The news crackled like musket fire. The great gadfly-citizen Phil Goguen will move out of Ipswich.
It’s almost beyond imagining.
Phil has been a fixture in this town since time immemorial. In select board citizen’s queries, Town Meeting tirades, letters to the editor, social media posts, and campaigns for public office, he’s been the single most consistent and outspoken and belligerent government watchdog in Ipswich, a virulent voice against spending, taxes, budget overrides, and government in general, pushing for transparency, accountability, and audits. Especially audits. Lots of audits. Also term limits.
I like Phil. I first met him when he was running for a spot on the select board in 2014. He arrived at our downtown meeting place flashing his classic snaggletooth smile and regaled me with stories and opinions and it was delightful. In the years since then, I rarely agreed with Phil — hardly anything except keypad voting — but he was so entertaining!
Then, the stunner: “After 60 YEARS we are leaving Ipswich,” he announced on social media last week. “YES, we are moving to easier living.”
Well, yes indeed, Phil. It will be way easier for you without the select board citizen’s queries, Town Meeting tirades, letters to the editor, social media posts, and campaigns for public office. You’ve kept up a steady barrage of high-energy activism for years and years, far beyond the capacity of most people half your age. It’s time your life got easier, Phil. Kick back, cash your Social Security checks, show your Medicare card at the doctor’s office, and enjoy your tax dollars at work.
It’s going to be unsettling, this post-Goguen era. There will be gaping silences. Awkward uncontested budget votes. Without Phil alleging subterfuge, the dynamics of government will shift. For some town officials, all the fun will go out of covering up.
But I believe we as a town will survive this shock. One time-tested strategy for recovering from civic trauma is to focus your energies on commemoration. This I plan to do. I’ll be spearheading a multi-faceted campaign to salute the contributions Phil Goguen has made to our town. Plans have not yet been finalized, and I’m open to additional ideas. But here’s what the committee and I have sketched out so far:
1. A Phil Goguen statue on North Main Street. In the same way that Phil has been an outsized presence in our town, any Phil Goguen statue should definitely be gargantuan. And he should be depicted holding a megaphone. Not just holding it, shouting into it. (There could even be a continuous loop of sound clips lifted from old ICAM video.) Debating what material to make the statue from, we’ve decided for accuracy’s sake it has to be brassy.
2. In the select board’s meeting room at Town Hall, we’d like to see a nice framed photo of Phil displayed in front of an honorary citizen’s query microphone (non-functioning).
3. The best tributes are interactive. We envision a lovely Phil Goguen walking trail through some of our beautiful open spaces, culminating in a restful Accountability Park, complete with comfortable benches interspersed with statues of auditors, each auditor hunching skeptically over one of the benches. (We briefly considered animatronic auditor figures, but then the park wouldn’t be restful, it would be tiresome.) Saluting Phil’s enduring passion for government transparency, the benches will be made of see-through acrylic.
4. The centerpiece of our campaign will be erected directly in front of Town Hall: an immense open checkbook.
Best of all, Phil, this stuff will be totally taxpayer-funded.
Love ya, buddy! Best wishes for a grand season of easier living.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, mostly off ill-gotten government grants. Click “follow” here at Outsidah.com to get more stuff than they’re willing to print in the paper.