UPDATE OF OBSERVER CORPS REPORT,
SELECT BOARD JUNE 2020
Since the beginning of 2020, the Board of Selectmen (now the Select Board, as voted 5/19/20) has been presented with a number of challenges. First and foremost is the onset of the novel coronavirus, COVID 19. With this pandemic, meetings have been reformatted to be done virtually. With open-meeting laws as they exist it put extra pressure on the most visible government committee in Falmouth. They continue to be televised on the local channel and people are encouraged to email or call in comments during the public comment time on the agenda.
Next, one of the longtime members of the board and former 2 year chair, Susan Moran, resigned to run for the state senate seat recently vacated. Beginning with the June 1 meeting Nancy Taylor began meeting with the board as the newly elected Select Board member. With a new person the culture of the board will evolve. I see the adjustment as smooth but I feel not sitting in the same room with a live audience will slow this process down.
At this time of year, the Board usually reorganizes its leadership and committee structure. Fortunately, Ms. English Braga will remain Chair and Doug Brown will remain Vice Chair. This will help in retaining much of the team climate while moving forward in this very challenging year.
Guiding Falmouth through the health and economic recovery will remain the most difficult activity of the Select Board for the rest of 2020.
Observer Corps Report February 2020
The five member Board of Selectmen is the executive arm of town government in Falmouth. They are voted at large in rotating three year terms. The Board meets twice a month, usually every other Monday, at Town Hall. The meetings are open to the public and are broadcast on television on FCTV. The local press is also in attendance and reports on the proceedings each week in the Enterprise.
The agendas vary with issues presented to them by the departments and the committees they oversee. At each meeting there is always an opportunity for public input. Some of the agenda items are ceremonial such as recognizing new Eagle Scouts, town proclamations and other recognitions.
The Board also hears applications for new and annual licenses as well as special signage variances.
One of the most important function is to hear from the various committees regarding their activities, issues, concerns and recommendations. In the past year, this function has been of significance as many of the issues have been highly controversial within the community and the Board has sought to provide guidance in resolving these issues. Very often these presentations and recommendations result in articles for Town Meeting.
It goes without saying that the core of government in Falmouth is the Town Meeting. The Board initiates some articles, reviews petition articles, and eventually takes a position on many of them.
In the past six months, of particular interest to LWV, the Board has spent a significant amount of time on the following issues:
Land use: The conflict between having green spaces and housing, especially affordable housing, has been a recurring theme among the board’s deliberations. There are strong and persistent voices at the meetings expressing concern about planned housing. Usually the concerns rest on loss of property values when “those” people move into a neighborhood.
Public involvement is a focus of this Board. They all take the philosophy and intent of the Open Meeting Law very seriously as does the town administrative staff. The Board has adopted the approach of having public forums held in facilities large enough to include those interested in the topic.
The members of the Board are fully engaged and dedicated. They do their homework and come to the meetings prepared. Members rarely miss a meeting. The members are respectful of each other and of the people who makes presentations to them. The new chair is well organized and starts the meetings on time and does a good job keeping to the timelines of the very comprehensive agenda. The members are always mindful of the greater audience, their constituents watching on television or reading the newspaper.
It is my privilege to represent the League of Women Voters as an observer of the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Falmouth.
Maggie Sweasy, LWVF Observer