Since being appointed Mashpee town manager 12 years ago, Joyce M. Mason has attended nearly 25 Town Meetings in that capacity, but this year’s meeting on Monday, May 5, was, in her words, “difficult.”
While only 238 of the town’s 10,301 registered voters attended Town Meeting, many came with specific issue-related agendas and were not too afraid to sling personal attacks at town leaders or make political statements.
They included resident Paula D. Peters saying she was going to “bullet vote” for selectman candidate Andrew R. Gottlieb, local realtor Joan Muse commenting that the town human resource department’s evaluation of the town clerk position would be “slanted” because Ms. Mason requested it, and planning board chairman George W. Petersen suggesting that an article “smelled like three-day-old fish.”
However, a rambling speech by longtime Mashpee environmental activist Beverly A. Kane was perceived to be the most offensive of the evening. Ms. Kane chided the board of selectmen and finance committee for unanimously supporting Article 15, which proposed that the town be allowed to dispose of tax-foreclosed properties without Town Meeting approval. She ended her tirade by citing a famous quote made by Red Sox player David “Big Papi” Ortiz shortly after last year’s terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line.
“It’s unfortunate. Ms. Kane was totally inappropriate. Using a quote that was used to admonish a terrorist attack had no place on Town Meeting floor. Somebody should have stopped her. You can say what you want to say with civility,” Ms. Mason said.
Selectman Thomas F. O’Hara was even more critical of Ms. Kane during a televised candidate forum taped on Wednesday at the Mashpee TV studio.
“If she was associating me with a terrorist, then I am highly offended,” he said.
Mashpee Finance Committee member and former selectman Theresa M. Cook, who has lived in town for 33 years and attended many Town Meetings, said that she has never seen a meeting sink to such a level of disrespect.
“It’s unfortunate that a reference of a quote made after the Boston Marathon bombings was used as an analogy to town government, especially since everyone on town boards and committees are doing their best for the town. Perhaps the moderator could have brought us all back to the issues at hand, rather than allowing conversations to get personal,” she said, adding that she was surprised and shocked at the level of anger that was exhibited at Town Meeting.
“It was a very angry crowd that was stirred up. But I’ve been at it long enough that I don’t take it personally anymore,” Ms. Mason said.