It seemed like such an obvious and worthwhile thought. For several years, I have been talking to my colleagues statewide about sharing responsibilities for Town services across Town lines. Maybe we could share a piece of equipment, or have one Town host a sub-regional fire station staffed by member Towns (who retain control of staff and overhead). I didn't intend that Towns would cede their authority to a "higher authority", like a Regional School or a County. In those examples, Towns are sent a bill and really don't control anything. Great idea, right? Well, many Town officials think so (R's, D's and U's alike, for those partisan thinkers out there).
I have continued to push Harwich into the forefront, inventing the process as we go along. Seems like the State, however, has no legislative framework to encourage or allow such a thing. No rules exist at all. The good news is that a number of Towns (my Town of Harwich, as well as Chatham, Dennis, Brewster, Orleans and Eastham) have agreed to hold joint Selectmen Meetings in the next few weeks to explore the obvious potential for savings. The public can then judge where they want this to go.
The bad news is that virtually anything "outside the box" which any Town wishes to do requires Home Rule Legislation. We all have elected governments and COULD do this by ourselves.
My point is that the State should set broad guidelines and let us self govern. But, as it now stands, if Brookline wants a unique revolving fund, they need the permission of my State Rep to do so. Likewise, if Harwich wanted to establish higher parking ticket fines to prevent people from Connecticut from illegally parking in order to avoid paying legitimate beach fees (a real example, by the way), we need "parental approval."
This matters because the Legislature is clogged with literally hundreds and hundreds of Home Rule Bills each year that slow down local democracy. By the same token, they siphon away precious time from the legislative calendar - time which could go to concentrating on the larger issues of our day.
I'll say it again: we need reform at the state level to empower everyone to arrive at democratically derived solutions for our problems - not roadblocks to slow us down.
By the way, did I mention that we also voted tonight to continue the closure of our Herring Run for another year? We are now consistent with the State's rules. Seems like only a year or two ago that the State wrote us to threaten legal action if we didn't keep them open, despite the compelling data we had developed showing this not to be in the public interest.
My, how the wheel turns!