Cohasset Town Meeting is Upon Us

It’s a strange time of the year.

Citizens come together and make decisions about town issues.

Oftentimes it’s hard to get a quorum on a Saturday morning in Cohasset. It’s always better for Town Meeting when it rains.

Some years “the hive” is swarming. The HUM starts a week or so before TOWN MEETING.

At first there’s a quiet HUM.

Last week a citizen reporter who had just returned from the Landfill called TU (Tinytown Unleashed) to say:

“A week ago Selectman candidate Martha Gjesteby was doing Ok and Karen Quigley’s petition article was failing.  But now it’s all changed. Gjesteby and Quigley both win big time.”

But how did this happen we asked?

Our reporter shrugs her shoulders.

Hummmmmmmm.

In the March 2012 issue of the Smithsonian writer Carl Zimmer (HIVE MIND) wrote a darling article about bee hives. While I was reading along about Hive etiquette I thought to myself – Hummmm…the behavior of bees in very much like what happens at a town meeting.  The getting together on issues part

And then on Page 16 of that same article, second column, third paragraph Thomas Sealy of Maine, a beekeeper said:

“New England town hall meetings are the closest human grouping to honeybee swarms. There are some differences, but there are also some fundamental similarities.

“Like scouts, individual citizens are allowed to share different ideas with the entire meeting. Other citizens can judge for themselves the merit of their ideas, and they can speak up themselves. When it’s working properly, good ideas rise up and bad ones sink down.”

Seeley discusses the bees throughout the article, noting their interesting behaviors. I began to underline all the interesting comparisons to town meetings and humans and found myself magic marking entire pages. So you’ll just have to go to the library and read it.

One never knows what will happen at a town meeting. Especially an annual one.

The people who attend town meeting have been thinking about the Cohasset Town Meeting warrant for over a week when you read this on-line or in the May 16th hard copy edition. And they have been reading the newspapers and blogs for much longer than that.

It’s been a tough year for town officials.

Selectmen are getting hell for the very sloppy warrant. A warrant is supposed to “warn” people of the amounts of the unpaid bills, how much money is needed for unpaid bills, etc. This warrant, constructed by a new and untrained town manager, is sorely lacking in information. It’s not illegal, it’s just lacking. Plus, it was late in getting mailed to homes. I got mine 6 days before town meeting. There will be lectures. The lectures have already started. Steve Gaumer, Chairman of Capital Budget, a stickler for details, is displeased. He would probably be an excellent selectman.

Town Manager Mike Milanoski has worked his hiney off – to the extent that even Tinytown Unleashed appreciates his efforts. Alas, while he bright as a whip, he is not a trained town manager. He will make mistakes because he hasn’t apprenticed for this job.  Already he is holding back information from the press, maybe the very selectmen he serves. Discouraging words in the form of mean letters disappear from the selectmen’s packet, or the press’s packet. This has to stop. Selectmen should want to keep the press content – as happy as possible – in order that it does not moan and groan. Moaning and groaning effects elections – which several elected officials face a week after annual town meeting.

But this article is not about that. This is about the bees. The Town Meeting bees.

I imagine TU as being a Scout bee. We worry about everything all the time. We’re pretty good about picking on the articles with substance.

At this point the Cohasset ATM warrant is a blank check.  Voter bees have no idea of the costs of anything. A motion page will be handed out at town meeting but until the voter bees alight upon the floor no one will really have any handle on what is being requested.  This year the swarm will be more than upset.

Voter bees like the fact that Cohasset Water is shutting off the water of people who don’t pay. But they don’t like that fact that a photo of smiling Water Commissioner Leonora Jenkins putting dunning letters in the mail was taken and published in the Mariner. That was a turn-off.  Who knows how that will play against the water commissioners’ article, Article 32?

Will Bees vote against an article will asks them to let the inexperienced Acting Town Manager and other assorted inexperienced people negotiate a final concessionare  water contract with a bidder who will not submit his bid until after the first session of town meeting?

I sure hope so.

Hotel taxes and meals taxes might pass this year, thanks to an editorial written by Mary Ford, Mariner Newspapers.  She explained it well. If it passes selectmen should send her flowers.

I am in favor of the citizens’ petition, Article 21, to turn the water and sewer commissioners into a combined appointed board of water and sewer commissioners. I will tell you why at town meeting.

The power of the town meeting is in the Hive. The Queen Bee, the Water Commissioners, the Selectmen, lose all power here. Town Meeting is CITIZEN power.

“Both swarms and brains make their decisions democratically. Despite her royal title, a honeybee queen does not make decisions for the hive. The hive makes decisions for her…millions make a collective choice.”

I hope to see you at Cohasset Town Meeting.

You may not think your vote is important, you may not even think you have enough knowledge to participate. But you do. We need the intelligence of the swarm to come forth. And that intelligence usually leads to the right decisions. And you are part of the swarm.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright 2012 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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  14 comments for “Cohasset Town Meeting is Upon Us

  1. Mike Coughlin
    May 12, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Chris,

    Besides the editorial in the Southbridge Evening New entitled “Keep Coughlin”, in May 2002 I was named Southbridge’s Man of the Year for my accomplishments during the previous 2 1/2 years as Town Manager. – standing up and taking on the tough issues. This is not spin– its called leadership. When I was removed a couple of months later– overflow crowds packed the Town Council Chambers in my support. In two separate petition drives– over 2,000 petition signatures were collected. The vote to remove me was 8-5.

    In Northbridge, the Worcester Telegram commended me for fighting to enforce the Open Meeting Law and for bringing to light the wrongdoings of the Moderator, his company and the Northbridge Building Committee to the Inspector General– which took action. The vote to buy out by contract was by 3-2 vote with the Chair and Vice Chair both voting against. After my contract was bought out – the District Attorney found widespread violations of the open meeting law amongst the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee. Chris– you may not want to hear this but its not spin but leadership when you stand up for the public’s right to know and against improper use of taxpayer money.

    In Westport– I left after 4 1/2 years when I was appointed in Cohasset. In June 2011, the Inspector General upon my request issued a report about widespread abused by the Highway Department. Chris– once again its not spin but leadership to stand up to official wasting thousand of dollars in taxpayer funds.

    In Cohasset – during my hearing over 100 people showed up to support me. Seems like consensus to me Chris that many in this town liked the job I was doing. Chris– you may not like to hear this but standing up against Peter Dicaprio’s water proposal, a capital budget committee that gives higher priority to tennis courts rather than public safety, to officials who did not properly staff our administrative officials and to ill advised plans to close the police station– are tough stances that I am proud of.

    See you at Town Meeting

    PS– Thank you for your service to your country– but a true Marine would never question another servicemembers service

    PPS- My wife and her family are life long residents of Charlton–but they don’t remember you

  2. May 11, 2012 at 11:29 am

    No. I did not say I used to prefer elected officials.

    I said after I looked at the actual political history of Cohasset, regarding water and sewer elections, I realized that sewer, while it was elected, had been an “invitational” board for many years. No big races. No big controversy. I said I didn’t see that it would be that much of a change in making it an appointed board. It virtually was one. How is that a lazy intellectual argument? It wasn’t an argument at all. I showed the reader how I reached my conclusion.

    As for Milanoski, he refused to share the motion he wrote on the citizens’ petition with Quigley and she appealed to Evans. Made her go through hoops. See Karen run. Make her do a cartwheel, a little Irish jig. Sing a song. Make her beg to get town counsel’s advice on the motion, something that has been afforded petitioners since the McMorris and Sullivan Selectmen days.

    And now you’re all upset that I said Milanoski’s style of government was like the Third Reiche. Oh, pity. Maybe Milanoski should call for a resolution at HIS Town Meeting to ban the Tinytown Unleashed blog and the Tinytown Gazette. Or call me before the Selectmen and let them all give me a 20-minute oral beating – they are very good at that. Yep. That’s what the Third Reiche did. Banned newspapers, banished opinion, cartoons, sought political control and demanded complete allegiance to the party.

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