s some really good news: there is plenty of good stuff going on right here in Falmouth to turn our attention away from all of the nonsense on TV. On Veterans Day, more than 1,000 Falmouthites assembled on the library lawn to prove that. A grateful community gathered together to pay tribute to its veterans and in the process reaffirmed why this town is a special community.
As late morning sun glistened on the uppermost reaches of Falmouth Fire Rescue’s ladder truck, hoisted high to display a blanket of red, white and blue that hung proudly over the throngs of citizens on hand to honor their own, Falmouth Veterans Council mainstay Andy Dufresne proudly welcomed the sea of humanity on hand to offer collective thanks and appreciation. It was a quintessential Falmouth moment. Time stood still for an hour, as it has on this site at this time for 60 years, while dozens of locals played a role in making this far more than a Veterans Day ceremony—it was an outward display of the exceptional condition of the soul of the community.
Before the start of the formal activities, I had the opportunity—the honor really—to visit with a couple of old friends who were on hand in the honor seating up front, reserved for veterans and their families. I was able to catch up with the electrifying Ozzie Thrasher and then share a moment with Korean War vet and longtime Falmouthite Dick Bowen. I caught a glimpse and shared a quick smile with World War II vet and Davisville standout Milton Soares and conducted a quick election recap with Town Meeting’s Dean of Decorum, George Hampson. East Falmouth’s former top educator, former elementary school principal Ray Kenney, also took his place among the honored attendees. Retired Boston Police radioman and World War II Airborne veteran Joe Figueiredo sat proudly among his peers—all taking their seats of honor.
As the formal ceremony began and the Brian Boru Pipe Band led the procession of local officials and guests, the respectful applause grew to a roaring ovation as dozens, perhaps hundreds of tomorrow’s leaders—a large contingent of local Boy and Girl Scouts—made its way up Memorial Lane, led by devoted scouters like Al Beal, Chris Alves, and Drawde Geishecker. Dutch Drollete and Bill Newton proudly carried Old Glory on behalf of Falmouth’s Elks, followed by razor sharp color guards from the Falmouth police and fire departments.
Master of ceremonies Ahmed Mustafa adroitly led the community through the ceremony, as more gleaming tiles of Falmouth’s mosaic brightened the day. As the Falmouth High School chorus led the community in the national anthem, the low din of the rote recitation of the “Star Spangled Banner” grew to a booming crescendo, as more than a thousand proud Americans and gratified Falmouthites joined together to declare the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Keynote speaker Major General Steven Gross noted to the World War II veterans respectfully seated before him that they were leading the nation 20 years before he was born; his apt words resonated through the attentive audience. The treasured speech of the day, however, was delivered by an honored guest far younger than the general. Morse Pond 6th grader Sophia Kasparian generated appropriately thunderous applause when she praised her cousin Arthur who is currently serving in the military and noted that, “they have fought in rain and snow to keep us safe. A veteran is a hero and a hero is a veteran.” Her simply yet powerful prose encapsulated the gratitude of an entire community.
State Representative Tim Madden acknowledged that powerhouse performance, and simply asked the assembled masses to look over their shoulders and just say “Thank You.” I did as I was told, and marveled as hundreds followed suit, glancing over grateful shoulders to share an acknowledging expression of appreciation with a neighbor, a friend, a stranger, and a veteran.
A fitting finale to this phenomenal Falmouth event was the Pass In Review, an emotional and moving parade of all veterans in attendance, led by Falmouth’s remaining World War II vets, some of whom struggled to get out of their chairs but then walked straight and proud down Memorial Lane as tears of joy and gratitude rolled down hundreds of thankful cheeks. Led by longtime Falmouth volunteers and World War II vets Dick Jones and Ed Herosian and followed by Falmouth standouts General Don Quenneville, Dick Kendall and Stan Ingram, this parade of honor included retired public safety troupers Pat Bishop, Jerry O’Neill and Dan Cunha, and committed citizens Warren Dalton and Ray Rowitz. These and many others marched proudly but humbly into our hearts and memories on this truly special day.
As I’ve said many, many times, it takes a name to make a town, but people to make a community. On this one day, for one hour, at this one special spot in one very special place, our people and our community came together—and produced a very special hour of honor.
Rob Bowerman knows West Falmouth. In fact, you might say that Rob Bowerman is West Falmouth. A 12th-generation Falmouthite who lives in his family’s beautifully restored 18th-century homestead (in West Falmouth, of course), Rob and his wife, Robin, opened their historic home, shared some memories and anecdotes, and, along with some family and thespian friends, took us down a yellow brick road of anticipation for the Falmouth Theatre Guild’s production of “Wizard of Oz,” which opened at Highfield Theatre last week.
The dinner was the result of an auction to benefit the theater guild and featured, in addition to Rob and Robin, Robin’s mom, Janet, and her “guy” Guy, as well as “Wizard of Oz” director Joan Baird and her own wizard, theater techie and reformed Rochester-area, New Yorker, Brett.
Over copious servings of Donna’s homemade butternut squash bisque (the secret is in adding apples and sautéed onions to the bisque), we learned a little West Falmouth history, gained a little insight into the courtship and wonderful union of two committed parents and two great Falmouth citizens, and gained a deeper understanding of the value of theater to a family—and the value of the Falmouth Theatre Guild to our community.
The Bowerman name is as deeply linked to Falmouth as Bartholomew Gosnold’s. Before the town was even incorporated in 1686, the Bowermans built and occupied a homestead in West Falmouth, farming the land and tending to the livestock on Hog Island, now known as the much more exclusive Chapoquoit Island. As the descendant of a previous Bowerman who was a Quaker and imprisoned for not paying taxes to the local Congregational church, Rob noted that he was hesitant when he and Robin joined the Falmouth Congregational Church, leery of being saddled with more than 300 years of back taxes and assessments. You can feel the rich history and centuries of Falmouth stories as your feet traverse the original wide pine floors of their stately, yet homey and comfortable, house on West Falmouth Highway. I entered their home as a guest chef and columnist; I left as a friend.
As our discussion turned to theater and the anticipated arrival of the “Wizard,” Rob noted that participating in the Falmouth Theatre Guild is an opportunity to slow down from the bustle of life and enjoy time as a family. With daughter Elisabeth away at school, the remaining Bowermans are all part of the “Wizard” cast, with Robin headlining the Bowerman contingent as Auntie Em (we got a preview of her very realistic wig), supported by Rob and son Zack as members of the chorus, including some work as crows and Winkie guards. Despite his malfunctioning Winkie stick, Rob seems well prepared for tonight’s curtain. His perfectly pitched, yet ominous, flying monkey chants of “Oh-WEE-Oh” have had me chanting to myself in eager expectation of this high-energy production.
Director Joan, whose theater experience began decades ago in Chicago, also has deep origins in Falmouth. She returned recently to her family and her Woods Hole and Falmouth roots, where her aunt Helen McKenzie was a beloved teacher at Lawrence High School. When she is not greeting customers at Dennis Murphy’s Donahue Real Estate (word is that Dennis is a budding thespian and crooner himself), she is deeply involved at the FTG, so committed to the success of this show that she recruited the dog playing Toto (whose owner’s name is fittingly Dorothy) from “Tin Man” Jason Hansen’s grandparents in Maryland. Her emerald green sweater symbolized her commitment to the transformation of the Beebes’ barn, known today as Highfield Theatre, into the Emerald City.
Husband Brett, who designed and supervised the construction of Falmouth’s Emerald City, brings energy and humor to his backstage oversight of a major production like “The Wizard of Oz.” This wizard of minutiae can recite area codes from coast to coast, and even leaves room in the file cabinet inside his head to recite entire passages from legendary Broadway hits from “Fiddler” to “Les Mis.”
As the braised short ribs were cleared to make way for the pumpkin trifle, stories of friendly squirrels, debates on why a frappe is called a cabinet in New York, and analysis of the various versions of Robin’s questionable Dairy Queen escapade filled the room with laughter and camaraderie. I am certain that the vitality and verve I saw at dinner will lead ticket holders down a Yellow Brick Road of enjoyment when we travel together to the Emerald City at Highfield Theatre.
Families like the Bowermans and Bairds make up the Falmouth Theatre Guild. Treasured organizations like the Falmouth Theatre Guild make up our Falmouth. We are fortunate to have them all