Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito visited Halifax briefly Tuesday morning to personally sign a “Community Compact” with the town. The selectmen’s meeting room at Town Hall was filled with residents and town officials. Selectmen Chairman Kim Roy signed on behalf of the board.
Also present were the Senior Deputy Commissioner, Division of Local Services within the Department of Revenue Sean Cronin, State Representatives Tom Calter and Geoff Diehl and Selectmen Troy Garron and Tom Millias.
Democratic Representative Calter introduced Polito, a Republican, and said that the “Baker-Polito” administration were “problem solvers.”
Calter noted, as did Polito, that both she and Governor Charlie Baker were former selectmen and understood municipal issues at the local level.
Polito, explaining the program, noted that the “Community Compact” was not an unfunded mandate, but a program where the state gives resources, including advisors and grants, in up to three self-selected areas of best practices.
In the case of Halifax, these three areas are capital planning, financial transparency, and cyber-security. She noted as well that communities could come up with their own areas of focus. Twenty-five cities and towns are now participating in the program, according to Polito, and 100 applications have been received since June with 200 “best practices” already in place.
“I want to reach across the aisle and make things work,” she said.
Selectmen Chairman Roy spoke to what it meant to Halifax to be participating in the program. Noting that she loves living in a small community, she then stated that one down-side is the frequent lack of resources, and getting caught up in the day-to-day operations of a cash-strapped town.
“It can be hard to see the big picture, sometimes,” said Roy.
Selectman Troy Garron added that he was thankful that the program was not an unfunded mandate, stating that he had seen very few in his 25 year career as a Halifax selectman. “It’s the first mandate that’s funded,” he joked.
Sean Cronin, a former Brookline Town Administrator, who now occupies the newly created position within the Department of Revenue that will implement the program spoke about some of the benefits Halifax will receive. For example, MassIT, a state agency, now has a school and municipal unit that can assist Halifax in its cyber-security focus area.
The “Community Compact” program, created via executive order at the beginning of Governor Baker’s term is supposed to “work towards mutual accountability, work to reduce red tape, promote best practices, and develop specific ‘community compacts’ with local governments,” thus “elevating municipal concerns directly to the Governor’s Office,” according to Polito.
The program put together is “an opportunity for cities and towns to enter into partnerships with the state to accomplish mutually agreed upon goals,” These “best practices” can be anything that a city or town might suggest. A city or town can apply for up to three grants.
“Community Compacts will create clear, mutual standards, expectations, and accountability for both the state and municipalities as we seek to create better government for our citizens,” according to Polito.