More than 200 friends, family and Falmouthites enjoyed the day's sparkling sunshine at the home of Troy Clarkson and Donna Buckley to attend a book launch party for "Succanessett Snapshot: The People and Places that Make Falmouth a Community."
The 308 page anthology of Clarkson's columns that look at the personalities and politics that define Falmouth was recently published in a joint effort of Clarkson and Falmouth Publishing.
Attendees enjoyed music by local performing legend John Salerno as well as delightful appetizers provided by Eat Your Heart Out Catering, and had an opportunity to meet many of the Falmouth personalities featured in the book.
The book is available at Eight Cousins, Falmouth's local independent book store, and on Clarkson's website at: www.troyclarkson.com.
(Above photos in order: The book launch party at Eight Cousins, the cover of "Succanessett Snapshot" and the author, Troy Clarkson.
“Passionate” is one of those words that has become so commonplace in our lexicon, its meaning has become a bit watered down. It has become synonymous with “admire,” “like,” or even “appreciate,” all very nice and positive descriptive terms, but certainly not on a par with passion. I like peanut butter, but it’s not something about which I’m necessarily passionate. I enjoy watching the TV show “Chopped,” but I can’t lay claim to feeling passionate when the contestants take their places in the “Chopped” kitchen. Passion is reserved for those things and people about which we possess a fervent admiration.
So, after spending an enjoyable, interesting, and educational morning with Gates and Kate Rickard, the owners of Main Street’s newest eatery, the Bear in Boots Gastropub, I searched for a word to adequately describe the palpable passion emanating from this husband and wife team for their new venture—and for Falmouth.
2-for-1 Lunch &Dinner at The Landfall. Click for Coupon.
I came up with a new word—fandoration—to describe the fanatical adoration, in a very positive and sincere sense, that this remarkable and accomplished couple have for their newly adopted hometown and for their colleagues up and down the restaurant row that is our Main Street. I didn’t just spend a morning with two skilled and classically trained chefs who have served at some of the world’s finest restaurants, I was welcomed into the world of two committed parents, two life partners, and two devoted citizens who made a conscious choice to become part of the fabric of the Falmouth community.
Gates and Kate came to Falmouth as part of a deliberate life plan to plant roots (and boots) and sprout a successful future for their family. Six years ago, they were living and working on Martha’s Vineyard, owners of the thriving and admired Rickard’s Bakery, a New York-style wholesale and retail bakery, widely acclaimed for its sophisticated French techniques and world-class breads and pastries. During their trips to the mainland, though, they became enamored with Falmouth’s vibrant downtown, and what Kate call’s Falmouth Village’s “quaint and adorable” qualities. They fell in love—one might say they developed a fandoration—and decided that Falmouth was the place for them and their three children. “The kids need a community,” noted Kate. The Rickards then began their journey to Main Street.
At first, they envisioned another edition of their successful bakery in downtown Falmouth, one that would continue their tradition of painstakingly prepared breads and pastries, skills that both of these Johnson & Wales trained gastrophiles honed working in some of the world’s top venues, like the Metropole Hotel in Brussels. Moving toward that goal, they bought a house in Falmouth and began preparations for selling some of their Vineyard pursuits and began their quest for a downtown location. Shortly thereafter, Maison Villatte opened on Main Street, and after thoroughly enjoying the high quality offerings from that world-class eatery, their palates pleased but hopes dashed, they refocused their quest.
This turning point provides insight into the kind of people with which Falmouth has been graced in the team of Kate and Gates. Not wanting to open a restaurant that would be in direct conflict and competition with any existing player on Restaurant Row, they instead began extensive research and brainstorming on a concept that would complement the jewels that currenlty dot our downtown. They settled on the concept of a gastropub, a flexible genre that is most certainly not a traditional British pub and most certainly not haughty fine dining.
Calling it a “flexible genre,” the extremely well-spoken and equally affable Gates explained that their concept of a gastropub is that of food with fine dining standards in a relaxed atmosphere. Adding that, “food should be delicious and not pretentious,” the similarly cheerful and obviously cultivated Kate noted that children are welcomed in their new creation, evidenced by the homemade mac and cheese and chicken fingers on the menu. In fact, everything, from the breads to the ketchup, from the pasta to the ice cream, is made fresh in the basement of this culinary fantasy land right in Falmouth Village. From the band saw they use to butcher the meat fresh daily to the pastry oven that creates their own burger buns, the Rickards are committed to high quality in all facets of their operation. Even the staff is quizzed on current events and geography before being hired, resulting in a committed and engaged staff.
The name Bear in Boots is also reflective of the quality of the folks behind the food. The Rickards’ three children, Alex, Charlie and Ava, are affectionately known to their parents as Boots, Bear, and Squirrel. They close the restaurant on Sundays in the off-season specifically to spend time with their home version of Bear, Boots and Squirrel. Although Ava’s nickname didn’t make it into the name of the restaurant, she is present throughout the comfortably decorated interior of Bear in Boots, symbolized by strategically placed decorations. There’s even a photo of Kate’s parents on their first date, further evidence of the family commitment of this impressive couple.
Visitors to Bear in Boots will be met as they enter with a large player piano nestled above the eating area. They were inspired at a previous Christmas Parade to have a place where locals could come and eat, relax, and enjoy. I think they’ve found it.
At the close of our visit, Kate summed up the Rickards’ simple philosophy on food, fun, and life. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with,” she noted with a wide smile. Gates nodded in agreement, content that they’ve found a home—in Falmouth and at Bear in Boots. I agree, and hope that Gates, Kate, Bear, Boots, and Squirrel are with us, sharing their fandoration for Falmouth for many wonderful seasons.
I learned a thing or two about chemistry in George Hussey’s chemistry class at Falmouth High School. His affable manner and kind demeanor were great ingredients in a recipe for learning. The fact that, these many years later, I look at a periodic table with some affection and excitement is testament to Mr. Hussey’s teaching abilities (and perhaps a tad indicative of my oddity).
Anyway, my eccentricity aside, George Hussey taught me in those sessions that some elements just don’t mix—sometimes the interaction of certain components of a mélange just does not produce a positive and productive result. The key to understanding chemistry is to embrace that simple and basic fact: that sometimes things just don’t mix and success is found in a new combination of elements.
This week’s election of Susan Moran and Sam Patterson to the board of selectmen will most certainly alter the chemistry of our group of chief elected officials, and most probably modify it for the better. Let me begin my chemical analysis by offering thanks and praise to outgoing selectmen Brent Putnam and Kevin Murphy, both of whom offered up their Monday nights and countless other hours for years on Falmouth’s behalf. Their efforts are both worthy of our acclaim and gratitude. In particular, Kevin’s support of our business community and his work on behalf of small businesses and his recognition of their significance to our local economy will have lasting impacts and benefits long after his term officially ends this weekend.
But something just didn’t click with this chemical equation lately, perhaps for a while. The coffee shop prognosticators will gladly share their theories about what was wrong and place responsibility at a variety of people’s feet in both elected and appointed positions, but the simple answer can be found in the lesson of George Hussey: the chemistry just wasn’t right. In separate but equally impressive and hope-inducing interviews with our two soon-to-be selectmen, I gathered information that has led me to a hopeful hypothesis: Susan and Sam will alter the chemistry of the board of selectmen in a positive and lasting way.
Both bring a commitment to consensus and life and professional experiences that lend themselves to building a bridge between villages and with other elected and appointed boards. Susan’s theme of “One Falmouth,” so wonderfully depicted by emerging local artist Marcus Dalpe in her campaign literature, is a powerful metaphor for her skills as a mediator and consensus builder—and her approach to uniting some divided elements of our community. When we chatted about her goals as a newly elected selectman, she simply noted that she wants to “put an oar in the water and work to keep our quality of life.” That’s a good foundation, and the oar metaphor is a good start to getting the board—and then the community—rowing in the same direction.
Sam’s work on the school committee for several years has provided a solid training ground for his new role in helping lead a community. He developed a reputation as a positive force and thoughtful decision-maker in his years in the School Administration Building, and his work for a generation as a leader of young men as a volunteer with Troop 40 of the Boy Scouts of America has provided him with a perspective—and a desire—to continue to make a better world. During our chat this week, he even seemed to reference the Boy Scout Promise, and when I noted that to him, he beamed with pride, the sincere and hopeful twinkle in his eye indeed demonstrating that he is prepared to “help other people at all times,” as the Scout Promise instructs him to do.
It is certainly possible—and perhaps evident with our two new local leaders—that good chemistry and commitment to community can be learned. Both Sam and Susan point to a strong influence and positive lessons from their fathers in pursuing public service. Susan fondly recalled her youth in Stoneham and observations of her dad, a sound engineer with WGBH, exposing her to his commitment to equality and grass-roots community organizing. She brings those lessons and that same commitment to the corner conference table. Sam draws from the same type of civic commitment in his youth and similar lessons from his dad. They both hope to spark a chemical reaction that extends far beyond Town Hall Square and excites a new generation of Falmouthites to get involved in local government.
I often drone on fondly about an era of good chemistry in the early to mid-’90s when the voters kept the same board of selectmen—and maintained a homeostasis of chemistry—for six years running. Through six elections from 1993 to 1998, the voters returned the same five people to the board, making a clear statement that they agreed that things were stable, progressive, and respectful. There were varied personalities, philosophies, and approaches to leadership and consensus on that long-lasting board, but there was chemistry, and that was the binding agent that made a successful compound element, as Mr. Hussey would say. I’m looking forward to this new board proving my hypothesis: Good chemistry has arrived back at the corner conference table, and we, the people, will be the beneficiaries.
Virginia Valiela and John Waterbury have done their time. Legends, both of them, in the annals of our locale for more nearly three-quarters of a century of combined dedication and devotion to building a better community, these two civic champions could easily be comfortably resting at home, content with lives of purpose well lived. These two, though, have much more to give. They have much more purpose to live and are more energized than ever.
I met with them both this week to discuss Questions 1 and 2 on the upcoming local ballot, coming to a polling place near you (well, not-so-near-you in some parts of town) on Tuesday, May 20. Question 1 seeks approval for $49 million to implement the first phase of the town’s wastewater management program. Question 2 seeks $46 million to fund the construction of a water filtration and treatment facility near Long Pond, the town’s primary drinking water source.
Appropriating nearly $100 million in public funds is serious and complex business. Understandably, the public has requested detailed answers and justification from our decision-makers. As ambassadors of accurate information and guardians of good government for decades, Virginia and John are just the pair to explain and advocate for these separate but equally imperative projects.
April 2014 Summer Camp Guide
As I sat, sipped coffee and shared smiles with two former rivals, I couldn’t help but relish an enjoyably wistful view of the flashback playing in my noggin. I offered a glimpse to Virginia and John, and we all laughed heartily and knowingly, grateful for their wisdom then and now and my maturity—now and most certainly not then. The scene was a board of health hearing at Morse Pond School. The date was 1994 or so, and the issue was smoking in restaurants. John was the committed public health official, taking a stand and making an unwavering commitment to public health. Virginia, a then-veteran of the board of selectmen, joined him in solidarity and in the sole interest of the public good. They both swallowed a heaping portion of criticism and disdain from skeptics, including a brash and controversial neophyte selectman who lobbed a couple of razor-like verbal missiles, worked the crowd into a frenzy, then marched out of the meeting in dramatic fashion. Today, two decades later, Virginia and John both still stand as pillars of protection for our environment and our economy, and the neophyte selectman, although some might still label as brash and controversial, is perhaps a bit more pensive and thoughtful.
They were right then and they are right now. As they predicted, our economy did not collapse when smoking was banned in our eating establishments; two decades later we feature “Restaurant Row” on our Main Street.
Today, they are making another prediction—and a plea—that is critical to Falmouth’s future.
Indeed today, Virginia and John are making a dire forecast: If we don’t invest in our wastewater and water infrastructure, our environment and by direct relation our economy, is in fact in jeopardy. That’s no hyperbole. It is true. “It’s easy to say no. It’s harder to have a vision,” noted Virginia, making a clear case, after years of careful planning, for the investment that will see the long-awaited sewering of the Little Pond area, the widening of the Bournes Pond inlet, and some other innovative work. Based on years of careful preparation, hours of analysis, and months of meticulous financial planning by other volunteer stalwarts like former town manager Peter Boyer, the financing for this project can proceed without a discernible impact on our taxes.
The recent spate of odors, fish kills, and deterioration in Little Pond tells a clear and telling tale—our estuaries are in peril, and action is needed now.
Back in 2008, I raised concern that a half-billion dollar project was moving forward rapidly without public input. I admonished the community to get involved and noted, “Taxpayers, pay heed: your chance is now to have your voice heard while the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan is being developed. This effort cannot be a needs-only driven issue—the costs must drive some of the dialogue—and we cannot be forced into a corner where we are told that “they” have already decided it is a necessity. We—the column writers, firefighters, and tree climbers—are the “they” and we must be consulted before the GDP [gross domestic product] of Grenada is spent in Falmouth.”
It is six years later and the consultation has occurred. When I asked Virginia why she chose to take on such a behemoth political, financial, and environmental undertaking, she noted that in 2010, her reaction was similar to mine a couple of years before. She saw a draft Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan with a price tag of $600 million, and realized in her own words that it was “DOA.” She went to work and generations will reap the benefits. The project is pared down, its costs have been contained, and the community has been informed and engaged.
Rarely do we have a chance to have a positive impact on our community with a minimal impact on our finances. Question 1 does that. Question 1 deserves our support. Question 1 is an imperative for Falmouth’s future.
“I know what’s it’s like to perform under pressure-packed conditions in front of legions of screaming fans, at the 50-yard line (Insert dramatic pause). In the band.”
That was one of my favorite lines from my years of campaigning and almost always drew a chuckle and a knowing smile from those in the audience who could identify with the pressure of performing in front of a packed house on the gridiron – on a team or in the band.
My experience in the marching band at Falmouth High School and later at Boston College, despite the fact that I typically played any tune that suited me and marched to my own choreography (no one noticed as long as I stayed in line), provided me with an appreciation for the importance of having a quality surface on which to play – and perform.
The local effort, represented by Question 3 on Tuesday’s ballot, to have a safe, modern, and durable playing surface – for our community and for a generation – is an opportunity to provide just that. For the last couple of years, a volunteer committee, led by tireless and stellar uber-volunteer Karen L. Bissonnette, the Community Athletic Field Advisory Committee has spent many hours planning the details and sharing the information of the benefits of the proposal to relocate the game-day playing surface from Guv Fuller Field on Main Street to a new, updated facility near Falmouth High School.
The advantages to this plan are numerous. The construction of a new, synthetic turf field, usable for a wide variety of teams, including soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse, and, of course, the band, will provide an updated venue, more centrally located (Falmouth High School is literally in the geographic center of town), and provide a much-needed rest for the overstrained Fuller Field. It will also allow our hometown baseball team, the Falmouth Commodores, to invest in Fuller to make it a more permanent baseball venue. It will give other venues in town a chance to rejuvenate, a challenge with today’s near year-round schedule of organized sports. This is truly a win-win for our community. Several years ago, the voters made their voices clear, offering in a clear majority a mandate in a non-binding question on moving the field from Main Street to Falmouth High. I am a traditionalist and a lover of our our history and local color. This idea, however, honors the past by keeping Fuller Field an active venue while looking toward the future by having a modernized facility at FHS.
Thanks to the generosity and community commitment of the Falmouth Road Race and a list of contributors that reads like a who’s-who of Falmouth disciples of Larry the Cable Guy, who just seem to know how to “git ‘er done,” the cost of the project has been reduced significantly. The Falmouth Road Race has offered a $500,000 grant, some of which has already been used on the design. Familiar faces like last year’s citizen of the year Mike Duffany, the electrifying Joe Martinho, construction consultant and savior of the Falmouth High project Pat Callahan, legendary Field Hockey coach Janey Norton, and the renowned Jim Kalperis, have been joined by a dedicated committee of Falmouthites who have pledged, prodded, and cajoled other volunteers and benefactors to bring the total project cost from more than $2.8 million down to a doable $1.6 million.
They have secured more than a million dollars in gifts of cash donations and services, a Herculean grass roots effort that has had a direct and discernable positive impact on each and every taxpayer. Smart financial planning by the Committee has resulted in a one-time expense of roughly $60 per household – a reasonable contribution for a game-changer of a proposition.
In my youth, organized sports meant drawing bases on the street in our Fisherman’s Cove neighborhood for a game of kickball or a handful of us walking down to East Falmouth School for a pickup game of baseball. Today, the nature of youth and community athletics has changed. We now have a chance to have our premier venue change as well - while taking advantage of a million reasons to support it now.
Let’s join Karen, Mike, Joe, Pat, Janey and Kalpy in looking forward and supporting this game changer. Vote Yes on Question 3.
To be part of something called “The Great Debate” was ominous enough, but knowing that I would be facing off against locally renowned orator and wordsmith Ross Bluestein made it even more daunting. Organized by civic activist and restaurateur Paul Rifkin, the Great Debate was held back in June 2008 and was an opportunity to demonstrate that people supporting opposing sides of an argument need not be opposed to one another. This, unfortunately rare, concept of respectful public discourse on the issues of the day attracted more than 100 people to the spacious and well-adorned Hermann Foundation Meeting Room at the Falmouth Public Library for a detailed and lively discussion of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After more than an hour of respectful debate, with varying accounts and assessments on the victor, the near-universal conclusion was that the real winners were the citizens, who all had an opportunity to witness and participate in thoughtful, reasoned debate without personal disfavor and distaste.
As one of the headliners in the debate, I was intent on gathering the facts related to our subject matter so as to have a wealth of reliable information as my oratory foundation, and to get some pointers on the art of war and the skill of sizing up my opponent. I knew where to go to find all of that in one location—and in one man. I called Paul Mulloy.
Rear Admiral Paul Mulloy is and was a distinguished American, a decorated veteran, a proven leader at the highest levels of government, and most importantly, a gentleman of unquestioned integrity and dedication to community. He is also a Falmouthite. Before the Great Debate, Paul and I sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee on Main Street and, like the battle-tested leader he is, he coached, inspired, instructed, and motivated me. When I entered the library on debate night, I felt like Rocky Balboa heading into the ring to face his highly skilled but under-inspired opponent (sorry, Ross). I’ll readily admit these years later that a couple of the haymakers (respectful ones, of course) that I threw were inspired by my friend the admiral. He, too, is committed to respectful dialogue and laments the lack of it in our public discourse today.
Given that rare and valuable ability to motivate and inspire, it’s no surprise that Admiral Mulloy was recently recognized with the distinction of membership in the Maritime Patrolmen Association’s Hall of Honor. A report in the Enterprise this week noted that the association is a group of Paul’s peers, maritime and reconnaissance veterans who know a sound sailor when they see one. The MPA is a nonprofit organization established in 2011, and provides recognition of the US Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community. This honor from his peers comes on the heels of a lifetime of distinction and service, including providing advice to the president of the United States on drug addiction and recovery in the US military.
Paul’s charitable work in that arena continues today. He sits on the board of directors of Oxford House, Inc., a nationwide nonprofit that provides structured sober housing for men and women in recovery. Today, Oxford House operates more than 1,700 sober houses with more than 13,000 beds, providing a safe and structured environment for people in early recovery. With ever-increasing headlines about the epidemic of substance abuse from sea to shining sea, Paul’s work in this battle for our survival is his most important yet. Oxford House’s annual report noted that the organization “fosters leadership, responsibility, growth, friendship, and community. That might just as well be the masthead for the story of the life of Admiral Paul Mulloy. If the purpose of life is indeed a life of purpose, Paul’s life has been well lived.
If you see the admiral around town, salute him for his service to our nation, and thank him for his service to humankind.
You can call me an enlightened and engaged citizen. On the other hand, you can suggest that I need a life and some more robust entertainment therein. You can suggest that I’m a committed Falmouthite who cares about our community, or you can just suggest I be committed.
The basis for your determination is this: On Sunday evening, after a long and enjoyable weekend full of friends, family, and a bit of yard work, Donna and I sat down to unwind with a little television. After clicking past repeats on the Food Network and coverage overload on Donald Sterling, we settled on checking up on our local government and tuned to FCTV’s Channel 15. Many watch it, but few admit it as the evening’s destination. Yes, indeed, we sought local government as our entertainment for the evening. What we hoped for was a quick update on the week’s goings-on. What we got was a dose of confidence and pride in our local democracy and political process.
The show playing was, like the Food Network, offering a repeat, but this one was certainly worth watching and far more engaging than another ill-mannered bartender on “Restaurant Stakeout.” We watched the replay of the board of selectmen’s meeting from a couple of weeks ago when the board invited discussion on the placement of questions on our May 20 local election ballot. What would appear on the surface to be a dry, uninteresting, almost perfunctory vote, actually revealed a deep level of care and engagement by our citizenry and a welcome (if not rare these days) respectful and thoughtful dialogue by our elected executives.
During the meeting, some citizens lamented the lack of information out in public on the three ballot questions. They asked the board to inform and engage, to reach out to their neighbors and reach into the neighborhoods to explain the request for nearly $100 million in spending. Selectman Rebecca Moffitt responded not with admonition, but recognition. When she noted that, “We know these issues inside and out, but many people are looking for a better explanation and a cost breakdown per household for these projects,” she transformed the discussion and catapulted her colleagues into a new dimension of understanding—one that includes listening, reaching out, and engaging a public not only thirsty for clean and efficiently delivered drinking water, but for information similarly conveyed. Following Rebecca’s revelation, the board even suggested producing an informational flyer to share with their constituents. I pinched myself to make sure I hadn’t stepped through the mirror and was watching an alternative Board in Wonderland.
The floodgates of respectful discourse now opened, Donna and I marveled at how the admiration and dignity seemed to permeate the room. I was waiting for high-fives and hugs at the end, and although that didn’t happen, it was nonetheless a watershed moment. I haven’t been this pleased with Sunday night TV since I watched Falmouthite Jessica Mogardo compete on “Chopped.”
I am never hesitant to provide a good-natured poke and prod at our local leaders when one is deserved. I must, in good faith and fairness then, offer kudos when earned as well. High praise and commendation then, kudos and compliments to our board of selectmen. Not only for Sunday night’s entertainment, but for a welcome dose of healthy debate. The next thing you know, Pat Flynn and Brent Putnam might hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Maybe not. I’ll settle for healthy debate.
Anyway, the six candidates to replace outgoing selectmen Kevin Murphy and Brent Putnam would do well to log on to FCTV’s website and watch a rerun of their own. It’s the April 14th meeting, and it is a good lesson in good government. I’ll be doing my part to contribute to the dialogue, offering the next couple of columns to the ballot questions.
Now it is your turn. Shared information is only good if it is used. Get informed, then get to the polls.
One hundred years. Think of what has happened in this community – in this Commonwealth – and in this great nation in the past century.
In 1914, our nation and President Wilson grappled with the aftermath and implications of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Duchess Sophie, the seminal event that plunged Europe into the July crisis and eventually the First World War. An up-and-coming major leaguer named George Herman Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, and Pope Benedict XV was installed in Rome as the Roman Catholic Church’s 258th Pontiff.
Yes, the world saw change and progress in 1914. The Federal Reserve Bank opened for business, President Wilson signed a proclamation creating Mother’s Day, and in Everett, Massachusetts, Falmouth legend George Moses was born. Today, a century later, those institutions still play an important role in our society, and George is still making Falmouthites smile and think. Few citizens in our 328 years have had the impact on the culture, the history, and the soul of this community as George Moses.
Thanks to the Falmouth Public Library’s archiving of The Enterprise, I also checked the local headlines from George’s birth era to give some local perspective on the year he joined us. Some familiar names popped up. In 1914, St. Barnabas held its election of officers, and E. Pierson Beebe (yes he of Beebe Woods and Highfield Hall) was elected warden. The Treasurer’s post went to J. Arthur Beebe, and Harry V. Lawrence, whose name would be associated for decades with a nursery on Depot Ave., was installed as Clerk. Some candidates for local elected office also made their intentions known in our local paper of record, including Thomas B. Landers for Highway Surveyor.
Although the Enterprise continues to be an invaluable source of local news, the 1914 editions also included a glance at some personal lives. One edition noted that, “Mrs. T. Lawrence Swift is visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. D. E Makepeace, at her former home in Attleboro.” Another edition noted that, “Miss Olive Hastings, a teacher in the village grammar school, spent the week-end in Newton.” Looking back on my relatively rambunctious young adulthood in Falmouth, it’s a good thing this practice was abandoned.
Like George Moses, whose 100th birthday last month celebrated a lifetime of celebrating Falmouth, some things remain constant in our slice of history, our Falmouth. A prominent advertiser in the 1914 Enterprise was the Wood Lumber Company on Locust Street, a tradition proudly continued by Falmouth standouts Dana and Eileen Miskell. At the Annual Town Meeting, Article 6 sought to “see what method the town will adopt to suppress the keeping and sale of intoxicating liquors and to prevent gambling and malicious mischief, and make an appropriation therefor or take any other action thereto.” With his long-standing column “Dry and On the Rocks” in the Enterprise, I think George ignored at least part of that edict of our local legislature. He made plenty of mischief, making us laugh in his observations of the local human condition, but never did so maliciously. As a kid, I remember opening the Enterprise right to the editorial page to catch his column. For decades before that, he offered thoughts in both the Enterprise and Cape Cod Times, and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of our community and its history. George scribed for the Enterprise as a reporter starting in 1938. Think of that. He began writing for Falmouth and about Falmouth when FDR was early in his Presidency.
George’s legendary commitment to Falmouth, though, did not end with his written observations. He also served as Town Moderator for twenty years, ushering our legislative business through Falmouth’s burgeoning growth of the 1960’s and ‘70s, when our agrarian community saw much of the expansion that enabled today’s balanced and diverse local economy and culture.
Like a Ronco commercial for that ‘must have’ gadget – wait – there’s more about George Moses and his commitment to community: he also served on the Finance Committee, wrote a copule of books about Falmouth, including the widely acclaimed “Ring Around the Punchbowl,” and even taught at Lawrence High School (the predecessor of FHS) for fifteen years.
Falmouth in 2014 is very different in many ways from the Falmouth of 1914, but some things remain constant. Wood Lumber is still on Locust Street. Thomas B. Landers is still a name associated with roads, and George Moses is still making people smile and think. Happy 100th birthday to a Falmouth legend.
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 Seigal 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 the 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 bout 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 on 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 offer a speaker a thirty 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.
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. Brent 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.
If you went down to Naimesh and Akku Patel’s 7-11 on Main Street and bought a scratch ticket that resulted in winnings of $1.8 million, that would be great, right?
What if, after scratching the ticket and expressing jubilation at your good fortune, you learned that there were strings attached to your windfall? What if those strings included inflicting pain and suffering on others?
That might change things.
Next week, our Town Meeting members, who take their position as our local elected legislature very seriously, will contemplate just such an enigma. The town has struck a deal with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) for a grant of up to $1.8 million to help mitigate some of the financial impacts of the court-ordered reduction in operational hours for the town’s wind turbines. Actually, the word “grant” is probably a misnomer. The commonwealth is proposing to provide the town with some much needed funds to replenish its bleeding wind turbine reserve account in exchange for a seat at the decision-making table related to the fate of the turbines. Even the MassCEC’s own boss acknowledged the convolution of this pending deal, which needs Town Meeting approval to move forward. “It’s somewhat complicated, but I think it represents an effort to strike a balance between helping to mitigate the financial impact the town is incurring on an ongoing basis,” chief executive officer Alicia Barton said.
On its face, given that admission of complexity, this deal should not be approved by our local legislators. When government admits that something is complex, that means that it is downright confusing. The MassCEC’s board of directors just voted this bailout plan with strings attached within the last couple of weeks. To turn around and accept a deal that creates long-term obligations and liabilities for our community without a full vetting and public discussion on all of the financial, operational, and community impacts, particularly on an issue as volatile and injurious as this, would be imprudent and unwise. Our Town Meeting is neither.
I read the staff summary from the MassCEC on this convoluted deal, and I came out scratching my head at why the town would agree to the terms. Pages of legal mumbo-jumbo reveal one very important point: the CEC’s waiver of the default provision, meaning the town’s responsibility to pay all of the money back if the turbines are decommissioned, is only valid if it comes by a court order. In simpler terms, the MassCEC is buying a guarantee that the town will not decommission the turbines on its own as a resolution to the ongoing public health issues. I’m not advocating that as a solution by any means, but taking that off the table in exchange for cash is tantamount to selling out the neighbors who have been impacted and closing the door on any community-based solution.
It is clear that the town is now losing money every year on these purported money-making machines. It is also clear that the town is facing an admittedly uphill battle in its court cases related to this ill-fated project. In fact, the CEC’s own report opines that, “the prospects are at best uncertain for an outcome that the town can manage financially.” It is becoming clear that the town is acting out of desperation and is willing to risk future financial ruin for short-term financial gain. That is never a good idea, and most assuredly is a terrible idea when the tradeoff includes the continued suffering of neighbors and taxpayers. Acceptance of this payoff from the MassCEC is, in its simplest terms, an excuse for the town to further delay a solution to this problem and foist the solution on a future board. Our own zoning board declared these turbines a nuisance. Our selectmen disagreed and are suing the ZBA. Adding the MassCEC to the table by selling them some decision-making authority only muddles an already painfully complex conundrum.
The great epic poet Virgil was right when he warned of those bearing gifts. He told the tale of the Trojan Horse and the hidden peril within. As Virgil warned, we should look askance at any cash deal from the government with strings attached. We should just plain look away from a cash deal when those strings form a noose around the neck of our own citizens.