Needs and wants
Recently, I attended a “beautiful” Select Board meeting. I know that’s not how most people would refer to it, but I was there as an observer, and because of this was able to sit back and enjoy the entire beautiful democratic process that we as Longmeadow residents enjoy so much of. It was truly remarkable.
It’s what I learned about within the walls of “the open space” – the portion of Longmeadow High School from my era that still exists today. Though many of the select board and school committee meetings I’ve watched have resembled other experiences in my life, this one in particular reminded me of the dinner table at my house on Falmouth Road, where my parents still reside and where I learned about needs versus wants and all the stuff that lies in between.
I am the first born daughter, of a first born Italian American, who happened to be the son of a first born Italian immigrant. Needless to say, I didn’t always enjoy “democracy.” But what I did experience was much of what happened during this ‘episode’ of the select board.
Lacrosse players, tennis players, soccer players, and senior citizens, many from my youth, were all petitioning the board to pay for something they felt was important. For about one hour, residents stood up, stated their requests, defended their reasons for “wanting” this request, and thanked the board for their consideration.
It was very much like our family dinner discussions: “Dad, I want ‘this’ because of ‘that’ and if you could grant ‘said request’ I think it would be in everyone’s best interests...” While this process helped me develop some of my sales tactics (I did enjoy a short but successful career in sales – which subsequently funded my Masters in Education), I believe the exercise we embarked on next is what best prepared me for life, and for my recent appointment to School Committee determining what is a need, what is a want, and what lies somewhere in between.
My paternal grandfather grew up during the great depression; his mother and sister died in a fire at their house while he was in the sixth grade. Following this, my grandfather chose to drop out of school in order to help raise and support his family. It was likely a result of my grandfather’s careful financial habits that my father went on to become a successful financial advisor. My father painstakingly passed those habits of fiscal responsibility onto his daughters, typically with the tagline “money doesn’t grow on trees.”
In the short days since I took this seat, I have already witnessed countless “needs, wants, and in-betweens” that School Committee, Select Board, and other residents and staff in the community are faced with. Should we replace an old and problematic boiler? Should we replace or refurbish the track, the tennis courts, the athletic fields and the adult center? Should we start saving and planning to rebuild an aged middle school, even though the town just funded a new high school? Or, perhaps most popular right now, should we fully (versus partially) fund a full day of kindergarten? Not only that, how can we fund it all? Unlike other surrounding areas, we enjoy sidewalks, trash pickups, and are primarily commercial free. We pay the entire bill for all services and amenities we want to enjoy.
Needs, versus wants, and all the stuff that lies in between
So that brings me back to our dinner table; to finding a solution. What should we do with the money we have available to us? What should we fund now, and what should we develop a long term plan to fund in the future – near or far? My answer: we develop a plan that includes all of these “needs, wants, and in-betweens,” even if we can’t address them all at once; because progress and achievement takes time and planning.
I know there will be times and issues on which people disagree with me. My hope is that overall, through an open dialogue, people will find that I am doing my best to prioritize all “the needs, the wants, and the in-betweens” in our schools and in our community so that this Longmeadow family – that we are all fortunate to be a part of – can equally enjoy and optimize the funds we have available to us.