Vol. III No. 16 8/15/2022
Of Litmus and Loyalty, Civics and Civility
by Patrick White
Sometimes I hear grumblings, mostly second hand, that folks wonder whom they can trust, as if there is a litmus test one must pass to be accepted in one camp or another.
If you ask the question, "Does this elected leader agree with me on every single issue?" I assure you, the answer is no. Your boards make tough calls, and no one agrees on everything.
My singular approach to decision-making is to answer the question, "What is in the best interest of the community?"
Now, one might argue that's trite: that the interest of the community is a subjective determination. To this I would answer, yes, and therein lies the subjective component of decision-making.
I also hear the oft-stated refrain that, "national politics has no place in town politics". If you define national politics as the cultish adherence to a national leader, then I completely agree with you. Yet the country's issues have quite a lot of relevance to our Town's decisions. Take the examples of the underinvestment in infrastructure, the paucity of housing, land-use trade-offs, issues related to security and safety, and inflation's impact on quality of life.
My approach to decision-making is to collect as much fact-based information as I can: statistics, trends, prior research, your views—and try to synthesize it all into a policy. My preference is to adopt policies that roll up into our common vision and core values widely shared within the Town. These include a community that encourages families, supports the needs of its elderly, has functioning infrastructure with prioritized investments, encourages both recreation and environmental stewardship, and balances the interests of the majority with the needs of those less fortunate.
On our most important decisions, it takes hard work to come finally to a decision. There is no failure in seeing both sides; unless and until that tendency causes inaction or paralysis. We must balance a commitment to tradition with the courage to act when a course correction is necessary.
Finally, however difficult the decision, the tenor of the debate must be respectful, rational, civil, and never personal. If I can't convince you of the merits of my position, that's on me, not you. If that's the case, let's disagree with a shared dedication to civility and community.
Editor's Note: White is Chair of the Select Board
Photo: Lionel Delevingne