A week has passed since the Barnstable elections, all reports are in, and the dust has settled sufficiently to comment upon them.
The people of Barnstable wail to all and sundry how unhappy they are with their town government. Letters to the editors of all local papers, radio talk shows, and two separate blogs on Cape Cod Today Blog Chowder all detail its inadequacy. But, when the only poll that counts is held, all the incumbents were reelected.
As always, there are reasons for this. John Alden is a relatively unknown political neophyte campaigning against a town institution, the elderly and venerable Harold Tobey, a retired police officer and library guard who spent his days campaigning in a golf cart while Mr. Alden attempted to campaign after work and on weekends. There may be trouble in this Paradise if Mr. Tobey breaks his word to vote with his constituents when the Town Council holds its vote on the three ballot questions, but taking almost 75% of the vote is an indicator of satisfaction with representation, as Mr. Tobey has always opposed the split tax rate.
Joseph Pino did better against Janet Joakim, but again, he lost due to a perception that she is a dedicated and talented representative. 478 to 402 is a very close vote, however, and she has nothing like the mandate given to Mr. Tobey, and her vote on the split tax rate may well be swayed – but she has four years to recoup her reputation if she chooses not to go along with her constituents, and she is a dedicated battler in the cause of school aid.
Perhaps the most disappointing vote came in Centerville, where Fred Chirigotis won the seat of his father-in-law Roy Richardson, defeating former councilor Ted Panitz with nearly 60 percent of the votes. Mr. Chirigiotis will be influenced, at best, by this family connection, indicating that Barnstable’s term limits may turn to simple nepotism.
Yet, on the matter of creating a split tax rate which will charge more to businesses, a residential exemption, and a small business exemption, the answer from the electorate was a resounding ‘yes’, while they simultaneously voted for the foes of the split rate, the incumbents that garner so much criticism and anger. It appears that Barnstable is suffering from Legislature Syndrome, which had a wider outbreak in the 2004 elections. Polls showed that while people were unhappy with the Legislature as a body, they thought that their own Legislator was a fine fellow, and voted to return him to the sick body; he could continue working for them, as he is always saying he does. The electorate of Barnstable appears to labor under a similar delusion, and do not understand that reelecting incumbents to a body they are unhappy with is merely an endorsement of all those votes with which they claim to have taken issue.
What astonished Porcupine the most was that Town Clerk Linda Hutchenrider, whose gross negligence with ballots and polling places threw a State Representative race into the Courts and provoked a historic action by the Legislature to seat the Democrat incumbent against the advice of the Judiciary, was unopposed and reelected. What does a person have to do to lose office in Barnstable?
What was different? The charter commission movement got many signatures, and may be able to put forward its idea that Barnstable should get rid of its inefficient Council in place of a Mayor, which will likely be chosen from the same deck of 52 jokers that currently run Town Hall. To Porcupine, it is tantamount to complaining how a repertory company butchered ‘Hamlet’ on Saturday, only to flock to see the same players in ‘Macbeth’ the following week. Eliminating the Council will simply complete the divorce of the Town of Barnstable from the rest of the Cape in terms of governance, and will make them an even more unwieldy partner.
Did the blogs matter? They certainly informed debate, and in fact the Town Council deliberated about them more than once. However, the election results are certain to justify those who feel they can be disregarded, and the fact that one of the Bloggers is quitting in the wake of the election may be taken as a defeat for the medium. The author of Cape Cod Living feels his few months experience qualifies him to write a book about Barnstable politics, prompting the reaction in some that if that is the case, others could write encyclopedias. It validates the viewpoint that the Bloggers are just a flash in the pan, easily distracted, like children with a shiny toy. In view of the inept and often delayed coverage of local events by the Cape Cod Times, our paper of record and whale watching, this is unfortunate. Blogs can be a fine medium if those in it will persevere.
The perennial complaints against the Barnstable Town council and its management will surely begin again soon, if they ever ceased. The complainers need to learn that the world is run by the people who show up.
Lastly, Porcupine has a new weekly tenant, Sanity's Bluff. Maybe it's those long hours on the road, but this is some of the most compelling conservative writing that Porcupine has run across. Great sidebar and links. too! I hope you will visit by clicking the ‘Rent My Blog’ box at the top of the page.