Experience/Issue

July 3rd, on White Horse Beach.

What are the issues, and where do you stand?

I was thinking about that standard political question, and the best way to answer when, instead, my thoughts turned to the people I have come to know in Plymouth, and the richness they have given my life.

Isn’t that the issue? Isn’t that what we all desire, to live rich, fulfilling lives in a real community?

Town government, I think, should behave like a concerned parent: offering us the stability we need to act on our best instincts, the confidence we need to reach out and become part of something greater than ourselves.

That’s why it is so damaging when people become cynical about local government. If you believe your parent doesn’t have your best interests at heart it’s difficult, if not impossible, to be sensitive to the needs of others.

That’s one reason I am so adamant that we keep our representative form of government: because I want to be governed by my community, not ruled by a politician. I am not cynical about my local government because it is filled with my neighbors.

Yes, I have my own ideas about what we need to do to preserve  and enhance our way of life, our quality of life, our air, water, woods, wildlands and economic vitality- but if I don’t begin by focusing on the people I know, the neighbors I have, if I am not concerned with the concerns of the citizens of Plymouth then all my good ideas (and yours) will likely go to waste.

I think back to my ‘sunrise year,’ 2013, when I got up every morning at 4 a.m. and set out to find someplace new to take a picture. The beauty of Plymouth was undeniable, but so was the beauty of the people that I ‘ran into’ on those mornings.

Most of those I met that year are still my friends.

  • Diane Sanford lives on White Horse Beach but took me kayaking on Boot Pond for one sunrise picture.
  • ‘Junior’ Wall, encountered me near his mother’s house on Gunner’s Exchange Road at 5 a.m. The photo that morning was of Hoyt’s Pond.
  • Joan Bartlett invited me to take a picture at her cliffside home but was still asleep as I sat in the Adirondack Chair on the cliff behind her home (that cliff is now gone, and her house has been moved back from the edge.)  
  • Robbie Haigh, who – also asleep – gave me permission to descend down the steep hill in her backyard on the dirt section of Long Pond Road where I found a tiny dock on Little Herring Pond.
  • I took a picture of Rose Cain and her spinning wind chime on her porch overlooking Plymouth Harbor.
  • Matt Muratore, barefoot in the mud at 6:15 a.m. at his favorite place in the Ponds of Plymouth.
  • An unnamed security guard at Lander’s Sand & Gravel operation who let me stand on a promontory and take my picture.
  • Bemused police at the end of their shift who often saw me dashing in and out of the woods.
  • Hyper teenagers who had yet to go to bed dancing on White Horse Beach.
  • Mike Landers who posed in front of the Forefather’s monument, and.
  • Larry Pizer in front of the Rock on a rainy morning.
  • At the end of that year Steve Fletcher and close to 500 other ‘friends,’ who joined me at dawn at Plimoth Plantation for the final, 365th picture.

What a year it was. What a town I discovered. That year still inspires me today.

When 2013 was over I had new friends, newfound respect for the beauty of the town, and a desire to find a way to continue what I called my ‘Plymouth education.’

That’s an instinct I think we all share. The desire to know everything we can about the place we live. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. I lived in Plymouth for 25 years before I knew how significant it was, ecologically speaking. I lived outside the downtown for decades before I had any desire to engage in its history. I have lived here now for most of my life and yet only in the past decade have I come to understand, to feel, to feel confident saying that “Plymouth is my hometown!”

Many of you take that for granted, the idea that you have a hometown. But before coming to Plymouth my life was marked by more than a dozen moves, by an average stay of probably three years at a time in one area, and by the sense that I was standing on the outside, looking in.

But I don’t feel that way anymore. Now I have a hometown, and a zealous desire to see it protected, to celebrate its beauty and to trumpet the quality of its citizens.

What are the issues, and where do I stand?

Simply put, I stand for Plymouth.

Yes, but what about our rising tax rate?

In the past I have heard other candidates offer simple solutions: encourage more development; change the zoning to allow heavy industry; sell our soul to the carpetbaggers known as the “Plymouth Rock Studio.”

  • I say no, we don’t need more development, or heavy industry, or to bow down to the requests of outsiders. We need to do things smarter, and for the long term.
  • We don’t need strip malls, we need brain malls: areas dedicated to particular industries that are clean, pay their employees well, and respect the environment.
  • We don’t need to ruin our environment to make temporary economic gains. We can rezone or redevelop our over-abundance of retail development to allow for workforce housing, light industry and retail.
  • And we can focus on our strengths: marine technology, environmental management, and tourism in real and meaningful ways.
  • Tourism, in all of its guises (people from the region that come for our restaurants and harbor life, historical tourism, and ecotourism) is in dire shape because of the Coronavirus, and we need to be proactive about that – not wait and see what the Governor tells us.
  • There are over three-dozen aquaculture operations in Plymouth harbor, we are the second or third top port for Lobster, but you could go down to the waterfront and never know it. We should be promoting their efforts and those of our other fishermen and establishing harbor-based tourism.
  • We lead the state, arguably the nation, in innovative wetlands restoration projects and dam removals, which have in turn resulted in the Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary, the Foothills Preserve, and The Living Observatory and May 9 Plymouth (was supposed to be) the North American headquarters of World Fish Migration Day!
  • The Wildlands Trust, which has preserved hundreds of acres of amazing woodlands here and around Massachusetts, is headquartered on Long Pond Road.
  • Manomet, a worldwide leader in climate science and bird research, is headquartered – where else – in Manomet.
  • What should we do with the 1,500 acres of property that once served as a security buffer around the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant? Isn’t it obvious?

You’re all about the environment: what about our economy?

Are you listening? Our economy is all about the environment. If we had coal, you’d say, dig it up. If we had oil you’d say, pump it up.

We have the experts, the experience, and the land – and we don’t have to dig or pump, clear cut or pollute.

  • Let’s leverage our natural resources to attract clean green companies that want to be associated with a community with our record of success.
  • Let’s leverage our marine experience.
  • We should have a fast ferry to Boston.
  • We should have a hiking center at the top of the Pine hills ridge, where the bike shop is today.
  • We should not be planning on being able to fill the water tanks of new development 20 years from now, we should be figuring out how we use less water in 20 years than we do today.
  • Speaking of planning for the future? Why is the Master Plan that the town wrote (and by town I mean everybody) sitting on a shelf gathering dust? If we had followed it suggestions we’d be in great shape now. The executive summary of that nearly 20 year old plan predicted that…

In 20 years, the Town of Plymouth will be a beautiful, maturing community with vibrant and pleasant village centers, a preserved and enhanced historic heritage, long stretches of accessible coastline, integrated areas of commerce and compact housing, and vast, connected areas of open space set aside for preservation, outdoor activities, and appreciation of nature. Plymouth will retain its outstanding visual character, defined by clean ponds, rivers, wetlands, coastline, and forests. The town will efficiently provide a full array of services and amenities while also preserving natural areas. Economic prosperity will prevail through abundant opportunities for desirable business investment, employment, shopping, tourism, housing choice, and entrepreneurship.

In 2024, Plymouth will be an even more desirable town to live in than it is today.

  • We may need a development moratorium. That’s not crazy, that’s not a radical thought: it’s a reasonable idea. Leaving the future up to the highest bidder, the richest developer, that’s crazy.
  • We need a new Mayflower Compact that all residents and business owners sign. We need to agree to share responsibility for the welfare of our community. We need to participate in our own governance, not look for someone to blame. We need to respect our environment for what it can give us for our and our children’s lifetime, not what we can get out of it for a year.

Taxes?

  • It looks like we’re going to have to go without that new car, or building, or sidewalk for a while, and concentrate on maintenance issues.
  • I would consider a minor change in the tax structure to put less of a burden on residents, more on business owners, the so-called split rate – if that’s possible, and look into a new tax on larger, corporations doing business here (Walmart, BJ’s, etc.).
  • We might consider using the revenue from a meal’s tax – once the Town Hall is paid for – to reduce the burden on taxpayers in the short term, but that the virus has put the meals tax in jeopardy too.
  • I have proposed a reduction in road paving – and instead to explore the equipment and costs for maintaining gravel roads – as a way of potentially saving millions.

The Town Manager

Talk about a hot button issue! The Town Manager is both a scapegoat and the responsible party. She is a polarizing character. She is a big personality in a Town Hall where, for the most part, people keep their heads down. She likes it that way, in my opinion. But her take charge personality also means that she is the one that people blame when things go wrong. Is that fair? Yes, I think it is. But that doesn’t mean I believe she deserves all the blame. If so she deserves all the credit for the town’s many accomplishments. We all share in the blame, and the successes. If you want to blame someone specific, blame those that do not participate – the 90% of residents who don’t vote or let their voices be heard in other ways. So would I fire her, if for anything, a fresh start? My understanding is that her last contract made that prospect far less likely as the town would have to pay dearly for her premature departure. It’s then a bottom line question: would the town get enough of a benefit to justify the cost of letting her go? I don’t believe so. So if I have to work with her could I hold my own? As a reporter covering Plymouth for a decade I only had two Town Managers to deal with: Mark Stankiewicz, and Ms. Arrighi. Stankiewicz loved to have reporters in to talk, but in the end everything was ‘off the record.’ He wanted to influence reporters, but not be quoted by them. Arrighi was open and, on the record. She wanted her perspective to be represented. I respected that, still do, but there are other perspectives, and the Select Board’s view should be more representative of the voters’ view, than Town Governments’ or Ms. Arrighi’s.

Big Blue and Little Red!

There’s ‘Big Blue’, and then there’s ‘New England style Dunkin,’ and let’s not forget ‘The Big Sandbox in the Sky.”

There is such a thing as the ‘character’ of a community. It’s something that no particular person is in charge of, but that everyone in a community is responsible for. That said, I believe the members of the Select Board are uniquely positioned to speak out for and protect that character. That’s why it is so disappointing that Big Blue and other blemishes on our character seem to be happening so often.

  • Big Blue: The historic district committee often gets down to the details with developers in the downtown, requiring a particular window style, clapboard size, and such so how did they miss that this building was going to interrupt vistas, block views, and change the character of the waterfront?
  • Dunkies: Manomet’s new Dunkies tells a sad story. Downtown Manomet is fast becoming a mini-Saugus with the giant ice machine, the mish-mash of architectural facades and now this ugly striped box. There are still beautiful roads and neighborhoods in Manomet, but State Road is a fly strip.
  • The Big Sandbox: this sand and gravel apocalypse off Hedges Pond Road seems to be getting bigger and bigger, and around it another sandpit has morphed into a big parking lot, and a variety of cookie cutter buildings housing small businesses. I am opposed to the sand and gravel operations, but not more small businesses – but couldn’t that have happened with a great consideration for the thousands or homeowners who have to use those same roads to get to their homes off Long Pond Road?
  • The Woodlot. The County is still ‘fiddling and diddling’ with this 100-acre woodland property, holding irregular meetings on its future, which now needs to consider the 5-acre sandpit in the middle.
  • Little Red Schoolhouse: this fits exactly what I wrote earlier about the ‘character’ of a community: It is everyone’s responsibility, particularly members of the Select Board, so it is particularly concerning that the Select Board approved a plan to sell it to the highest bidder. Seems everyone in Cedarville but the Select Board knew how important Little Red was to the character of their community.

The final lesson here is that the Select Board members must make a special effort to know their community, its big and small parts, its special places and its hot button issues: they need to get out more! It seems clear that the board, overall, has become complacent in that regard. I believe I have demonstrated a passion for the town and would, if elected, be sure to stay abreast of issues, programs and developments that could negatively impact the town’s character.


10 Things I Will Do Differently

I’ve attended hundreds, if not thousands of Select Board meetings, in Plymouth and many other communities, and I know how important the little things can be.

In Plympton for example – quaint, charming Plympton – it was not unusual to be served lemonade before meetings, or a slice of pie from a board member, or to hear a tongue-in-cheek reading of Comcast’s latest letter to subscribers.

In other communities ‘public comment’ was not allowed unless a request had been made a week ahead of time, and if a reporter requested a copy of a document they were charged a fee.

In many cases meetings I attended were held in places where it was impossible to hear the board at all and that suited them just fine.

All of which informs my belief in what I can, and should do differently if elected to this historic board.

Here’s the list: 13 so far, and probably more to come.

  1. I will always err on the side of transparency- and will vote against executive sessions unless I am absolutely convinced of their necessity.
  2. Before voting to appoint I will question new applicants for boards and committees about the value of citizen participation – and I will seek to remove existing board and committee members who are hostile, rude or indifferent to the concerns of residents.
  3. I will make a point to be out in the community in different precincts and villages and neighborhoods on a regular basis, not just to address a current issue or project or problem, but as a matter of principle.
  4. I will seek to have a nonprofit community group on the agenda in one form or another at every board meeting: they deserve recognition.
  5. I will ask every town board or committee to give a written report on their status, goals, and aspirations at least once a year.
  6. I will seek to have various agenda items taken care of ahead of time so that more time can be given to issues that the public is concerned with.
  7. I will seek the establishment of an annual ‘Town Carnival’ at which – alongside amusement rides – members of major town boards and committees, Town Meeting representatives and other officials are present to answer questions about their responsibilities, explain how our historic form of government works, and display information about major town initiatives.
  8. I will help organize citizen groups around the notion of protecting and preserving our trees and natural resources, lead ‘less than hour’ hikes to some of our most unique environmental and historic sites, and push for safe trails and bike paths that link our schools, recreation sites and historic areas to our residential areas.
  9. I will convene a regular meeting of local advocates, researchers and business owners so that Plymouth can claim our share of seed capital for the growing blue – and green – economy.
    a. We are one of the state’s leading ports for lobster and have a burgeoning aquaculture industry. Why aren’t we promoting that to tourists, entrepreneurs and related industries?
  10. I will seek a precinct by precinct analysis of where tax dollars are spent and seek to address any major inequity through projects and promotions.
  11. I will speak out for higher standards for developers at all levels – house builders to commercial projects – and ask them to make their top priority the preservation of trees, topography, soils and community character.
  12. I will work hard to find ways to reduce our consumption and/or pollution of natural resources especially our invaluable sole-source aquifer.
  13. I will push to prioritize the creation of a new Master Plan and insist on its timely implementation.
    …more to come.


Let’s be Frank. semi-weekly.

February 13 · 

Dan Wright asked, “we have 2 selectmen that are already open space committed, why are you better than them?”

That’s a very open-ended question about ‘open space’ Dan, that gives me a lot of room to maneuver, and a chance to screw up big time as well.

Room to maneuver because ‘open space’ is itself open to interpretation, or definition. And dangerous because the question assumes I think I am ‘better’ than two un-named Select Persons.

I’ll try to keep this short (or shorter) but your question raises a lot of questions.

First, I would say that I don’t think I am ‘better’ than anyone, though of course if I am running for the Select Board I have to believe I am well qualified and could, if elected, be more effective in the role of Select Person.

I wonder who you believe are the two who are, as you put it, “open space committed?”

Certainly John Mahoney, who has encouraged me to run, believes in the benefits of securing and protecting open space in our community. His long-time membership on the Community Preservation Committee – which has played a leading role in acquiring open space – is proof of that. Let me note here that I am writing my response at my desk at the Center Hill Preserve, one of the most successful CPC acquisitions ever. I am here because the non-profit Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance (SEMPBA), on whose board I sit, is headquartered here.

SEMPBA has been involved in the effort to increase awareness about the beauty, rarity and value of the ecosystem we live within for nearly a decade, and I have played a role in that effort: I have organized meetings, written grants, designed programs and more.

I started the non-profit, Explore Natural Plymouth (ExploreNaturalPlymouth.org), whose simple mission is to encourage tourism by highlighting the amazing array of natural attractions that already exist in town.

I have been trained by UMASS-Amherst as a Keystone Cooperator (MassKeystone.net). On their website they note:

“In ecology, a keystone species is one whose impacts on its environment are larger and greater than would be expected from one species.

The Keystone Project invests education and reference materials in important, keystone people. These Keystone Cooperators make a significant conservation difference at the local level by transferring information and ideas to landowners and decision-makers.”

Have I made a ‘significant conservation difference?’ I certainly hope so. I do believe that SEMPBA has – and will continue to do so.

Let’s talk a little about open space though, that is, let’s try to define it.

It’s not, I would assert, golf courses. It’s not, I believe, the majority of space that developers leave open when they create a housing development. In most cases it’s not the wide swaths underneath utility lines. It may not even be land designated for conservation.

The key ingredient for me, is biodiversity. ‘Open Space’ needs to be alive, with native species of plants and animals. When you have that, in as large a connected piece as possible, you are likely protecting the groundwater beneath, allowing for animal corridors, reducing the temperature of the air, protecting against erosion and flooding, allowing rainwater to penetrate into the soil and replenish streams and ponds… and protecting the quality of life that makes living here worthwhile.

Living here, that’s why I am running for the Select Board: because I truly live here. I have walked all of its beaches, visited most of its ponds, know so many wonderful people who give so much of themselves because they love this community.

In a real sense we should look at every part of Plymouth as open space, treat it with the same respect and concern. We should realize that we are all keystone species: what we do as homeowners, business owners and as residents of Plymouth affects everything around us.

That’s, in part, how I view open space. I hope that answers your question.

Big Blue!

There’s ‘Big Blue’, and then there’s ‘Brown Bear,’ and let’s not forget ‘The Big Sandbox in the Sky.”

There is such a thing as the ‘character’ of a community. It’s something that no particular person is in charge of, but that everyone in a community is responsible for. That said, I believe the members of the Select Board are uniquely positioned to speak out for and protect that character and that’s why it is so disappointing that Big Blue and other blemishes on our character seem to be happening so often.

  • Big Blue: The historic district committee often gets down to the details with developers in the downtown, requiring a particular window style, clapboard size, and such. So how did everyone miss that this building was going to interrupt vistas, block views, and change the character of the waterfront?
  • Brown Bear: Do the proportions of this Manomet condo development seem inappropriate for the location? What was there before? A one story motel that had morphed into low-priced housing. What happened to the people that used to live there? Have they found housing in Plymouth?
  • The Big Sandbox: this sand and gravel apocalypse seems to be getting bigger and bigger, and around it another sandpit has morphed into a big parking lot, and a variety of cookie cutter buildings housing small businesses. I am opposed to the sand and gravel operations, but not to more small businesses. But couldn’t that have happened with a great consideration for the thousands of homeowners who have to use these same roads to get to their homes in South Plymouth?
  • The Woodlot. The County is still ‘fiddling and diddling’ with this 100-acre woodland property, holding irregular meetings on its future, which now needs to consider the 5-acre sandpit carved out of its center. Can’t we take a more aggressive stance about this property?
  • Little Red: this fits exactly what I said earlier about the ‘character’ of a community: It is everyone’s responsibility, particularly members of the Select Board, so it is particularly concerning that the Board approved a plan to sell it to the highest bidder. Seems everyone in Cedarville but the Select Board knew how important Little Red was to the character of their community.

The lesson here is that the Select Board members must make a special effort to know their community, its big and small parts, its special places and its hot button issues: they need to get out more! It seems clear that the board, overall, has become complacent in that regard. I believe I have demonstrated a passion for the town and would, if elected, be sure to stay abreast of issues, programs and developments that could negatively impact the town’s character.

I’m not ignoring the virus: for my perspective on the virus, how we’ve behaved, what we need to do… go to my BLOG.

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