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 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

Turkey sandwiches for five dollars

I am currently on America Airlines flight 183 to San Francisco. The overly talkative attendant just announced our meal for the flight, a delightful turkey and cheese sandwich. Five bucks for that, or if just want a snack you can fork over three for a muffin. Thankfully my lovely bride prepped a nice lunch for me. I suspect it involved two peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on oat nut bread, some fruit, and a surprise or two. I'm not sure if I ever explained the PB&J portion of the RV trip (yes, two years later I can still write about the trip!). I did the driving between stops, and before we left she made PB&J sandwiches so we'd have something good to eat without worrying where to stop. Good stuff.

I'm headed to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week, a geekfest-extreme for us Macintosh types. If you think Cocoa is a drink or Leopard a cat, stay home. This is serious stuff. My first trip out to SF for this show and I'm quite curious and rather excited. While MacWorld is a big trade show with a few classes, this is a week of serious, intense learning. The plane, a Boeing 757, is probably packed with Mac users. Before boarding I chatted a short while with an editor for O'Reilly Books. It's an interesting show from his perspective. Monday morning The Steve announces new technologies and products. By the end of the week he assembles his team of writers to plan the titles based on all the new stuff.

Other than the keynote address the whole week is under non-disclosure. If I write anything too specific I'll prompty find a laser beam emanating from my laptop's iSight burning a hole through my skull. If I leak any source code then things get seriously hairy.

I haven't posted in a while. This usually happens when I have nothing of interest to say. This isn't so much the case. Besides, I find writing about cellophane-wrapped turkey sandwiches amusing. There are some earth-shattering things to write about, and have been for some time. I'll try to do some catching-up but one topic will have to wait. So all my readers, all two of you, I'm afraid you'll be left in minor suspense for a short while longer. Some other items of interest I'll blog about in the meantime.

We're over Ohio, apparently headed into bumpy territory and the seat belt sign has been reestablished. The sandwich cart has passed with few takers, and a beverage cart is on the way. The big question - do I go for a water or OJ, or straight to soda? Do I want to sleep the rest of the flight or get a little boost? Hmmmm. I often fly Southwest and can count on Dr. Pepper. Not sure if I can expect the same from American. Say what you will about Texas but they know their soft drinks.

Photo 20So here I am, with my JVC noise-canceling headphones. Xavier Rudd again. Not sure why I keep listening to him when blogging. By the way, he's Australian and my sister Debbie is over there at the moment. She's due back this week, while I'm still out in SF.

Photo 21Dr. Pepper it is! Three cheers for American Airlines! I obviously had the "flip photo" feature in the wrong setting but I'm too lazy to go back and fix it. If you can't read the can hold your computer up to a mirror. By the way, this is a new can design. Shocking I know, but if you've been to the Dr. Pepper Museum in lovely downtown Waco you'll see a full history of can and bottle design. If you find yourself a bit north of Austin check it out. And while you're there buy some real Dr. Pepper, made at one bottling company the original way with cane sugar instead of the high fructose corn syrup that's wound up everywhere thanks to dazzling work by the farm lobby. But that's a topic of another flight.

Indianapolis is coming up on the left, so I'll call this an entry. Enjoy your flight.

Posted by Mitch at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)