The always-present woman referenced in Jeremy's e-mail: Is that state rep Catherine Mulholland?
No. Just a nut who shows up to every meeting to complain about anything she can find (things along the lines of, "your minutes from the last meeting don't have a period at the end of the last sentence in the third paragraph").
And... is Catherine Mulholland the middle-aged lady with the British accent? And...is she still in the state house?
Yes, that's Mulholland. No, she's no longer in the State House; her only elected position, right now, is on the school district budget committee. The district recently tried to appropriate almost $24M for a new school, using the excuse that the current school building has some safety defects that need to be repaired. They didn't mention that those defects could be repaired for a tiny fraction of that amount. But they did mention that the school could be shut down if they are not repaired, and the cost of sending the students to other schools and doing repairs on an emergency schedule would end up being much more expensive than doing them as part of planned work.
Unfortunately for Mulholland, she was quoted when she publicly
announced at a meeting that, "we should use scare tactics to get this passed." That quote was used in a mailing which went out the week before the vote. Enough folks saw the above distortion for being exactly what she promised to do, that they defeated the issue. Of course, since they budget committee couldn't very well put in the repairs as a separate line item, since that would admit what game they were playing, that means that neither their pie-in-the-sky new school or
the necessary safety upgrades will be done.
There's serious talk about Grafton seceding from the district. We're right on the border of two districts, so the town could tuition students to whichever district offers the best value.
"I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who."
Reader's Digest version:
The planning board really only has one duty in town: if someone wants to subdivide a lot, they take the plan to the board, who will hear testimony from any abutters who might have a concern over the matter and, hearing no objection (as is essentially always the case - most folks talk to their neighbors before bothering to submit a subdivision plan), they approve the plan and send it on to the county. Certain individuals in town (primarily, a few ne'er-do-wells who moved from places like NJ, and rather than using that as a cautionary tale, prefer to try and change Grafton to be more like the places they left) don't like the fact that the planning board doesn't do things like develop a new "master plan," and a "capital improvement plan," as if Grafton was some big city. Certain members of the selectboard are really keen on getting at least a million dollars "planned-for" to create a new town office building. So, those members put a warrant article on the ballot to change the planning board from having elected members, to appointed ones (appointed by the selectboard, of course).
As an aside, during the budget deliberative session, one individual moved to amend an appropriation for $5k in tax money to restore old records, down to $1. The prime mover behind trying to change the planning board's status argued strongly that doing so would be a direct interference in democracy, because it would give the voters a choice between $0 and $1, and $1 is so close to zero that there would be no real choice, at all. However, when it came time for his baby to be debated, he argued strongly that all democratic control over who is on the planning board should be eliminated. Guess he only cares about democracy when the voters do what he wants, eh?
It should be noted that, through multiple election cycles, the planning board positions have been won by liberty-minded locals and a few movers. It should also be noted that, in recent cycles, they have been running and winning those positions unopposed. I addressed the deliberative session on that subject, pointing out that, if there were any actual sentiment that the planning board were doing a poor job of representing the desires of the residents of Grafton, clearly some of them would be running for positions on the board, so that they could change its direction. Obviously, there is little sentiment among Grafton's population that the planning board should be interfering more with others' lives, as no one even bothers to oppose those who get elected and re-elected to the board.
As to why things aren't advertised here, in advance? Well, part of it is that deliberative sessions are only open to registered voters, so unless you actually live in Grafton and register to vote here, it doesn't do much good to tell you that a deliberative session is happening. Another thing is that we don't want things here to turn into a circus (or, more to the point, something that would be perceived
as a circus by the majority of those who live here). For example, at the peak of the debate on the extremely-controversial article to have the planning board be appointed by the selectboard, John (pastor at the Peaceful Assembly Church) submitted an amendment to the article, such that the selectboard would be appointed by the planning board. That's clearly not even legal, so everyone knew it was a good-natured joke, and the tension was relieved dramatically. If individuals had been mocking the selectboard all day, then by the time we got to that point (probably six hours into the meeting), things would have been much more heated, tempers would have been higher, and it would not have been possible for a joke by one of "us" to get "them" to laugh and loosen up. The meeting might have been twelve hours instead of the eight that it finally took. Some of the last few articles to be discussed were tax exemptions for alternative energy, which appealed to liberty-minded folk by preventing unfair tax increases, and to many of the anti-liberty folks because they dealt with "green" energy. If things had been more heated, we might have had to battle to get those on the ballot, instead of getting them approved quickly and cleanly; knowing that they were put up for consideration by one of "us" would have made certain individuals oppose them out of spite, if the meeting had been more-negative.
There are certainly times when it is appropriate to mock certain politicians. And there are certainly those who know how to use such mockery to achieve positive results. I nailed the police chief good with a rather sarcastic comment when he complained that his budget was so small that he could barely afford ammunition, asking what caliber he needed and offering him a box if things are really that tight, which left him totally unable to respond, but on election day, when 7PM rolled around and they were about to close the doors, I was standing outside chatting with someone, and he called over to make sure that I had already voted, so I wouldn't get locked out, even knowing that I was pretty much certain to be casting votes against every appropriation he was asking for. You need to know enough about the recipient of such comments, to know not just how he will react immediately, but also how he will react in the weeks, months, and years following. Grafton is my home, and the home of many other liberty lovers. We are aiming for particular sorts of activism which allow those who have moved to work with
those who have lived here for decades or their whole lives. There's a reason that Grafton was already so free when some folks within the FSP decided to move there, and we aim to continue and support those things which have been major factors in Grafton being what it is.
But if we post public announcements on the forums, then there's no telling who will show up in response. The big concern is that we end up with something like the fiasco that Goddard caused in Concord when he invited a bunch of angry nonresidents to show up at the HCR6 hearing. Just as the legislators in Concord were upset at being yelled-at by a bunch of nuts from other states, those in Grafton (and remember, all these boards and such are executive; the legislature in a town is the voters, themselves) don't want to have folks from other towns and cities showing up and yelling at them. And those of us in the liberty movement don't want that to happen. Many of the votes at the deliberative session were quite close; a few more responsible liberty activists could cause a major swing even further towards liberty, whereas a few mis-steps could cause a significant anti-liberty reaction.
If you want to know what's going-on in Grafton, you really need to visit and get to know folks, and let them get to know (and trust) you, and then they will be likely to keep you in the loop. And you have to realize that in certain cases, where votes are expected to be close, you'll probably be kept in the dark, because either "side" could tip the balance by getting a few more folks to show up. If something important is going on, and the vote is going to be close, any sensible student of the political process is going to alert only
those who are registered to vote, and who are expected to vote the way he wants. Anything else risks that word will trickle around to those who oppose him; it's better if his opponents don't realize that anything special is going on.