2019 may very well prove to be one of the most important and pivotal years of my residency here in 02048. In my opinion Mansfield is at a critical crossroads and at times it doesn’t seem to fully appreciate this. With yet another Annual Town Meeting (ATM) in the books my views on ATM and how it affects Mansfield has been further justified. ATM also afforded me the opportunity to reach a firm judgment on a few of our elected officials; hopefully others will have done so as well. The Master Plan Update is getting underway and this is perhaps one of the most crucial endeavors Mansfield has undertaken in some time. Let’s break these down.
I’ve stated elsewhere that 2019 is likely to be the year I decide how much longer I stay in Mansfield. At 26 years Mansfield is the winning zip code in period of residence, marking a full half of my years alive. I’m straddled with mixed emotions over the power of this pair of truths. I have invested a lot of time, money and emotion in my chosen hometown and it is no small thing to say that trends are dictating a potential departure.
ATM is not the awesome form of pure democracy its fans extol. It is in truth a relic that fails to offer proper representation of the electorate and a hotbed of populism. I firmly believe one of the biggest obstacles to Mansfield’s success has been and will continue to be the Open Town Meeting model and annual election cycles.
Mansfield is a pretty good town by any number of metrics and has reasons aplenty to feel good about it. Mansfield is not however as unique or special as some of its fans would like to believe it is. In fact Mansfield is a mirror image of many communities across the country. Communities that have made great choices as well as terrible ones and all types in between. Communities that have weathered a number of challenges and are earnestly looking to progress into brighter futures. Throughout its history Mansfield was ahead of the curve, especially in the area of development and performed extremely well. I would put to you the reader that Mansfield is yet again ahead of the curve in this area. Unfortunately this time we’re not getting it right. One of the biggest reasons for this is that our prior sins are coming up past due.
Mansfield passed $100,000,000. in spending this year applauding its ratings, “free cash” balance and balanced budget. Let’s be clear the budget is “balanced” secondary to authorizations to borrow and our free cash was stabilized secondary to a substantial one of return of cash. I get it that in municipal math world this is an accepted practice and is performed not out of malice but instead being the transparent procedure of acceptable norms. It is also an absolutely unsustainable way to live and municipalities across the country prove this year after year.
On the matter of local officials there is a mixed bag. On the one hand Mansfield has a number of folks who bring a lot of skills and sincerity to unpaid positions. This is something that deserves the respect of the citizenry and is best expressed by voting and engagement. You don’t need to be perfect in your presentations although I honestly suggest you aim for patient and polite. In my experience doing so will find you met with professionalism and sincerity even if your position is strongly opposed. On the other hand symbolism and word choices are critical components for public servants and the line between innocent gaffe and conscious act is perhaps unfairly paper-thin. Still the line is there, is subjective as well as objective and has consequences.
It’s a simple fact that a community attempting to project a vision into the next decade is no light undertaking. The members of the community must get involved. As of this posts publishing the Master Plan Committee has been set up and the higher levels will soon be initiated their opening evaluations. This first phase Mansfield Yesterday & Today will run into August. The second phase currently offers the timing when the public forum will occur. Mansfield Tomorrow. The last two phases are meant to formalize and finalize the Plan. This whole process deserves the attention of our residents.
May 2019 has started something big for Mansfield and for me personally. The end result will need to be poked, prodded and thoroughly evaluated. Everyone will come to their own conclusions and folks will have choices to make again and again. This is life, as individuals as a community. I hope it’s a good year.