Thoughts on the upcoming Foxboro Town Election, 2016 and the lost art of conversation

ballotby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 3/2016

At this writing, it has been just a few hours since the deadline for candidates to submit their papers to Town Hall to be part of the election that will be held on May 2.

While the presidential election has already drained me, I care deeply about the annual Foxboro election. While there IS an argument to be made that one vote really doesn’t count in a presidential election due to the Electoral College, EVERY vote cast in the local election can make a difference. In years past, selectmen have won elections by less than 100 votes – and sometimes – the contest was closer even than that. Just a year ago, we had a tie – a tie! – On a referendum question. In other words, ONE vote yay or nay would have made a difference in the outcome. So yeah, you should vote.

With all that in mind, I would like to share some thoughts about the upcoming May election and I would like to emphasize that unlike my “humorous” columns, these are serious statements about an important matter – a town election.

  • A radio talk show host I enjoy often says he is trying to bring back, “the lost art of conversation.” Conversation – and debate — is a good way to exchange ideas, to learn, to get your point across, and to defend your position. In the 25 years I have lived in town, my observation has been that candidates for office generally run “positive” campaigns and it is rare that you see or hear one candidate bashing another. That is appreciated – especially in a presidential election year, the last thing we need is local candidates talking smack about each other. Please keep it positive!
  • On the same subject, I would like to pose this challenge to the Facebook group “Foxboro discussion” – a great place to visit for all things Foxboro – as long as you don’t discuss politics or elected officials. The reason I NEVER participate in that particular Facebook group regarding ANYTHING POLITICAL — to be blunt – the sheer amount of negativity and venom toward our elected officials in that group is enough to sink a ship. Folks, I’m sure you’re all nice people and I recognize some of your names and know you ARE nice people – but when I read comments that mention a selectmen rolled their eyes during the meeting at five minutes and 12 seconds, or town official said something you don’t like and it immediately decomposes into character assassination, or the commenters start fighting among themselves, well I for one would say this is NOT the art of conversation, this is just sniping and complaining. Constructive criticism is one thing. Keeping an eye on an oversight of elected officials is also an absolute necessity. But if you want to be taken seriously, make your complaints more substantive than how a selectmen sits in their chair, or your opinion of what their hidden agenda is. Let’s stick to FACTS please.
  • Letters to the editor – from now until May 2 we will see a lot of letters to the editor about candidates for the various offices. I encourage you to FLOOD the offices of the Foxboro Reporter with such letters. Be heard!
  • That said, REMEMBER: the people in office and running for office are your NEIGHBORS. These are people who live in Foxboro, many work here, and raise families here. They are not being paid. They are VOLUNTEERING their time to serve you – the people of Foxboro. The very fact that they are volunteering to take an unpaid, often thankless job is one that, like them or not, demands your respect.
  • That said, you and I have the right and the DUTY to be vigilant and to keep an eye on our elected officials and even question their actions – after all, they represent us and make decisions for us. That said, please do so with respect for the people and the office. And don’t automatically assume – I am looking at you again, “Foxboro discussion” – that every elected official has some Machiavellian agenda for taking over the town and destroying us all. These are people trying to do their best. They have their gifts, they have their faults. Yes, it is up to us to point out if there is, for example a violation of the open meeting law, or if proper procedure was not followed, or if there is a legitimate grievance. But there is a PROCESS and METHOD in place to do that and it does not involve screeds and rants on social media.
  • Be informed: I encourage you to read everything you can about each candidate. Write your letters to the editor and also read every single letter and column about the candidates and the election. Attend the selectmen meetings. Get to know these people. Every Saturday, from now until Election Day the folks running for office will be on Foxboro common waving their signs reminding you to vote for them. Why not pull over, and introduce yourself! Send them an email or letter — Get to know them! Ask them where they stand on issues that are important to you. See if you agree with them or not. But above all, be civil. Be respectful. PLAY NICE!
  • Candidate’s night: for over 25 years, the Foxboro Jaycees have moderated a live forum broadcast from Foxboro cable access where candidates for office make statements, and answer questions from representatives from the local media. Be sure to watch candidate’s night which will first air on April 14 and then at least once a day until Election Day on Foxboro cable access.
  • On Election Day (May 2) VOTE!
  • After the election, you can continue to be heard by writing letters, attending meetings, being vigilant. But keep it civil, okay?

 

It’s a town election and YOUR NEIGHBORS who are VOLUNTEERING to try to make a difference in YOUR town. Before or after any election, you can agree or disagree with anyone you like for any reason you like. But in the end, and this may just be the optimist in me, I would like to believe we all have the same goal: what is best for Foxboro. Before and after the election – any election – May each of us be not part of the problem, but part of the solution.

And finally – to everyone who is stepping up to run for office – any office — you have my greatest respect and deepest admiration. Win or lose, I appreciate you answering the call to public service.

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