The observations of a 50 something with lots of experience in politics, government, life and learning.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Well, it seems I'm going to have to be a LOT more responsible about this blog. Now one of the State Reps says he's reading it and so I have a responsibility to keep everyone posted. So, how about if we start with this: In Plainfield, they DONT know where the bodies are buried. One of the problems of living in an old New England town is that sometimes records are lost or unreadable or not accurate. And it turns out (please don't quote me because this is NOT an area of my expertise!) that the cemetery records in one of the main cemeteries are inaccurate, and so to compensate for that, they've been burying people on the outer reaches of the real estate just so they don't "run into" anyone. Well, the outer reaches are all filled up and we have to have a moratorium. Anyone willing to pay for a sonar detector should contact the cemetary commissioners. Condo conversions are also being considered. Seriously folks, it was a wonderful afternoon. The people of Plainfield are committed to their community and are willing to sit for an almost inestimable amount of time on not very comfortable furniture to make sure the place is run right. They have hardworking volunteers in town government and Thomas Jefferson would have been proud to be a part of their town meeting. But it is true that at this time, they don't know where the bodies are buried.....Meanwhile in Ashfield, you have to have even more stamina than in Plainfield. You start at 10AM, take a lunch break at 1PM and keep going. In both communities, the fate and future of the Mohawk Regional School district was the main topic of discussion. In both towns, the final votes supporting the schools was not particularly close but the debate before the votes was intense, respectful and impassioned. There were at least as many people present in Ashfield as we get in Williamstown (with the exception of the famous waterline meeting that pulled 1,000+) so that's commendable considering that they have a smaller population. The relatively new Mohawk superintendent, Michael Buonocanti (my apologies if my spelling is off -- especially because Mike's brother is STEVE who is a State Senator..!) had to speak to three town meetings in one day, and had just finished six others within the last week or so. The fact that he could still keep his cool in Plainfield is a tribute to his stamina and commitment to his job. There are no easy answers, but I have a much better handle on the school building/funding issues in these communities than I did on Friday. Now Lenox was a whole different story....and yet it wasn't. The selectmen held onto their health insurance by 15 is a comment on the place that health insurance plays in all our lives that this was a heated (but again respectful) discussion. A few years ago, the costs and availability of health insurance weren't much on people's radar screens. We now have the "haves" and "have nots" and the costs are exhorbitant. It will be interesting to see what effect the new health insurance reform legislation has on these discussions. Will the cities and towns actually be able to control some of their costs? It is a good thing that people who don't live in a town really can't jump up and participate in someone else's town meeting. I am a former selectman and I do health insurance counseling. I had LOTS of thoughts I could have shared. But I sat quietly in my seat and whispered to my neighbor. But I also learned a tremendous amount. Lenox also passed the CPA that still has to appear on the ballot, but I was pleased to see the discussion. And their effort to allow single family residences to add "in law" apartments is commendable in a community where affordable housing is almost nonexistent. One of the reasons that my family moved to MA is that we loved the idea of the traditional New England town meeting and I have yet to be disappointed when watching this time-honored version of democracy in action. I hope no one ever tries to convert THAT to cyberspace!

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