Bob’s former Home Page Essay; Jan. 1 – Feb. 8, 2020
Posted January 1, 2020
January 1, 2020
On this New Year’s Day, Stephanie Redmond and I take our places as your newest members of the Enfield Town Board. We join incumbents Virginia Bryant and Mimi Mehaffey, plus newly-reelected Supervisor Beth McGee as your collective team of servants. I believe I can speak for my Town Board colleagues as well as for myself in saying that we are humbled and honored by the trust you have placed in us. We seek to listen and act on your behalf.
In the four years of municipal responsibility that lie ahead for me, I’ve identified the Four C’s of Service that will guide my walk on our collective journey: Character, Collegiality, Communication and Compromise. You will hear me reference those words many times.
I would ignore political reality if I did not acknowledge that some of us have disagreed with one another during the recently-completed 2019 campaign. But that was then. This is now. We have challenges to address in service to you, our constituents, Enfield’s citizens. We should not allow past differences to cloud our vision of Enfield’s future.
As I’ve written, our much-debated Wind Law is now on the books. At least for now, unless some unexpected—and yes, unwelcome—surprise confronts us, I believe we’ve settled the wind power issue. Likewise, our recently-passed regulations on commercial solar development have brought resolution. I hope those latter rules do not discourage solar farm operators from choosing Enfield as their home. If they avoid us, the Solar Law may deserve a revisit—in time. And yes, I believe solar (and wind) developers should pay their fair share in local taxes. But for now, let’s turn away from matters of solar and wind development, and look forward.
We have a new Comprehensive Plan to adopt. Its final draft cleared a Public Hearing in December without objection. It’s a good document. During the past eight years, many have labored to make it happen. Supervisor McGee anticipates we may adopt the Plan as soon as late-February. I will support it; though I, and perhaps others, may suggest minor tweaks to “freshen” the Plan and update it to reflect current reality. For example: The Comprehensive Plan should reference our newly-adopted Solar and Wind Laws. Yet overall, the Plan’s vision need not change. None of you have suggested that it should.
A completed long-awaited Aquifer Study may prompt our Town Board’s drafting of a Water Protection Law. Any such law, in my opinion, must embrace a balanced approach that reflects input from all segments of our community, including agricultural interests. I’ve said that our groundwater is among Enfield’s most precious resources. We must protect it. We shall.
In that regard, I particularly welcome Stephanie Redmond’s arrival to our team. Stephanie brings to our decision-making her knowledge, passion, and activism in all matters of protecting this Earth. I will value her input as we address environmental matters during the year ahead.
Our Draft Comprehensive Plan urges establishment of an Agricultural Advisory Board. I will work in 2020 to make that recommendation a reality. The Comprehensive Plan concludes that “Enfield residents value and wish to maintain the rural character of the Town.” Well, put most plainly, farmers sustain that “rural character” better than anyone else. And as a farm boy at heart, I don’t mind the occasional smell of manure. In Enfield, it smells like home. It reminds me of an industry that we value.
And yes, a political hot-button issue deserves a revisit. It involves the potential lengthening of terms-of-office for Town Supervisor, Town Clerk, and Highway Superintendent. The issue was raised briefly during 2019. Depending upon the legal route taken, the lengthened terms could have applied to those elected (or reelected) last year. I opposed the extensions then; but only in timing, not in concept. Supervisor McGee and others believe the longer terms hold merit; they may bring more continuity to Town governance. I said then—and I reiterate now—that I am willing to consider future term extensions in this, an “out-year” in Enfield’s election cycle.
Therefore, I believe that in 2020, this year, we should undertake a thoughtful, reasoned, and emotion-free discussion, both among ourselves, and more importantly, with plentiful community input, as to whether any or all of these three offices warrant terms of four years rather than two. Any change would only apply to terms subject to future elections, not to those now beginning. I’d also encourage a broader debate as to whether the “ministerial” (largely non-political) positions of Clerk and/or Highway Superintendent are better made appointive, rather than elective. Each option has its “pros” and “cons.” Let’s talk it out.
We as a Board must shoulder the needs of our Town’s less fortunate. We must never shrink from addressing the omnipresent scourge of rural poverty. We must encourage the upgrade of our community’s housing stock. We should work with other units of government to investigate county-wide rent regulation. And we must always… always support the valiant contributions of the Enfield Food Pantry and its many volunteers.
We must lend a hand to Education. Were we ever to lose Enfield Elementary School, we would forfeit a community anchor. Let’s work to bolster Enfield Elementary’s enrollment and encourage its continued presence in every way we can.
But most importantly, all members of this Town Board owe it to you, our citizens, to work as a team. The more time we spend bickering, at odds with ourselves, the less productive we will be; the less we will be thinking of you… and acting on your behalf.
Debate is healthy. Disagreement is at times unavoidable. Principled dissent stands as a valued component of American Representative Democracy. Consensus holds value only when all minds at the table truly stand in accord. No one must ever feel intimidated to speak his or her mind. And frankly, when everyone speaks, acts, and votes the same on every issue, I worry. I then fear that courage has retreated to the hills. We’re human. We bring, or should bring, to this Town Board varied—and yes, contrasting—perspectives, political preferences, and life experiences. And sometimes, different segments of Enfield’s glorious mosaic of opinion diversity may compel us to respond with equally-divergent solutions. We’re each good people. We may just hear different voices.
That’s why I fall back upon the Four C’s of Service; Character, Collegiality, Communication and Compromise. When we rely upon those bedrock principles to shine as our political beacon, and when we ask you—our Town’s citizens; our people—to guide us along our path through Democracy’s dark nights of indecision, we can succeed. During 2020, Stephanie’s and my inaugural year, we can work to make this a better Enfield than ever before. Join us on our journey.
We Are One Enfield… Your Enfield.