Local government is full of boobs.
No, you guttermind, I’m not referring to the photos of topless models Brunswick Town Councilor David Watson recently e-mailed to municipal officials, claiming he was celebrating “National Women’s Breast Awareness Day.” When I use the word “boob,” it’s in the traditional sense of “somebody like Joe Biden.”
Watson qualifies. Not only did his e-mail offend recipients with nudity, he also went mainstream, clean, and articulate by slamming Martin Luther King Day. For his antics, he was forced to resign as the council’s vice (insert obvious joke here) chairman.
I don’t mean to single out Watson as an example of what’s wrong with local government. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the preceding sentence is probably a lie.) His lack of discretion pales when compared to the arrogance displayed by the Kingfield selectmen.
At a January meeting, that august body voted to go into executive session to discuss negotiations concerning a property-tax break for Poland Spring’s new bottling facility. Maine law allows such closed-door conferences, because it’s in the town’s interest not to reveal its strategy in advance to the other side.
Except the other side was invited to join the selectmen. The secret meeting wasn’t a discussion of how to negotiate with Poland Spring. It was the actual negotiations. According to a somewhat jumbled account in the local newspaper, The Original Irregular, First Selectman John Dill had previously said the public didn’t need to know the details of the deal-making. If the meeting had to be open, Dill said, he might as well call it off.
If Brunswick’s Watson decides to celebrate National Boob Awareness Day, he could e-mail a photo of Dill. Fully clothed.
Other local officials who deserve similar acknowledgement include:
The Gray Town Council, which voted in January to designate its downtown as “a deteriorating, dilapidated, slum and blighted area” in order to qualify for a federal grant. If the definition of a slum is “an area with thriving businesses and historic buildings, but more than its fair share of boobs,” the feds have already fast-tracked the cash.
The West Paris selectmen, who placed a citizen-initiated item on the March town-meeting agenda calling for the local police department to make enforcement of marijuana laws its lowest priority. West Paris doesn’t have a police department.
The Rumford selectmen, who agreed to buy out the remaining year of their town manager’s contract at a cost to taxpayers of $69,000. When Stephen Eldridge was hired as manager more than two years before, selectmen allowed him to continue living in Monmouth. Disgruntled citizens got a judge to rule the board had ignored Rumford’s charter, which requires the manager to live in town. Although, you can see why he might not want to.
The Portland City Council, because . . . well, if you can’t find a bunch of reasons, you’re a boob, too.
Is there a point to all this? Other than using the word “boobs” a lot?
Yes. Local government is under assault by forces both obvious (Governor John Baldacci’s school-consolidation plan) and subtle (a survey commissioned by the anti-sprawl group GrowSmart Maine claimed over 70 percent of the state’s residents would sacrifice local control for cost savings). Apparently, the sloppy methods of town councilors, selectmen, and village idiots are no longer acceptable.