A more watchful eye on the henhouse

Guest Post by Michael Chambers (guest posts are moderated, but not approved or endorsed by the CCA Steering Committee)

It Looks Like I Was Wrong

Sometimes we want to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when we have the possibility of doing either. After the last election, members of the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee (CDTC) intimated that, because the Charter Revision Advisory Committee supported total votes to determine leadership on the Town Council, that there was now a fox in the henhouse. Some of my friends also uttered that sentiment. They referred to the fact that Paula Anderson, a Democrat, had garnered enough votes with the help of the Master Lever, to become Vice President of the Town Council, otherwise consisting of Independents. I wrote that I would give Ms. Anderson the benefit of the doubt because I believed that she would put the welfare of the town above the welfare of her political party. I felt that she would not be a puppet of the party wonks, but would exercise her own individualism as a representative of the taxpayers of Charlestown. I was wrong.

During the past year, Ms. Anderson seems to have kept a low profile for the most part. Except on two votes, I have seen her consider what was best for the people over posturing for her Party. Two votes, but important ones at that. Two votes that I strongly disagree with.

The first was regarding the selection of a new member of the Chariho School Committee. Her choice ignored two very highly qualified candidates in favor of someone who clearly would become a placeholder for the Democrat on the School Committee who was being replaced. This vote exhibited the behavior that the business community and human resources officials have been trying to change in the work place.

The second vote, cast on the question of purchasing the LeBlanc property on Rte 1, ignored the testimony of the great majority of Charlestown’s taxpayers. Tom Gentz, George Tremblay, Dan Slattery, and Lisa DiBello (all Independents) supported the purchase of the land for $2,114, 415. The lone dissenting vote came from Paula Anderson (Democrat) who, although she knew that the seller would not wait for a referendum, insisted on demanding a referendum and thereby jeopardizing the sale of the controversial property. While she could have moved to amend the original motion, she chose to vote against the purchase. I reiterate, she voted against the purchase while the dominant sentiment of the citizens was to vote “yes”.

By casting a “NO” vote on the motion to buy the property, Ms. Anderson also ignored the statements of several conservation groups, town officials, and members of the community that worked long hard hours fighting the wind turbine proposal. Ms. Anderson voted along party lines in an attempt to discredit the other members of the Town Council. She said that she wanted a referendum held even though the process already had been supported through a funding referendum. However, she didn’t even seek to revise the motion through an amendment. She also stated that the people in attendance should not be the only people to wade in because her friends couldn’t get baby sitters or were landowners who lived out of state. Does this make sense? Thankfully the other council members took a more professional approach on the issue and voted for the long term benefit of the town even though they may have liked to have had more time. Ms. Anderson’s partisan vote was unwarranted and an insult to all who worked hard to get the issue resolved.

Do these two votes constitute a Party over People attitude? Not necessarily on all issues, but I think it is indicative of her leanings on personnel appointments and major issues involving planning and development. After her election, the local Progressive Democrats intimated that because she ran as a Democrat, she would invariably vote along party lines. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and felt that once she became part of the decision-making process, she would work for what is best for the town. When you ask people for their support, you owe them your loyalty. As much as we would like partisan politics to become a thing of the past, we can expect that the divisions promoted by party leaders will continue to drain the trust of the electorate from our election process. As long as this continues, there will always be doubt and we know that trust and doubt are never on speaking terms. It looks like the CDTC members were correct and I was wrong. However, I will continue to give Ms. Anderson the benefit of the doubt, but will keep a more watchful eye on the henhouse.