Milton’s Summer Theater

By Paige Turner, Guest Contributor | July 18. 2018

The Milton Town Players performed their adaptation of a scene from Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at the Emma Ramsey Theater last Monday night (July 16).

Mr. Glen Bailey made a guest appearance in the title role of junior Senator “Jeff” Smith. His performance was uneven at best, although his material was quite good. It might be that his future lies more behind the keyboard than before the footlights.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) reprised their familiar roles as clueless and ineffectual solons and did so convincingly. Their new “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies” rules for the meeting’s Public Comments section aided the mise-en-scène.

Chairman Thibeault, in attempting the more complex role of the sympathetic Senate President, originally played by Harry Carey, was not entirely successful. His stony-faced performance did not project any sympathy at all for Senator Smith or for the taxpayers. For that, he would need to break the fourth wall.

EDC Committeeman Larry Brown portrayed the senior Senator “Joe” Paine, a role originally undertaken by the incomparable Claude Raines. He was the stand-out star of the evening. Brown’s Senator Paine confirmed that government officials can absolutely, by statute, retain and use money they take without authorization. He appeared to have that factoid at the tips of his fingers. His choice of citing it so blandly captured perfectly the cynicism, venality, and corruption of Senator Paine.

The Town Players did well in limiting themselves to this brief scene. A little bit of their governance goes a long way. But do not miss their future shows!

References:

Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, July 16). Milton Board of Selectman Meeting, July 16, 2018. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/gLovo5_L_3w?t=64

Wikipedia. (2018, July 26). Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Smith_Goes_to_Washington

Rubber Stamps

By S.D. Plissken | July 10, 2018

An examination of fifteen years worth of the Town Meeting Warrant articles on which the Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted to make a recommendation – 239 of them – reveals an oddity. While it cannot be said that they never met a warrant article on which they did not unanimously agree, it is extremely rare.

The BOS voted unanimously to recommend warrant articles 231 of 239 times (96.7%) in those fifteen years. They voted unanimously to not recommend warrant articles 5 of 239 times (2.1%). Those articles not recommended concerned the contentious landfill issue on the 2015 ballot, and the disincorporation petitioned article on the 2018 ballot. (Making any recommendation at all on a petitioned warrant article is itself an extreme rarity). Taken together, unanimous votes were made 236 of 239 times (98.7%).

There was a split vote in only 3 of 239 times (1.3%). One of them was a 2-0 vote with 1 abstention. (Some might say that too should be counted as a unanimous vote, of those who were voting). The other two were 2-1 splits. Most of them arose out of that same landfill issue.

Now, none of the warrant articles that were unanimously recommended (or unanimously not recommended) received unanimous approval (or disapproval) of the voters. Not a single one. In fact, a significant number of the unanimously recommended articles were rejected outright or passed by narrow margins.

All of this begs a question: why are the BOS recommendations, which have been almost entirely unanimous ones, at such variance with the expressed wishes of the voters? (Why are there so few dissents? (1.3%))

Some have answered that most of these warrant articles have to do with expanding town appropriations or authorizations, i.e., they are things that the town government wants. The town government is interested, as are all bureaucracies, in increasing its budgets, staffs, pay rates, pensions, authority, and control. So, it is easy to see why the town departments might create warrant articles that do not gain anything like unanimous acceptance by the voters. Their interests are not the same.

But the question remains for the BOS itself – the supposed representatives of the voters. Why do they make so many unanimous recommendations of warrant articles, i.e., solutions proffered by either the town apparatus or by themselves? And why such strong recommendations for solutions so often at variance with the interests of significant numbers of voters, even majorities of them (as expressed by them with their ballots).

One might expect there would be something like as many split recommendation votes as there have been split results in the actual election. That is to say, one might expect greater variance if the BOS were truly representing the voters. But do they, in fact, even try to represent the voters (and their interests), as distinguished from the town government?

Is the BOS really just a rubber stamp?

References:

Town of Milton. (2002-03, 2006-2018). Annual Report. (Various Years). Milton, NH: Town of Milton