Trip Summary Calendar - Where we went and when

August 05, 2006

Diary of a "Longtime Town Politico"

So here's something I haven't written about here, town politics. As some know I've been active in town government for quite some time. A while back I was elected to the School Committee. I've served on a slew of appointed boards (Capital Improvement, Cable, School Building, and the Search Committees for both the Town Administrator and School Superintendent).

Dscf1862 2 2-1I decided to run for the Board of Selectmen, and whaddaya know, the town was nice enough to elect me. For those in cities or elsewhere in the country, the Board of Selectmen is the senior policy-making board of a town in Massachusetts. The five of us meet twice monthly, discussing and deciding upon a variety of issues. I'll have to say some aren't that vital. My current pet peeve is that when someone wants to use town property for a meeting, they need to formally request permission and we need to vote to allow it. We're talking about Girl Scout meetings, a carwash to raise money for the school, etc. All important stuff but I'm hoping to make it easier for these groups by allowing the Town Administrator to approve requests directly. It'll also leave more time for the Selectmen to tackle bigger issues like the town budget and policies.

I'm not sure how much I'll blog on the Selectmen stuff. It might be fun and interesting to share the experience, especially with those in town. To do it right I'd want to blog often, which takes time. There's also the risk of misinterpretation - I'm one of five Board members and sometimes one member's opinion can come across as that of the whole Board. And snowball from there. I might say that I'm concerned about a particular housing project due to impact on education costs or traffic congestion. The next day I'd see a story in the paper on how the Board will prevent the project because it hates soccer moms, minivans, and construction workers.

I'm jesting a bit there. We're lucky enough to have good reporters covering our town. We have two papers regularly covering Douglas. The Telegram & Gazette is a Worcester-area daily with a Blackstone Valley section. The reporter generally covering our town referred to me as a "Longtime Town Politico" in the story on my election victory. I guess I've been doing this a while then! Steve "gets it" to a surprisingly good degree given the fact he doesn't live here, and covers more than one town. We also have a weekly, the Blackstone Valley Tribune. The primary reporter, Tom, has an incredibly in-depth knowledge of the history of the town. Sadly another good Tribune reporter has moved on to other things - he had a great interest in modern issues and how they relate to the Valley. He even interviewed me for a story on town and political web sites!

So what's it like being a Selectmen? So far, so good. We're currently in the midst of our first important issue from a long-term perspective, a 40B development. 40B developments are housing that offers some percentage of units (both townhomes and houses in this case) at a discount in exchange for the ability to bypass certain town regulations on the development itself. It's a big development - 120+ units in total, which could bring 200-300 new residents into town in a short amount of time. So there's a real impact on a town our size. It will likely happen whether we support it or not, but we have the ability to get a little more for the town by going through a particular process. So that's what's going on here. And for the record, I have no problem with soccer moms, minivans, or construction workers.

If you'd like to follow along, we post meeting videos on our town web site. Grab the caffeinated beverage of your choice and head over to the town web site to take a look.

So will there be a blog about Douglas politics? Let me know what you think. I'll form a subcommittee, hire a polling firm, test-market a few designs, hire a ghost-writer, and by the end of my term I'll give you my decision. :-)

Posted by Mitch at August 5, 2006 11:39 AM
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