The Orleans Citizens Forum was formally incorporated September 14, 1998. The following provides a brief synopsis of the Orleans Citizens Forum’s early history and its evolution to present day.
During the mid 1990s the Town of Orleans established a committee to develop a Local Comprehensive Plan in response to the Cape Cod Commission whose charter it was to “… determine the comparative benefits and detriments of those projects and their consistency with the regional policy plan….”
For a variety of reasons progress in developing the plan was slow and was even interrupted for a time due to philosophical differences between the Board of Selectman and the committee. The committee was subsequently redirected and restructured before resuming its planning efforts. This was during a time of general confusion within the community about what was going on in town government.
In 1997, a small group of concerned citizens met to discuss and plan for improving community awareness of town government activities. The organization determined that one significant way of improving awareness was to have members of its group sit in meetings of the various town boards and committees as observers and summarize what was discussed. The content of these summaries would then be published in an organization newsletter and made available to the community. Given the origin and the content of the newsletter, the newsletter’s name was selected to be the “Observer.”
Additionally, the organization decided to hold forums on topics of interest to the community that would provide a neutral environment for open discussion. These forums would be free and open to all. The purpose of the organization’s first forum was to get first-hand from the community an understanding of the issues that were of most concern to the community. It in effect was a survey of those attending. This first forum was held at the Orleans Middle School on February 19,1998, and was attended by 100 members of the community. It was considered very successful.
It is of interest to note the results of the survey as an indication of the probable concerns of the entire town. Of those attending 73% felt the development of the Local Comprehensive Plan was most important. Second at 63% was the issue of Open Space and third at 35% was Tri-Town Septage Treatment Plant.
An issue for the entire Cape at the time was whether the Land Bank should be funded. On January 27, 1998 a Barnstable County- wide referendum to pursue the Land Bank was voted down. That summer the Orleans Citizens Forum held its second forum to provide opportunity for discussion on Land Bank and Open Space. That fall the Land Bank was passed by all 15 Cape towns with Orleans’ passing it by a 71% plurality.
The Orleans Citizen’s Forum has, throughout its history, continued to present forums on subjects important to the quality of life in our community. Subject matter has included: energy, education, sewers, village center, emergency preparedness, demographics, medical services and scams to name a few. Additionally the Orleans Citizens Forum presents a Candidates Night anytime there is a contested seat for Selectman. Information about many of these, including videos, may be found on our website Orleans Citizens Forum.