Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time to Stock Up on Aluminum Foil

Here I go, thinking with my fingers again. It's like a seizure. Comes on quick, and the only way to make it go away is to write, or give the kitten a bath in the sink.

Less blood this way.

When a person runs for office, or accepts an appointment to an office a couple things happen. First of all they are chosen to serve the public. They can come in with experience, and offer their opinions, but in the end, they are there to act as a representative of the public, and if their line of thought does not match that of the majority of the public then it is a not a good thing. We usually discover this after the fact. We have few options at this point. We don't have to elect them the next time, or with an appointed individual we can try to get them on the same page as their constituents, instead of continuing their "It's all about me" attitude.

This is normal. Every town, city, and state has these issues. We elect someone, and only afterwards do we realize we made a big mistake. We live with it until we can change it.

But, what about the abnormal? What if a public official becomes an "anti-official" in their supposed "off" time. Well, for one thing if one is a public official, they no longer have "off time" Being a public official, elected, or appointed is full time. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Yes, they may carry on business during normal business hours, or in the evening at meetings, but in the eyes of their constituents they are Mr / Ms. Official whether they are seen at 5:00 PM, or run into them at XtraMart at 2:00 AM. It is not a job where they can "punch out" for the day. They are official 24 hours a day. If they don't like that, they don't have to run or accept the appointment.

So, getting back to the "anti-official". What is an "anti-official"? It is anyone that runs contrary to the behaviors, and ethics one expects from an official, and they do it mostly on what they call their "own time". And, they defend their behavior as some first amendment right they are pursuing. They will provoke an argument if asked to fly right, they will attack in the name of truth and integrity, and they will not let go of anything -- ever. They become the exact opposite of what one would expect a person in their position to be. Sometimes they will slam a person in writing, and on the very same page offer the same person congratulations. It's all very strange, and fragmented. They become an embarrassment to themselves, the place they represent, and to their friends

It is very "Sybil" like, and it is disturbing. One sure sign they have slipped a cog, is they will begin to show signs of paranoia, and proclaim that everyone around them is incompetent, and only they can perform the jobs at hand. They may even want everyone fired. In fact, they may even go public with their rants, and demands of firing everyone around them. The next thing you know they're wearing aluminum foil hats to prevent the voices from bothering them.

Now, don't misunderstand me. If the Town Fence Viewer wants to spend time practicing falconry in a wildlife preserve, well all we can do is tell him to stop, ,and to take up crossword puzzles instead. He is doing something idiotic that in no way reflects his position as Fence Viewer. But, if a politician, or a board member is spewing political opinions and slamming people in the media (yes, the internet is considered a form of media) then they have crossed the line. It won't be long before one of the "targets" complains to the Big Boss, and maybe even threaten to sue the town. After all, the politician is making political comments, so why would someone not assume they are speaking on behalf of their position? All it takes is on phrase, "You'll be hearing from my lawyer." to make those in command take notice.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Don't know. Just had these thoughts, and I am grateful we don't have anything like that going on here in Sturbridge. I mean, can you imagine? Imagine an official having two distinct sides to them? Or, more? It would almost be like the president of the Sierra Club swapping baby seal recipes on their Facebook site (shudder), or going to an Audubon bird count with binoculars and a twelve gauge.

Well, I'm glad I got that off my chest. Sometimes it's good to vent these things out in the open. It's like putting a clove of garlic over the door to keep the vampires away. I just hope my words make someone think twice before becoming an "anti-official" here.

But, just in case, I'm sleeping with my crucifix from here on in.

...and my aluminum foil hat.


  1. Great piece of writing, as always. One cannot help but engage in thought, just plain ole healthy thought after visiting this site.

    It's a good thing that nothing like that is taking place here in Sturbridge. I shudder to think of how distracting that could be.

    Speaking of aluminum foil, any thoughts as to where I can get several hundred cases of it? You know, just in case something like this were to ever happen.

    Seriously though, another thoughtful posting on your part.


  2. You've got me agreeing with you and disagreeing with you on this one. serve the public, on a Board or Committee majority rules BUT if it goes to a Town Meeting vote, the majority opinion rules but one has the right to voice an opposite view, i.e., minority report if you will.
    Also don't think you can lump all Boards/Committees together. The BOS has more clout than say the Design Review, so believe that the BOS has to be more prudent.
    Having said that, I as both an elected (ZBA) and appointed COA)"offical" of the Town, retain my right to speak out, either for or against any issue that affects me either personally (via Real Estate Tax increases) or the Town as a whole (sewer moratorium), two examples that come to mind.
    I cannot speak out on other issues while acting in my "official capacity", while a Board/Committee is convened but when not in session I become Ginger Peabody private citizen, with all the rights afforded. Again, don't think the BOS or Town Administrator, Department Heads are afforded this same luxury.
    If the printed press cites someone as "chair of this or that",or "member" when expressing their views and they are not in their official capacity that's unfortunate but guess it helps to sell papers.
    Just from where I

  3. Ginger,
    I agree with you, and I disagree, too.

    First of all, anybody can have an opposing view. Opposing views are fine. I like opposing views here. They cause me to think about my position a little more. An elected official can have an opposing view from another elected official as well. That's where debate comes in, and eventually, a compromise. That's politics, and that's how the system works. And, if a matter that is presented to the ZBA is personal, such as the seeking of a variance by someone in your neighborhood, then you would excuse yourself from the decision. That is correct, and ethical. As far as taxes go, or ones position on the sewer moratorium, you can have those personal opinions as well. After all, you are a resident of the town as well. But, what I was referring to in the posting was that no appointed member of a board, or elected individual has the right to insult, be derogatory, or inflammatory to another elected or appointed official while they are on the clock, or on their "own" time, especially if the comments are of a political nature. You may have a difference of opinion, but that can be handled in the board room.

    And, they do not have the right to insult any non-politician if the comments have to do with town affairs, or politics, or even the size of their feet for that matter.

    If I see you at Wal*Mart, I'd say "Hello", resident to resident, but if I had a ZBA question or concern, guess what, you just punched in. Goes with the job. Just as when you are at home, you don't start typing Letters to the Editor slamming your colleagues at town hall about an issue. You can write the editor about how you feel about taxes as you stated, as a private citizen, but that is it. You can express yourself at the Town Meeting, as a private citizen, too.

    When one accepts a political appointment, or is elected to office they are no longer Private Citizen Jones, they have just transitioned to Public Citizen, and that is a 24 hour a day position. That is basic Civics 101, and unfortunately many do not know this, or do know it, but refuse to accept it. They need to know it, and they need to watch what they say, and who they say it to. You are so right when you wrote the newspapers will attribute things to the "chair of the board...". So will anyone else if they are insulted, and there lies the problem. They won't say the person was insulting me out the "private citizen" part of his mouth, they'll say "That darn Fence Viewer is insulting and harassing me." And, "You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

  4. Am I the only one in town who has visited Lorraine Murowski's campaign website and was blinded by the unexpected and unfamiliar sight of seeing her actually smile — broadly? Who knew? In the 10 or so times I've had to go into her office and been subjected to her rudeness and inhospitality (each time leaving with the notion that I must have a big stain on my shirt or spinach in my teeth) I had never seen her smile. I don't know the first thing about Susan Murphy, but will vote for her because it's got to be an improvement over this nasty woman we've got in there now.


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