Talking town strategy

The Select Board covered a lot of ground in its annual strategy session this week. It’s little wonder the board members devoted only a few minutes apiece to all but one of the two dozen topics they discussed. Some of the ideas considered at Wednesday’s meeting will be welcome, others not so much.

But where was the vision? Missing from the board’s deliberations was a review of the tasks assigned it by the Master Plan’s Action Plan. That responsibility is spelled out by the town charter, which requires the board to include the tasks in its goals for the coming year, which are due 60 days after Annual Town Meeting. Although a review of Master Plan tasks and due dates was on last week’s agenda, it was deferred to a future meeting, but only after member Rich Maiore reminded his colleagues they were responsible for multiple tasks listed in that document. Another big issue, the condition of town fields, was left to a yet-to-be convened committee, although the board just two weeks ago promised a robust plan and budget.

Plans to improve transparency, however, are encouraging. Greater openness benefits not only the Press, but the citizens who must ultimately approve the board’s initiatives. With more power in the hands of the town’s executive branch, it’s the board’s responsibility as an elected body to make sure the community supports its work. Posting documents at the town website prior to their discussion at Select Board meetings is a step we have long advocated. Making better use of the Town Hall audiovisual tools to display pertinent documents during meetings would help as well. And being diligent about use of the sound system is also important so those who come to meetings can hear board discussions in spite of the room’s poor acoustics. No speaker should be allowed to dodge use of a microphone.

Another proposed change—splitting town meetings into two sessions to cover finances and bylaw changes separately—has a certain logic. But proposing to bundle financial items as single articles again strikes us as unwise. Why does it always seem as though the board and administration want to avoid or abbreviate discussion of important items rather than allow the careful give-and-take of debate that is the hallmark of traditional town meetings? And why did this topic, among all the others, merit 30 minutes of a three-hour meeting?

Sometime before July 3, if the board keeps to the timing of the Charter, we will learn how it intends to incorporate its Master Plan responsibilities and other discussed items in this year’s goals. Along with our readers, we await that news eagerly.

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