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Barnstable Today: Special Feature - Inside "Inside Barnstable Town Government"

Follow Sara Cushing as she learns about the inner workings of Barnstable in the Winter session of "Inside Barnstable Town Government".

"Inside Barnstable Town Government" is a class organized by the Town of Barnstable that educates residents on a myriad of municipal departments and issues. The Winter session began this month. Marstons Mills resident (and recently appointed member to the Economic Development Commission) Sara Cusing is taking the class this session, and will be blogging about her experience here.

Today, we bring you her introduction as well as her summary of the first class.

Hi! My name is Sara. Five years ago I met my husband-to-be while working in Boston. He lived on the Cape; I soon followed. We married in 2009 and almost immediately afterwards bought our home in Marstons Mills. We welcomed our first child into the world a year and a half ago.

I wanted to begin our conversation with this basic background information because I think it’s important for you to know that I, like many others who call this lovely peninsula home, am not from the Cape. My husband was born here, and he and I both moved around quite a bit growing up -- one of the most important things we wanted for our family was a single place to call home. We are a young family wanting a safe place with a sense of community to set down roots.

I believe that one important aspect of setting down roots is understanding and participating in your town’s infrastructure – I’ll call it “civic responsibility”. I am ashamed to admit that while I’ve lived in Barnstable for over four years, I have little knowledge of how our town is run. I don’t know what our elected officials do; I don’t know how the pieces of the government fit together. And I want to change this. I think civic responsibility is important, and I want to participate!

So I’ll be attending the Town of Barnstable’s Citizens Academy that starts at the end of January. The program runs for 11 weeks; each week’s topic will cover a different aspect of the town’s operations. And I’ll be blogging about it here! I hope to highlight key information for Barnstable citizens like myself who want to learn more about their town government; better understand how they can participate; make informed decisions for their families; and contribute to their community. I look forward to our conversation.

 

The first session of ‘Inside Barnstable Town Government’ started promptly last Tuesday night at 6:30pm at Town Hall. In attendance were over 20 Barnstable town residents, many of whom have lived on the Cape for years; some of us only recent ‘wash-ashores’. The program’s fearless leaders, Sue Loughran and Meg French, are two teachers overseeing the program which is in its 20th session this winter. Our agenda was tight and included Tom Lynch, Barnstable Town Manager.

Transparency and communication: These were the two key points that Mr. Lynch wanted to drive home about the current Town administration’s priorities. He gave a list of informational resources available to town residents – nearly all of which I had no idea existed so I wanted to share them with you here:

  1. ‘The Barnstable Bulletin’ - A monthly bulletin available on the Town of Barnstable’s website (www.town.barnstable.ma.us) that highlights timely and relevant information from different areas of town management.
  2. Channel 18 – The town’s local television station that airs both ‘Barnstable This Morning’, a local news program on each weekday morning at 7am, and ‘Barnstable Today’, a short, 10 minute program on twice daily that highlights the important town news of the day. Channel 18 also airs general Town announcements and has time slots available to 20 community leaders.
  3. Weekly emails from the Town Manager that outline his office’s work.
  4. Barnstable iForum (www.barnstableiforum.com) – An interactive forum or ‘online town meeting’ for residents to discuss important topics. A rewards system is available such that residents may earn points based on their participation in discussions on the forum.  Accumulated points may then be cashed in for, among other things, a breakfast with the Town Manager!
  5. ‘Commonwealth Connect’ phone app - This app uses your phone’s location to identify that you’re in the Town of Barnstable and directs you to the town’s site location.  Via this app you can directly report a problem or issue such as a road pothole. An automatic work order is generated from the app which is processed to the appropriate town department to manage the issue.
  6. ‘Inside Barnstable Town Government’ Citizens Academy – This class is designed to give residents an opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of all aspects of town government – the missions and challenges of the Town Manager’s office and Town Council, as well as police services, recreation services, schools, and regulatory…the list goes on. More information on the class is available on the town’s website.
  7. Citizens Resource Line – Did you know that we have one?? It’s 508.862.4925 and is a ‘dedicated phone line that will allow concerned citizens to submit complaints, obtain information or receive clarification on an issue.’ Someone will take your call and delegate the concern or task to the appropriate town office.

Next week we’ll be at Barnstable Police Headquarters to learn about Police Services. Stay tuned!

Sara Cushing is a freelance writer. She can be reached at saracushing@hotmail.com

 

 

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