It's normal to have different points of view. In fact, it's expected in politics. But it is not acceptable behavior for members of a political body to bully others.
In Ayer, there is a pervasive tone of bullying that has habitually cropped up at selectmen's meetings. The chairman, expected to keep decorum and procedurally run the meeting, has himself been known to throw his share of mud ("What a snake you are!" he said to a peer on Aug. 7).
Several months ago, the chair suggested the need for a workshop on effective interpersonal communication between board members. The idea has been pushed aside, but the need for self-examination remains.
The Sept. 11 meeting was punctuated by another selectman swearing at a wheelchair-bound resident ("Clean up your goddamn yard") and asking if the man was looking to physically fight the selectman ("Excuse me, are you threatening me?").
Later in the meeting, the same selectman took aim at the homeless of Ayer and attempted to press the police chief into stating there is a homeless "problem." Homelessness is a problem in and of itself, but the chief explained that anti-loitering laws have been struck down as unconstitutional. The police cannot arrest or shoo away the homeless.
The selectman's concern was that the homeless were peering into restaurant windows and upsetting patrons. "I don't' want to appear insensitive," said the selectman.
Bullying is sparked by many things -- insecurity, a pursuit for power, anger, among others. But -- define it as you will -- these seem to be textbook examples of bullying. It doesn't end there.
Another selectman stated to a town employee that it appears his work was done by a "high school student."
Ayer's chief executive board has focused much of its time on two matters. First, the selectmen have persistently attempted to reclassify the purported assistant treasurer over the wishes of the separately-elected treasurer, who the DOR confirms is the actual appointing authority over her underling. Second, the selectmen have focused on the condition of several properties in town.
The controversies contain their own drama. They do not need an assist from these supposed public servants.
Disagree via a vote. The chair should keep debate, and hotheads, in check. And get on with business.
Allowing bullying behavior makes the board blameworthy.