Facing a great need for a Great Barrington compromise

I have now spoken with my friends on the Great Barrington Board of Selectmen. I think it is time to compromise with the very legitimate concerns of Great Barrington’s business community.

Business owners are scared to death that their already close-to-the-line business efforts will be seriously compromised by the gussification of Great Barrington’s Main Street.

I told the Selectmen that the business owners had legitimate policy concerns and they, as Selectmen, should have political concerns for their own reelection efforts. We don’t need bump-outs and planters.

Our trees are doing fine and should that change, they should be replaced. We don’t want to be deprived of the useful turning lanes that enable us to turn right as opposed to crawling along in the Great Barrington traffic.

I endorsed Sean Stanton and Alana Chernila and expect them to listen to the people who voted for them. I love the fact that we have some great young people on our board.

Unfortunately, I think they may have fallen under the heavy hand of the town manager, Kevin O’Donnell. The town manager was formerly the fair-haired boy. He has lost that title.

Steve Bannon was my druggist. I love and respect the guy. Buddy Atwood, the great curmudgeon, is a go-to guy for any information about the town. He’s terrific. Deborah Phillips has a mind of her own and uses it. So, I am puzzled by the obstinacy of this group. They seem to have forgotten that they were elected and that, in the end, they should listen to the people.

Unfortunately, the town folks believe that they were let down and conned by the Selectmen.

First, there are the inevitable town meetings.

Selectmen: “Can we go ahead with the planning?”

Town: “Yes, go right ahead.”

That has led to “Now we’ve spent the planning money and you have to do what we say or we’ll lose your money.”

Sort of reminds me of the old shell games at the carnivals where they asked you for a buck and that leads to another buck and then five bucks and then 30 bucks. You couldn’t lose but you did.

The name of the game should be. “Cut your losses and walk away from the table.”

While I have some good friends on the other side of this debate, I find myself agreeing with a few people that I have little respect for. That’s the problem with the shifting sands of politics. One day you have friends, one day you’re on the other side.

If I was on the Board of Selectmen (God forbid), I think I would reach out to the other side and make some real concessions. Repair the road, replace the bad trees and get a few more benches. Forget about fancy planters. I would remember who elected me and that this is not a holy war. There are legitimate concerns on all sides.

I would remind the town manager and town planner who they work for. I would get over this. If there is a special town meeting and they still don’t get it, I think these good Select-people will put themselves in political danger.

Put another way, to the town fathers, “Grow up.”

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 1/29/11

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