While there is much to address in this column, I want to extend my high regards to Marcia Blanchard for her lecture to the Windham Town Council on civility. It is a huge problem and I am glad she was so forthright in addressing it. She is dead-on.

The climate of the council for the last six months has been strained at best. This is not to say all the council is at fault. We have a number of individuals with very high integrity on the council. I know because I have worked with them for a number of years. We have not always agreed but we have disagreed with great civility and a high regard for each other and at the end of the day, we left the meetings friends.

Our new councilors, and most pointedly councilors Warren and Davis, seem to me to have little to no regard for anything that has happened prior to there coming on the council. As well their behavior does not seem to demonstrate much regard for the reputation of the council as a whole. I hope that over time they may demonstrate more sensitivity toward, and understanding of, the work of our department heads.

There is an extreme learning curve for a new councilor. I hope that overtime differences may level out, insights may be gained, and people will come to understand how to work within a governmental culture.

I am trying to stay optimistic. It is hard. Department heads, school committee members, town councilors, and our town and school management are constantly under fire. I can only surmise that they are walking on eggshells and have little if any real rapport with the council as a body.

This does not mean that problems and issues do not happen. There will always be issues, but they should be addressed in a manner that is both to the point and respectful of all involved particularly the public. Instead issues are often used as an excuse for a public flailing and/or an opportunity for personal grandstanding.

Much of the reputation of the town exists in the council. They are in many regards part of our public identity. That identity is suffering. Windham is a great place but it has many challenges ahead. They will not be dealt with through the paper or on the tube. They will only be dealt with through solid collective effort. Windham deserves better and I hope in time they will get it.

I also agree with Blanchard that we need to have more access to our council meetings and I would suggest all meetings. Government should be as transparent as possible. Look at the Maine state Web site. Boring, yes; but very accessible.

We should not have to wait in line at the library to check out a council meeting nor should we need to wait for a repeat to be on the cable channel. It would be most accessible on the web. Even those that do not have a computer can access it through the library. I agree with Blanchard that we should not find our council subjects on MySpace or in the National Enquirer.

I disagree with Blanchard about executive sessions. They should not be used to iron out differences between councilors. There is a distinct purpose to an executive session. It is to be used for matters that demand confidentiality. It is not meant to be a place where contentious discussions can be hidden out of public view. This only allows for an opportunity for the more destructive natures to pervade unabated by public view.

While, as all councilors have, our new councilors can bring unique attributes, visions and contributions to the Windham Town Council. However, the manner in which they approach their roles cast a shadow over even their best ideas and efforts.

I hope that over time they may learn that there is a unique culture to public governance and it must be rooted in collaborative effort and mutual respect where the best efforts of all can shine.


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