Published in the February 14, 2019 edition.



Who couldn’t have seen this coming?

The folks who took the “man” out of selectman now want to manipulate the gender composition of other boards.

So much being gender neutral.

Recently, the Town Council advertised for candidates to serve on the crisply-named “Public Safety Building Re-Assessment Committee.”

In mid-November, the notice was posted widely – online, on social media and in the Wakefield Daily Item — requesting applicants to serve on the newly-created committee.

“The Wakefield Town Council is currently accepting applications from residents interested in serving on the Public Safety Building Reassessment Committee. There are three appointments available for community members-at-large. This Committee will reevaluate the concerns and deficiencies related to our current Public Safety Building. Committee members will also engage in a detailed assessment of public input and ultimately make recommendations to the Town Council regarding any plans or approaches to address current and future needs, … Interested candidates should submit a resume and letter of interest via e-mail…”

But when the list of applicants was presented to the Town Council at a recent meeting, not everyone was happy.

Were they disappointed with the caliber of the applicants?

No, they admitted that all eight candidates were highly qualified. What, then, could be the problem?

“I’m disappointed that all eight were men,” Town Councilor Mehreen Butt lamented. “It’s a pretty sad sign to have just eight men apply.”

Interesting. Are we now assuming people’s gender? Or was each candidate asked about their gender identity?

Because no women applied, the assumption was that there was something wrong with the way candidates were recruited. It had to be that. To believe otherwise would be to admit that there are innate differences between men and women and that men might naturally be more drawn to things like building construction.

Or are we saying that the ladies are somehow less capable than men when it comes to finding notices for these committee appointments?

“We need to look at how we recruit,” Butt insisted. “What we’re doing isn’t working.”

How about targeting nail salons and Zumba classes? Just trying to be helpful.

Or maybe stop posting committee opportunities on those secret, male-only sites like the internet and Facebook.

I have another theory: women are smarter than men.

Maybe women have better things to do with their time than spend endless hours attending committee meetings on a project with a history of bad blood that could very well be sabotaged once again at the 11th hour.

Rightly or wrongly, the first Public Safety Building Committee has been trashed unmercifully for more than a decade over the alleged deficiencies of the first PSB project, finished in 2003. That led to the recent intensive 18-month effort by the Permanent Building Committee to rectify those flaws. Their $8 million upgrade plan met with overwhelming approval at last April’s Annual Town Meeting, only to be defeated by 71 votes after an activist group appealed it to a townwide ballot.

Given the thankless history of the Public Safety Building project, maybe instead of obsessing over the Y chromosomes of committee members we should just be glad anyone is willing to serve at all.