Do we have too many Cohasset selectmen?

If the new Cohasset Governance committee chair has his way, the committee might again become involved in a charter review to change the board of selectmen from 5 to 3 members, with two-year terms. This would have to go back to the state for charter review, as it would be a change in the Amended Town Manager’s Act not yet approved. (The governor will probably sign the New Act this month. After it is signed, the act goes into effect immediately.)

Governance chair Kevin McCarthy said: “When you have a logjam sometimes you need to shake things up and try new approaches to break up the stalemate.”  What stalemate? Selectmen have been having perfectly reasonable 3-2 votes. A stalemate is when you cannot get a vote to move in any direction.

In the new Amended Town Manager Act the board of selectmen have OVERSIGHT of all the boards and committees it appoints. This is not the time to reduce the board to three.

If McCarthy should petition for the same at a special town meeting, or call for a special to enact the same before the April 2014 elections and before the election season starts,  Selectmen Martha Gjesteby and Karen Quigley would still hold the majority seats on the board, as the seats of Selectmen Fred Koed and Diane Kennedy’s seats would be eliminated.

Cohasset has had a five-member board of selectmen for 30 years.

In 1983 Richard Barrow, Tony Fasciano (Barrow and Fasciano are now deceased) and I put a citizens’ petition to town meeting to increase the board because we saw a three-member board in crisis. We were not trying to change any votes. We just saw an absence of dialogue and consideration during a time when the complexity of running town government was increasing.

In 1997 I would be a part of a citizens’ petition group to initiate a Town Manager form of government. Not because any of us were against an executive secretary, but because the town needed an informed and experienced manager.  And we wrote a professional town manager into the Town Manager’s Act.

Our citizen’s group thought a five man board of selectmen would give selectmen time to have their own lives: grieve a spouse, travel on business, have medical problems, whatever. And for 30 years it has permitted to selectmen to do exactly that.

McCarthy’s proposals comes at a strange time is because the Amended Town Manager act takes away powers from the town manager and gives them back to the selectmen. Selectmen now have additional responsibilities. Under McCarthyism’s two-year terms selectmen would be always frantically running in order to keep them closer to the people. Selectmen seem to not be able to get away from the people.

McCarthy talks about Recall of town officials. Recall is a special election called for by citizens when they don’t like whatever is happening.  School committees, planning boards, boards of selectmen, the town clerk, any town official could find themselves involved in a recall election for any reason at all.

Years ago we supported recall, but we’ve changed our mind.

A group like the Good Governance activists could be scheduling recall elections monthly.

Recall special elections would replace petitions.


© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed