By S.D. Plissken | February 10. 2019
We have “on offer” five candidates for the single open seat on the Milton Board of Selectmen. Now, things are arranged currently such that three three-year terms are overlapped or “staggered.” It would take years to completely replace the Board of Selectmen.
We are told that this is to ensure “continuity.” We are assured that someone – usually, two someones – will know always what was done before and why. Institutional memory must preserved.
One might well question that premise. It might make some sort of sense if the memory being preserved were a memory of success, but what if it is a memory of failure that is to be preserved? Well, obviously, one would want to clean house instead.
Sadly, we lack that cleaner option. The most we can hope for is to change out one failure this year and another next year. That could bring about a change for the better, over two years, or we might have to endure these people even longer before relief can occur. Because “continuity.”
At past Candidate nights, a lot of vague twaddle about “community” has been featured. Of course, that sounds good, superficially, but it means less than nothing in practice. There has been made an increasingly false equivalence between the Milton Town government apparatus and the taxpayers it supposedly “represents.” Too often, the “community” actually represented has been that Town government alone. Do not be taken in by vague generalities regarding “community.”
But how then to choose? One might hope that the candidates would distance themselves distinctly from past budget failures. The current selectmen might even see the light. Those that hope to “manage” things should make it crystal clear that they can recognize failure when they see it, and that they intend to make a clean break with the thinking and methods that produced them. To head in the opposite direction.
The philosopher William James once observed that “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
Now, the burden of clearly breaking with past failures falls most heavily on those that actually participated in past failures. Three of the candidates need to show that they have seen the light, and will not repeat their past failures. No vague, “going along to get along” talk from them will suffice, no blather about “community.” No simple rearrangement of their prejudices can get the job done.
Last year’s Federal Chained-CPI inflation has been calculated to have been 1.8%. One-sixth of Milton’s retired taxpayers might – I say might – get something approaching that in their Social Security pensions. Any selectman who is not working actively, right from Day One, to keep Town budget increases below that amount of increase, will be working actively against the interests of that elder segment of our “community.”
You are entitled to hear a clear and ringing rejection of any increases above that amount. If a candidate can not so commit themselves, you should pass them over. Better to vote for nobody than to vote for more “continuity” with past failures. Because, at that point, “nobody” represents you.
This pernicious management must end some day, either through electoral change or budgetary collapse. The economist Herbert Stein once observed a simple truth that is often overlooked: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”
So, this will stop at some point. Taxes will come down. Count on it. We might hope that “somebody” – some two of our selectmen – will work for a soft landing instead of a crash. But, either way, it will stop, because it can not continue.
And when the last big spender is gone, when our long Town nightmare ends finally, we may feel then as English poet Walter S. Landor did when the last of the Hanoverian monarchs shuffled off the stage:
George the First was always reckoned
Vile, but viler George the Second;
And what mortal ever heard
Any good of George the Third?
When from Earth the Fourth descended
God be praised! The Georges ended!
Do not vote for one more George.