Morning again in Watertown.
Winter is here and
daylight is a preciously rare commodity. Even still, January is the
dawn of a new year. It’s a time when many of us
look to make changes and have new beginnings. I’ve made my usual
resolutions that I’ll probably give up for Lent. Once again, I
resolve to eat healthier, get more exercise, and stop smoking cigars
(well maybe not that radical).
In many ways it’s a new beginning for Watertown. There is an apprehensive
buzz amongst Watertown’s political junkies. It rivals the atmosphere
at Red Sox spring training camp. Like the Red Sox front office, we the
voting public, are fielding a new team.
The “franchise ace” has
come out retirement. He will certainly help stabilize the rotation.
Five promising rookies were added in the off-season. Their raw talent
and energy should re-invigorate the team. And of course, there are
three returning veterans. Together with the franchise ace, they should
provide continuity, experience, and seasoned leadership.
What should we expect out of the gate from this line up? Well, I am
pretty sure we have a committed bunch of players that want to leave it
all on the field. The question is: Will it be a team or a collection
of very talented stars?
I think at first we’re going to see a little of both. That’s
to be expected. You don’t just put a bunch of new people together
and expect everything to click right off the bat. Besides, while we want
a team that works together for the same goal, effective democracy demands
vigorous debate. The key to success will be finding the balance. We need
both zealous advocacy and consensus-building compromise that gets the
promised to emphasize teamwork. That’s the right
place to start.
It’s amazing how much can be accomplished if no one is concerned
about who gets the credit.
The team opens with
a tough schedule. First on the agenda is re-structuring the Town Manager’s
contract. Just as important will be implementing a system of oversight
that ensures tax dollars are wisely spent.
However, if our new Council is to bring about real change, they need
the tools. We voted to give the Council those tools in 2001. We overwhelmingly
told the Council that we expected our elected officials to confirm Department
Heads and outside consultants. Unfortunately, that Council shrugged off
the responsibility. Hopefully, this new Council will not turn a deaf
ear to voice of the people.
The Town Manager,
like a CEO, should have the ability to pick his own team. No one denies
him that prerogative. That said; the Town Manager should not have a
blank check when hiring people who implement policy. Running a town
is not simply like operating a business. It’s a
democratic process that includes the advice and consent of the elected
Of course change doesn’t
come fast or easy. Effective change requires thoughtful deliberation.
It involves growth and often times growing pains.
Change will also encounter
resistance. People will want to protect territory they perceive as “their turf”.
For certain, we can expect controversy.
Nevertheless, change is possible, change is required, and change has
will be paramount. The Council can ill-afford the personal bickering
and trivial distractions that marked the last two years. We expect
civility from our Officials. Conversely, dismissing a valid point because
it’s ungraciously espoused is irresponsible
and just as petty. All Councilors should listen to the substance of what
is being said-- regardless of how it’s said (or who says it). We’ve
all heard good ideas voiced very poorly. We’ve also heard plenty
of tripe politely articulated with “highfalutin” eloquence.
I for one am hopeful that these Councilors will put Watertown above
any personal disagreements or political agendas. I believe this of all
our new Councilors; regardless of whether I supported their candidacies
or agree with their politics. After all they are all Townies (native
The time for politicking
is over and the time to govern has begun. We elected these good people
to establish oversight and to restore democratic checks and balances.
They deserve an opportunity to fulfill that mandate. Therefore, I’ve added another resolution to my list. For while
at least, I’m going to cut them some slack. I invite all of you
to do so as well.
Now relax folks. DiMascio
hasn’t hopped aboard the “Love
Train”. Nor do I intend to permanently retire my infamous poison
pen. Political disagreements and policy differences are as inevitable
as death and taxes. There will be ample opportunity to employ strategic
sarcasm and tactical rhetoric.
For now however, it’s time to turn our attention to what needs
to be accomplished. The responsibility ultimately falls on all of us;
not just the folks we’ve put in office. It’s Spring Training
for us as well. We need to step up to the plate and take a swing. We
all have good ideas and talents. If we keep them to ourselves, we contribute
nothing to the team. It’s morning again in Watertown. Time to wake
up and get to work. Thank God, we can still afford that recently endangered
cup of coffee.
Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government