Contrary to earlier reports, in the newspapers as well as in this blog, voters in only five of the six island towns will get to express their opinion about the proposed roundabout in a non-binding referendum this spring.
Guess who’s being cut out of the game?
You’re way ahead of me: It’s the voters of Oak Bluffs.
Oak Bluffs, without whose board of selectmen the roundabout would have died before it ever got to the drawing board. Oak Bluffs, whose residents are about as enthusiastic about the roundabout as those in the other five towns — which is to say “not at all.”
The explanations seem a little muddled. The town administrator claims that the petition wasn’t submitted in time. This is not true: it was submitted at least 90 days before the town election. The selectmen discussed it at a subsequent meeting, but they did not vote on it; a vote is required to put a referendum question on the ballot. Why didn’t they vote? Good question. Maybe because that would have forced the roundabout boosters, led by Greg Coogan, to put themselves on record as saying that they didn’t care what the town’s citizens think?
In another interesting development, the question seems to have wound up on the town meeting warrant. The petitioners did not want to put the question on the town meeting ballot. How in the world did it get there? And why? My best surmises:
- Fewer people go to town meeting than to the polls.
- Voting is anonymous; town meeting is not. (A secret ballot can, however, be requested.)
- The selectmen can bump the question to the end of a long warrant, by which time most people have left and everyone’s else’s eyes have glazed over.
- At town meeting, the selectmen will have another opportunity to repeat the unconvincing rationalizations that we’ve heard ad nauseam in the last year. If anyone is still mentally and bodily present at this point, they will probably head for the exit.
So why, in their infinite wisdom, is the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen pulling this latest in a series of fast ones? The referendum is non-binding, facrissake. At this point, it seems only an executive order can stop the rush to roundabout. The citizens of Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Tisbury, and West Tisbury will all have a chance to express at least a non-binding opinion — but not the citizens of Oak Bluffs, in whose name the deed is supposedly being done.
Remember the fable of the frog and the scorpion? Scorpion asks Frog to ferry him across the river. Frog says, No no no, you will sting me and I will drown. Scorpion says, Why would I do that? If I sting you, you will drown but I will drown too. So off they go, and halfway across the river Scorpion stings Frog and down they both go. Why? cries Frog with his last breath. Because this is Oak Bluffs, says Scorpion.
It may well be that the rules relating to placement of a “ballot” article as opposed to a “warrant” article are different (though Edgartown seemed to have no problem, given the same time constraints as OB). At any rate, the warrant articles will be voted (or not) at the BOS meeting in Oak Bluffs tomorrow. As you may note if you attach to the link following, the discussion of the articles for the annual and special town meetings apparentlly will be held after 6 p.m. I wouldn’t count on this, though. If you’ve got 2.5+ hours to give up tomorrow afternoon, please join us in the OB Library meeting room starting at 4:30 p.m. Watch OB democracy in action!
I would so like to be there, but I’m off-island most of the day driving a friend to an eye appointment, and Saudi Arabia has a date with the Big Brown Truck on Wednesday. Democracy, don’t you love it? Someone tell me how we can blame all this on Wall Street . . .
Wall Street doesn’t give a rat’s ass about public participation or constraint on its desires. It’s a mindset shared with Wall Street. There.