Archive for August 2011

Committees and Common Sense

By William F. Zachmann, for the Duxbury Clipper

It has long been a common practice in Duxbury, when some insiders want to persuade voters to do something, to create a supposedly ‘impartial study committee’ carefully crafted to come up with the desired recommendation. That makes it possible for advocates to claim that is really was not their idea, that they are simply supporting the recommendations of a committee (which, of course, they created for the purpose). Often, the stated purpose of the committee as much disguises as advertises its real intent.

A genuinely good idea, however, needs no such shenanigans for adoption. Some folks, however, have grown so accustomed to Duxbury’s Study Committee Ritual that they practice it habitually instead of just bringing forward a perfectly sensible proposal and getting the job done. In so doing, they slow down rather than facilitate its adoption.

A clear current case is the creation of a new, high-level, position in Duxbury Town Government for a professional facilities manager responsible for the care, maintenance, and construction of all Town buildings – including the schools. There is just no excuse for the shoddy maintenance of Duxbury’s Schools over the past two decades (at least). And there is no valid reason why building maintenance (and construction) should not be handled Town-wide from Town Hall.

Professional facilities management by the Town is the best way to free the Superintendent of Schools and the Duxbury School Department to concentrate on their real job: ensuring the highest possible quality of education for Duxbury’s school children. They should not be burdened with building maintenance or construction oversight, which only distracts them from their primary responsibilities.

The Duxbury School Committee, in turn, must strongly advocate and support the creation of a Town Facilities Manager position and the delegation of responsibility to that position for the schools, as well as for the other Town buildings. This is especially important as Duxbury moves forward with the likely construction of a very expensive combined new middle and high school. Overseeing that construction is not an educational activity and can distract the Superintendent and the School Department from their real job of ensuring quality education.

Selectman Ted Flynn, who previously served on the School Committee as well, has been a strong advocate for the creation of such a position. Unfortunately, efforts to move it forward have become tangled with other issues and agendas. We do not need another government study committee or protracted strategic planning exercises to get moving with this one. We do not need to engineer a committee recommendation for it. We just need to do it.

Let us hope, therefore, that the Board of Selectmen will stop pussy-footing around on this one and get moving toward putting the necessary article on the Warrant of our next Town Meeting to create the position. Let us hope, too, that the School Committee will act responsibly, welcome and support the proposal, and do the right thing by delegating responsibility to the Town for school building construction and maintenance. It should have been done already. Let us at least get it down now!

You Know You’re From Duxbury When . . .

By William F. Zachmann, for the Duxbury Clipper

The amazing rise of Internet-based social media marks the Zeitgeist of early 21st Century human life on planet Earth. Facebook, in particular, has grown from a closed social networking site for Ivy League college students into a major communications medium for people of all ages world-wide over the past half-decade. But it was not until early August 2011 that Duxbury’s social networking delightfully “went viral” (as we say in the trade) with the Facebook group, “You know you’re from Duxbury when ….

Examples of initial posts there: “You HAVE to go jump off the bridge!”  “Where you can throw a party across the street from the police station and they never come over . . . but you can be drinking at the sandpits and the police will show up.” “When you remember the DYC golf course was only nine charming holes and that Dot Josselyn’s in Snug Harbor was where I bought my first baseball cards.” “Where the cops are teachers, the teachers are coaches and your neighbors.”  And: “The sad times in 1984 when we lost 6 amazing kids in as many months. Sad but I think worth remembering…”

Created at 11:48 AM on Thursday, August 4, 2011 by former Duxbury resident Aleta Rogers, the group is described as “a place where we can come and revisit our Town when we can’t get back home. Please invite all your friends that are from Beautiful DUXBURY!” The groups administrators include Jaesun Duggin, who now lives in Boston and owns a tattoo parlor in Watertown; Myles McLaughlin, currently in a graduate program of business at the University of Sidney in Australia; John Sjostedt III; and Chanda St. Denis-Afienko.

In the week since Aleta created the group it exploded from a handful of folks to more than twelve hundred members with more coming in every day.  Participants made more over two thousand posts and posted thousands more comments. It is one of the hottest, fastest-growing,  most active groups on Facebook today. And it is all about experiences growing up and living in Duxbury!

First participants were Duxbury High graduates of the mid-1990s but within a few days it expanded to include hundreds of older and younger folks eager to share their experiences and reminiscences and to read what others had to say about their own. Most still live in Duxbury or nearby, but many are not just from all around the United States, but from all over the world. A quick sampling turns up members now living in: New York City; Düsseldorf, Germany; Cambridge, Ontario, Canada; Apex, North Carolina; Sidney, Australia; and Sun Valley, California.

Initially, posting messages about the characteristic experiences of growing up and living in Duxbury and commenting on them was the sole activity. Soon, however, folks were uploading files, posting pictures, and even a some videos. Myles McLaughlin posted a fantastic picture titled “Unauthorised Field Trip” that his grandfather, Fermin Bishop, had painted of a school bus full of children playing hooky at the beach. Debbie Crawford posted a link to class photos from Alden school 1955-1962 and a picture of the DHS class of 1968 as second graders that appeared as the front cover of the April 9, 1960 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.

So if you have not already seen it, be sure to check out “You know you’re from Duxbury when . . .” on Facebook! In barely a week it created a fantastic repository of Duxbury lore and it is still just getting started. It is a wonderful way to take a break from the dreary news of the day. Don’t miss it!

On Duxbury’s Zoning By-Laws

By William F. Zachmann, for the Duxbury Clipper

OK, I confess! There was a wee trick hidden in my last column (“The Duxbury Power Structure”, Wednesday, July 27, 2011)! Formally, we do not actually have a new Town Government Study Committee. We would have had one, had then and still Board of Selectmen Chairman Shawn Dahlen had his way. He wanted to create one with an article in the Warrant of the 2011 Annual Town Meeting. Read More→