I have posted a correction on my response to the question of the MOU I discussed yesterday. You may see the correction in bold. Thanks again to Susan Stillinger.
But I remain firm in my overarching message.
Before I outline the main points, I’d like to say to my colleagues on the Board that I’m satisfied working with you. We may not agree on many issues but we’ve come to respect each other. Our current chair may have upset some folks in one of the meetings last year when he said, “I’ve been elected to do a job, and I’m doing it.” As a matter of the democratic process, Ken Goslant was right.
I’d also like to point out that my colleagues are diligently working on other issues vitally important to Northfield’s future. I’d like to mention Dave Maxwell in his efforts to build Northfield’s relationship with Norwich University. Lynn Doney helped deliver an excellent new Police Chief. Julie Goodrich has come up to speed right away, sharing some good questions and insights on details the rest of us may have overlooked. And Ken is my primary ally in my economic development activity. I also want to mention Bill Smith, Chair of the Development Review Board, for his work in helping create business-friendly Zoning Regulations. (That’s a story for another day.)
As a supporter of the roadside vegetation project, I’d like to point out my respect for the process of decision making, even if I don’t like the outcome. I lost a 4-1 decision after Town Meeting Day on a different issue and I still disagree with my colleagues, but the vote carries.
Back to the current issue, I remain firm on my position and would like to reiterate my points.
1. Dissent transforms into leadership.
Run for office if you want to participate in making decisions. There’s a lot of wasted time and heartache in protesting outcomes. Northfield has created a long, agonizing history by voting for a Board then protesting against it. If you don’t like what the Board is doing, you’re not going to get far by approaching problems the same way, over and over again. Protest has led to some successes, but our protests also send a statewide message that Northfield doesn’t have its act together.
2. Pave the road for success…
..and acknowledge potential failure. Keep the Select Board in the loop prior to outreach to State officials. We’re wasting everyone’s time and making Northfield look dysfunctional when individuals initiate work with State officials to make something awesome, only to have it rejected by the Board. The MOU was rejected out of hand and would have been rejected from the start.
As a result, State officials’ time has been wasted and Northfield looks like it doesn’t have its act together. Now the State has to go back and find another town to participate in the pilot program. The outcome is that the next time an opportunity may arise, Northfield’s application may be viewed with skepticism. I think the project is a great idea and yet I also know the application process, lacking initial support, has likely done more harm than good.
3. Better Back Roads grant.
Northfield’s Town Manager, Jeff Schulz, has secured a Better Back Roads grant which may help achieve the same or similar goals as the MOU, and in a shorter time frame. Ask to be involved in a public input process. And maybe say, “Thanks, Jeff!”
4. Run for office.
Yes, I’m repeating myself. But if you don’t run, don’t expect anything to change. This is the bottom line from my post yesterday.
5. My Role & Economic Development.
I have a year and a half left in my term and I won’t be seeking re-election. My primary focus is economic development. Prior to my position on the Select Board I served as a member of the public on the Town’s Economic Development Committee. At a meeting in July 2015 I commented that many towns partner with a non-profit organization as a vehicle for grants and other economic development activities. The concept was received as a good idea, and in January 2016, three dozen members of our community came together and decided to form the Northfield Community Development Network .
My hope is that my colleagues will recognize the advantages Northfield may enjoy if we hire an economic development director either as an employee of the Town or as the leader of the NCDN. (I would abstain from any vote on that decision.) The NCDN is already working hard behind the scenes under a professional board. However, the primary message from state officials is that Northfield needs an economic director if we want to coordinate grants and become eligible for significant opportunities.
6. Scenic Roads and Economic Development.
I understand how scenic roads contribute to economic development, and this is why I support the MOU and better oversight of Limlaw’s tree removal project. We need to remove trees for safety reasons, but we need to also consider local beauty as a factor when people decide to move to Northfield. In my campaign video I said, “This is what keeps bringing me back; the reason I call Northfield home.”
The roadside vegetation assessment MOU should be signed because it can help strike a balance between road maintenance and local beauty. But it won’t move forward right now. My colleagues feel differently than I do, and I don’t think they’re going to change their position. They may even dig in their heels. The self-started fire will rage all summer long.
7. From a completely pragmatic view, the MOU has a fatal flaw.
It’s a multi-year project. Limlaw’s tree removal work will be complete before the roadside vegetation inventory report is released. Proponents for the MOU have stated that the project won’t hold up the tree removal project. Therefore, trees included in the inventory may no longer be standing by the time the report comes out.
8. Doing my best.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone engaged on this issue. I also want to assure you I’m doing my best. As above, I’d like to thank my colleagues on the Board for their work on different issues and for their support of my work in economic development. Serving my community, while sometimes difficult, is one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever experienced.