George Tremblay: In defense of Charlestown Town Council’s actions

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author George C. Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay is the recently retired Vice President of the Charlestown Town Council.

Recently, the Charlestown Town Council chose to replace, rather than reappoint, several incumbent members of the Charlestown Parks and Recreation Commission. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has witnessed the relentless conflict between the two bodies. These decisions were made shortly after my tenure on the Town Council, but I’ve had enough exposure to the grinding conflict between the two bodies to appreciate the argument for change.

The Charlestown Town Charter instructs volunteers on the Parks and Recreation Commission to report to its department head, the director of Parks and Recreation. The charter instructs the director to take the commission advisories into account when reporting to the Town Council. Policy dictates that the commission register its concerns and suggestions for resolution with the director, and the director to moderate expectations and seek any necessary authorization from Town Council. But that’s not how it worked during my four-year tenure on the Town Council. Instead, the same few members of the commission and their supporters routinely claimed time on the Town Council agenda to air their grievances under the slot reserved for “Items not on the Agenda,” thereby bypassing the department head they are charged to serve, and the accepted protocol for resolving disputes. This is not to demean the aspirations of the Parks and Recreation Commission or its advocates, but to explain the dysfunctional nature of their tactics. Essentially, the chain of command and accountability is disrupted.

I can only speculate that the new Town Council decided to bring this relentless conflict to a halt by making appointments to the commission from a fresh batch of applicants. While I might prefer to change course through persuasion, I can’t fault my successors for throwing in the towel.

The charge that the Town Council appointed party loyalists does not bear up to close scrutiny. Only one has a history of ties to the Charlestown Citizens Alliance that endorsed all current members of Town Council. No evidence of a political litmus test for appointment to the commission has been offered, and I don’t think such evidence exists.

Adversaries complain that appointments to the commission outside the sequence of applications received constitute a betrayal of democracy. Well, that may have been debatable in ancient Greece, but it is not so now, in these United States. By deliberate design, our democracy does not give the people direct power to decide the issues. As we’ve just been reminded, it doesn’t even give the people the power to elect their president! Instead, we elect representatives to make those decisions for us, and Town Council appointments to town commissions are a legitimate exercise of that authority. Critics of the Town Council must look elsewhere for its faults.

George Tremblay