#childsafety | Select Board Supports Change To Indigenous Peoples Day | Falmouth News

The select board on Monday, March 8, voted unanimously to recommend approval of a petitioner’s article seeking to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Chairwoman Megan E. English Braga said the change was appropriate for Falmouth, given its connection to the Wampanoag.

“This is their ancestral land, and they are still a huge part of our community,” Ms. English Braga said.

Board member Samuel H. Patterson agreed.

“This is the Wampanoag land, and we don’t have an obvious way to recognize that,” Mr. Patterson said. “Honestly, they were quite helpful to us European settlers when we arrived here. I think it is important that we find a way to recognize those contributions and their continued contributions.”

Board member Douglas C. Brown said he heard compelling arguments on both sides of this debate.

“It is a classic case of pick your news,” Mr. Brown said. “The people from the Italian American Association seemed to give a great history of Christopher Columbus being an adoptive parent of an indigenous child, and on the other side, people give this very clear history of him being a slave trader. I don’t even know what to believe.”

Ms. English Braga was not convinced by the arguments to keep the Columbus Day name.

“I wasn’t as compelled with some of the thoughts shared by that particular Italian American group that shared with us, because I did find it a little bit slanted,” she said. “We just do know that folks who came over from Europe were not bringing blessings and, in general, didn’t better the lives of the indigenous folks they interacted with.”

She acknowledged the history of Columbus Day, noting it “came out of other really unfortunate and terrible issues of anti-Italian sentiment.”

The proposal to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day is one of two Town Meeting articles proposed by Sandra L. Faiman-Silva, a Precinct Two Town Meeting member. Her second article proposes the town institute a policy requiring a statement acknowledging Falmouth as the traditional, ancestral homeland of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The article calls for the statement to be read at the beginning of “each public meeting of Falmouth Town Meeting, Town Boards and Committees, public events at Falmouth Public Schools, including graduation, and at other public Town Gatherings, as appropriate.”

“I could see at Town Meeting,” board member Douglas H. Jones said. “I think at every single public meeting is too much.”

Rather than recommend an amendment to the article, the board unanimously voted to recommend “indefinite postponement.”

“I would move that our recommendation will be indefinite postponement, but in the explanation say we could be very supportive of this article if it were limited to Town Meeting,” Mr. Jones said.

The board voted to support an amended version of a petition article filed by James Durocher, president of The Quissett Association. The article seeks to adopt a provision of the Massachusetts General Laws that allows towns to create and post safety zones along any road that is not a state highway. According to state law, any road designated as a safety zone has a 20 miles per hour speed limit.

The amendment removes a reference to the traffic advisory committee.

“Just as clarification, the statute does not allow for the traffic advisory committee to create a safety zone,” Ms. English Braga said.

As a petition article, Assistant Town Manager Peter Johnson-Staub said the board did not need to change the article, based on the advice of town counsel.

“If this article is approved as written, it will authorize the select board to adopt safety zones, but not the traffic advisory committee,” Mr. Johnson-Staub said.

As the article adopts a state statute, he said the legal effect would be the same with or without the reference to the traffic advisory committee. The board recommended the amended article.

The board made no recommendation regarding the creation of a “Taskforce on Sustainable Living for Falmouth’s Workforce Families” and funding a $75,000 early education and childcare support voucher program.

“There certainly is a need for this,” Mr. Brown said. “Childcare is so expensive now. A lot of people are better off staying home and applying for welfare.”

As the article involves an appropriation, the recommendation was left to the town finance committee. The finance committee previously voted to recommend indefinite postponement of this article.

The select board supports creation of a taskforce, which will be detailed in the warrant booklet.

“The money recommendation, as has been noted, will be the finance committee’s recommendation, but what we can do in the explanation is reference that the select board supports the creation of a taskforce,” Mr. Johnson-Staub said.

The board recommended indefinite postponement of a petition article to create a domestic partnership bylaw from Ronald D. Zweig, a Precinct One Town Meeting member.

If adopted, the bylaw would provide legal benefits to unmarried couples who live together and share living expenses. Benefits include hospital visitation rights, family healthcare coverage, correctional facility visitation rights, access to a dependent child’s school records and bereavement leave, among others.

“When Ron first asked me about it, I said, ‘Why not just get married if you want those protections?’ “ Mr. Brown asked. “I think marriage is always under assault. You want all the benefits without the legal commitment.”

Ms. English Braga said these benefits can be acquired in other legal, universally recognized methods, such a designating a healthcare proxy or power of attorney.

The board recommended an amendment to the Code of Falmouth to define how the Falmouth Select Board can create new rules and regulations for conducting town business. The proposed process requires that the board seek input from department heads, receive comment from town counsel and host a public hearing prior to adopting any new rules and regulations. The power to make these rules and regulations is encoded in the Falmouth Town Charter, as amended by Town Meeting in November 2019.

The board also recommended acceptance of the east side of Winthrop Drive, from Seacoast Shores Boulevard to Edgewater Drive East, as a public way. The estimated cost to pave the dirt road and bring it up to town standards is $265,000, a maximum cost of $15,600 per abutter.

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