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By John J. Tassoni, Jr.
There’s an old adage that decisions are made by those who show up.
Nowhere is this more evident than in government, at any level.
In the town of Smithfield, there have been many missed opportunities to increase revenue in the town because those officials who are elected or appointed to boards and commissions who often are absent, which means that not enough people are in attendance to have a quorum to vote, and because they conduct meetings and themselves in inappropriate ways.
A recent example of this was when an executive from the Starbuck’s corporation arrived from Las Vegas to attend a Smithfield Zoning Board meeting to address the establishment of the coffee shop franchise in a certain part of the town. There weren’t enough board members in attendance to have a hearing, making the town officials seem careless and irresponsible. It also gave other corporate managers solid reason to set up shop in other towns, instead of putting 2 in Smithfield they put 1.
Another example is the resident who wants to put a deck on or a pool in for the summer and there is no quorum for May meeting – their opportunity for that year is gone to enjoy their property.
Not only is this irresponsible behavior on the part of the officials, but it is also costly to the applicant who has to pay the fees associated with bringing in corporate lawyers and private attorneys, hire expert witnesses, and other costs related to bringing their business into the town.
This irresponsible behavior has earned Smithfield the reputation of being difficult and resistant for new business to land here. We need leadership to move our town forward.
Having served 12 years in the State Senate, the record will show that I never missed a session, never once left my seat to refrain from voting on a difficult issue, and always showed up to represent the people of Smithfield on every issue. I believed it was my civic responsibility to show up; it was my honor to serve my townspeople.
What can we do to turn this negativity into a positive experience? The answer may be simple. Provide a stipend for appointed committee members.
No show will mean No pay. And while we’re at it, let’s re-define the meaning of an excused absence, which seems to be used a bit too leniently.
With the upcoming 2016 elections, go online and check the attendance records of those council members and school committee members running for re-election, and then decide if this is someone who will even show up to cast a vote on your behalf?