I took six Tylenol, and I drank plenty of water. Why? Because I have Town Meeting hangover.
Thankfully, we can give it a rest for awhile. For more than 14 hours over two days, the community debated various articles with clear winners and losers emerging in the end. Undoubtedly, everyone who participated in Town Meeting is going through some sort of withdrawal about now - either by attending to their wounds or quietly celebrating behind closed doors.
For me, I left with mixed emotions. I guess that’s what’s to be expected. While happy with some results, I am still scratching my head this morning about others. Nevertheless, in an attempt to put Town Meeting behind me, it’s worth mentioning the following:
E.V.D.’s: I am a technological idiot but these electronic voting devices work. While not available for day two, the handheld remote devices produced voting results in minutes. It was as simple as press 1 for No - press 2 for Yes - then press send. Even I can do that.
Looking an awful lot like my TV remote at home, I did find myself searching for Netflix and The Night Agent when things started to drag. In any event, compare the chaotic scene of vote counters on Monday night (i.e. Article 83) versus the seamless voting on Saturday afternoon and it’s a no-brainer.
Missed Opportunity: The Town had a golden opportunity to bring more community members into the tent. With a terrific weather forecast, the chance to offer a “fan friendly” Town Meeting experience was lost. Especially for those representing Nantucket’s “working class” who were unable to attend. Their voice was never heard. Instead of organized babysitting options, food trucks out front during the break and even securing the musical services of Buckle & Shake outside for lunch, the community was told no food or drink inside and threatened with parking tickets on Vesper Lane. The members of the largest segment of Nantucket’s population who are ultimately affected the most were left on the outside looking in. That’s not a healthy sign.
Esmeralda Martinez: I hope someone associated with affordable housing took you out to dinner because you saved Article 18. Esmeralda is a former Steamship Authority staff member and presently employed at the town’s PLUS department. Historically, Nantucket has thrown millions at affordable housing via Town Meeting and, more often than not, with very little push back. But on the heels of Article 10, support seemed to be wavering for Article 18 and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. While Tucker Holland was humorously quick to say, “My job is to get rid of my job,” Tucker and his supporters were just as nimble at avoiding specific answers to questions posed by the audience.
At the perfect moment, Esmeralda took the mic. She spoke from the heart and put a face on the debate as a “product” of affordable housing on Nantucket. As an active member of the Nantucket community, her voice carried louder than any affordable housing administrator’s. Compassion and honesty goes a long way; and on Saturday morning, it went 6.5 million ways.
Live & Learn: I learned a few things during Town Meeting. For example, thanks to Article 72, I now know what a “micro-mobility device” is.
Secondly, sponsoring a “controversial” article is a long, arduous journey. Truth be told, I did not support the article and I did not think it would pass but Gail Walker’s effort on Article 76 and saving the night proved to be a successful, Herculean effort.
I won’t lie to you, I am waiting to see what happens when the Lighting Enforcement Officer orders Bamber to kill his Christmas lights on Friendship on Christmas Eve. But when the results were announced by Moderator Alger on Monday night and she realized she won, Walker broke down in tears. You gotta admire the passion.
Thirdly: The Select Board candidates were eerily silent throughout Town Meeting. Generally speaking, when politicians have little to say just prior to an election, they are feeling confident about the results. With a captive audience of voters sitting at attention, it was an ideal opportunity to state your case on several topics and separate yourself from the pack. Was it an opportunity lost? Time will tell.
And finally, I need your help. I am trying to locate “Wauwinet Village.” I didn’t know we had one.
Legal Counsel: Let’s be honest, attorneys take a beating… until you need one. During Town Meeting, their fingerprints are all over the place. Historically, local attorneys are wearing so many different hats that the conflict of interest is just as confusing as the article itself.
However, this time around, the influence of legal counsel was noticeably subdued. Perhaps, there was a lot going on behind the scenes but it was refreshing not to have the conversation dominated by “legal experts.”
Inevitably, you knew Arthur Reade would have something to say and Steve Cohen, who took a couple of unnecessary shots from some misbehaving community members, was particularly humorous and on top of his game.
But just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, the last article of the evening was called. Article 102 was an attempt by the Town to seek authority to acquire 31 Easy Street via purchase or eminent domain as leverage as a last resort. It smelled fishy. No one in the Mary P. Walker Auditorium could get a straight answer. John Giorgio, Town Counsel, struggled when put on the spot. Representatives of 31 Easy Street denied ever receiving an offer while the Select Board bumbled and fumbled with their statements ultimately indicating several offers were sent.
In an attempt to cut to the chase, one citizen posed a simple question: How much was the offer?
This seems to be a no-brainer; and hopefully, a case where everyone will be a winner in the end. Inevitably, the Town will overpay for a piece of land that is a critical part of the island’s long range plan. Several players such as the Land Bank are willing to step up with financial assistance so there’s buy-in across the board. Even the SSA has a chip in the game. But the final discussion on the final article at the 11th hour left a salty taste behind. I hope Select Board member Matt Fee succumbs to nostalgia and his family ties to the Skipper and puts this matter to bed because guests, fish and eminent domain stink after three days.
Article 60: Like Town Meeting, it’s time to give this matter a rest. We all know that the vote was 378 for and 558 against so the short-term rental article was not adopted. Frankly, it was a bit of a thumping as supporters of Article 60 were quietly optimistic going into Town Meeting. With some local heavyweights going public with their support and an organized media campaign actively churning right up until the vote, there was a whiff of optimism in the air as Emmy Kilvert calmly introduced the article with poise.
ACK Now and various members of the community such as Dr. Lepore lined up to speak in favor of Article 60. But, when the votes were tallied, a message was sent as Article 60 was unceremoniously defeated falling roughly 250 votes short of the required two-thirds majority. In effect, the ball is back in the Short-Term Rental Work Group’s court.
After the vote, the auditorium predictably emptied out faster than Miacomet Pond when opened up to the ocean. I know I have had enough of the short-term rental debate for now and I think a lot of people around the island feel the same way too. Some people left the meeting questioning ACK Now’s strategy and the process while others quietly pumped their fist in celebration. Nevertheless, this debate isn’t over. And to the STR working group, beware of what you ask for because the pressure and the bullseye is now squarely on your shoulders.
For ACK Now, I think it is time for some soul searching. To their credit, they have tackled some controversial topics over the last few years and have not shied away from getting the conversation started. However, one makes their Town Meeting bones by backing successful articles; and to date, ACK Now’s batting average is well below the Mendoza Line.
That being said, there really were no winners or losers because the debate is not over. Months ago, I predicted the Short-Term Rental Working Group would ask for an extension until the fall and their recent request to do so was further cemented with Saturday’s vote.
But this time around, the pressure is enormous. All parties will have to agree to something because when it comes back to the Special Town Meeting in the fall, there must be unanimous support via the Short-Term Rental Working Group. Without it, each side can potentially sabotage the other. If that happens, we are back to square one and anxiously awaiting the courts to make the decision for us. Not only will the Short-Term Rental Working Group have failed miserably but any tow-wide support for future “committees” will be hard to find.
I wrote months ago: “Be careful what you wish for….” and the Short-Term Rental Working Group’s wish was granted. For the bulk of the island, it is time for us the to turn our attention to the chaotic summer season looming on the horizon. But for this committee, it’s time to get back to work.
In the back of my mind, I know it’s coming…. A Special Town Meeting in November - the gavel drops at 7 p.m. And when we get back together as a community six months from now, all I can think of is Bette Davis who said, “Buckle your seatbelts, because it is going to be bumpy night...”