Ever since 1994, when our town became part of the Plymouth and Barnstable district, Falmouth has had a special relationship with State Senator Terry Murray. Maybe it was because of the way she first won her seat, in a surprise upset win over longtime right wing Republican incumbent Ned Kirby. Maybe it was because she was the first woman ever to represent us at the state level. Whatever the reason, from the beginning, Terry Murray and our town bonded.
In election after election, Falmouth consistently has given Terry Murray a higher vote than any other town in her district, even higher than her hometown of Plymouth, Even when she was running against a candidate from Falmouth, former selectman Rick Armstrong, a majority of Falmouth voters supported Terry Murray.
Over the years that bond strengthened. Falmouth quietly cheered her on as she climbed the ladder in the state Senate, rising from chairman of Human Services, to chairman of Senate Ways and Means, to the unprecedented position of president of the Senate—the first woman, and the first senator representing us, to rise to this powerful post.
That bond was tested in the election of 2010. In the economic misery of the Great Recession, with the rise of the Tea Party movement, incumbent elected officials everywhere were in trouble with disgruntled voters, and Terry Murray, Senate president or not, was no exception. She survived that election with less than a 5 percent margin. She lost to Republican Tom Keyes in Barnstable, Pembroke, Sand- wich, and Plympton, and barely squeaked by in Bourne. The two towns that won that election for her were her hometown of Plymouth and Falmouth; Falmouth voters that year gave her the biggest margin of any town, support- ing her 58 to 42 percent.
Now Falmouth is in trouble, and needs Terry Murray’s help. The town erected two wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant, at the state’s urging, with the state’s many financial inducements, and with the state’s assurance that there would be no impact on the neighborhood. Those assurances have proven to be wrong. The town has concluded that the situation is intolerable: either the turbines must go or the neighbors must go. The town has opted for the turbines to go. The selectmen see a huge financial problem in either case, and they are going to the state to ask for help. They have the support of our two state representatives, David Vieira and Tim Madden, who have filed a bill to provide relief for Falmouth.
In Massachusetts state government, all big policy decisions end up before three people: the governor, the House speaker, and the Senate president. In fact, all major decisions are discussed by them, in private and in person, at a joint meeting just the three of them hold every week on Beacon Hill.
The governor is a sympathetic man and a good listener, but he is unlikely to want to help Falmouth take down its turbines or buy out its neighboring residents, since to do so would set a precedent that could adversely affect the ambitious alternative energy program he is deeply committed to. The speaker is also a sympathetic man and a good listener, but he represents Winthrop, a town immediately adjacent to Logan Airport, and he has other priorities – local aid, MBTA debt, shoreline protection – higher on his list than helping one Cape town get out of this situation it finds itself in.
Then there is Terry Murray. She has already shown she understands the problem with siting wind turbines too near residences, and spoken out forcefully on that subject. She was instrumental last year in stopping WESRA, the so-called Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, a piece of legislation that would have ended any local control of wind development siting and given that power to the state’s alternative energy proponents.
She was also instrumental in the creation of the state’s Clean Energy Center (CEC), the very ratepayer-funded entity that provided the inducements and assurances that led Falmouth down the path of erecting the wind turbines. If there is a way to get CEC to provide Falmouth with more substantive help than sound testing and conflict resolution services, Terry Murray can find it.
So Falmouth is counting on Terry Murray. This is a big ask, but what the town is asking for is for the state to step up to the plate and help fix a problem it created in our town. Falmouth has known Terry Murray for 20 years. We know she can do it, and we know she will.
(Eric Turkington, a Falmouth attorney, represented the town for 20 years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.)
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