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Thread: When 2/3 isn't

  1. #31
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    Default moving the question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    1. The other procedure "inconsistency" that baffled me was the Moderator's refusal to recognize people intending to move the question. Setting aside the wisdom of this refusal, it appeared to be directly at odds with the rules.
    I think the rules are a little ambiguous on this one. Quoting from what was in the warrant:


    "Although the Moderator has absolute authority to regulate the proceedings at town meetings, debate under a motion can be terminated by a TWO-THIRDS vote of the Town Meeting. Therefore, if you believe that debate under a motion has gone on long enough, approach the Procedural Microphone, and, when you have been recognized, "move the previous question".

    So the moderator has "absolute authority", but there's an "although" at the start of the sentence, which implies that this ability to make such a motion overrules this authority.

    I am surprised that anyone would argue that some of the procedures outlined in the moderator's rules are OK (such as requesting a recount) and others (such as moving a question) are not.

  2. #32
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    Default

    I guess you can read the "Although" to mean "be advised that while terminating debate is permissible, the Moderator retains the authority not to accept such a motion.

    Also, it's not clear if being recognized by the Moderator triggers anything. The Moderator might opt not to recognize someone who plans to move to terminate debate, but once recognized, does the person then have the right to have the motion accepted regardless of the Moderator's wishes?

  3. #33
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    Default Professional movers

    Jeff, thats a good question.

    This issue isn't whether citizens should not be able to move the question, its whether there should be full time professional movers doing this.

    I think that one person gets to move one question per night might be reasonable but I also think that 2/3rds should have to agree on moving the question.

  4. #34
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    Default TM as it is no longer works in Wayland

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I am surprised that anyone would argue that some of the procedures outlined in the moderator's rules are OK (such as requesting a recount) and others (such as moving a question) are not.
    Listen, I had always been a supporter of town meeting, with the idea that it gives people a voice and allows for open debate.

    Now we have "professional question movers" (as Alan refers to them, and I think the point is made by this term), organized efforts to get blocks of voters to attend and then leave (and then complain when they leave and a vote goes another way when they could have stayed all along), creative interpretations of rules, and, most disappointingly, out and out intimidation of those with opposing views of the so-called majority in this town, and more. I am proud of the Moderator for denying those looking to move the question. This is a rule that is now routinely abused to silence those who disagree. TM is not a place for silencing debate, it is THE place for debate.

    Now, the rest of the comments should be made with the understanding that I want a Town Center (not that I believe there will be one like the one I voted for, but that's a separate matter altogether).

    Last night more than 100 people stayed home knowing the reconsideration was slated for the end of the evening, and then rushed to the HS when it became clear from the broadcast that they were needed. That is not participatory democracy. That is not working in the best interests of the town. That is flat out selfish, single-minded and shows no respect for the process.

    Linda Segal's remarks about the procedural pass-overs were both depressing and true. These pass-overs were absolutely asked for because the Selectman and their SOS cronies wanted to get that reconsideration under the wire last night as they had scrambled to get their needed warm bodies in the seats to push forth their reconsideration. They wasted our $$ printing them in the warrant, people's time in going to hearings about them, and the efforts of those supporting those articles in preparing for them. The BOS should be ashamed of themselves for this naked display of selfishness.

    It is time for Wayland to drastically examine town meeting and make changes. Natick (albeit a much larger town) has a representative TM. I say we vote for elected reps to TM and let them handle the town's business. I realize that the existing majority may be able to be successful in getting their own reps into these positions, but what would be the difference?

    Maybe with this type of a change or others, we can return to the TM I liked to believe we had -- civil discourse where the process of TM is carried out properly, differences amongst citizens are respected and decisions are made with that respect in mind.

    BTW, kudos to Gene Cosloy for the best podium speech of the night. He nailed all of the above setiments exactly without sounding angry.

  5. #35
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Jeff, thats a good question.

    This issue isn't whether citizens should not be able to move the question, its whether there should be full time professional movers doing this.

    I think that one person gets to move one question per night might be reasonable but I also think that 2/3rds should have to agree on moving the question.
    A 2/3 vote is required to move the question.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Last night more than 100 people stayed home knowing the reconsideration was slated for the end of the evening, and then rushed to the HS when it became clear from the broadcast that they were needed. That is not participatory democracy. That is not working in the best interests of the town. That is flat out selfish, single-minded and shows no respect for the process.
    I understand this complaint, and I hate it when people get up en masse and leave (especially when they don't do it quietly), but there are people who have other commitments and have trouble getting there, and sometimes this is all they can do. They care enough to vote on what they care about, and that should count for something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Linda Segal's remarks about the procedural pass-overs were both depressing and true. These pass-overs were absolutely asked for because the Selectman and their SOS cronies wanted to get that reconsideration under the wire last night as they had scrambled to get their needed warm bodies in the seats to push forth their reconsideration. They wasted our $$ printing them in the warrant, people's time in going to hearings about them, and the efforts of those supporting those articles in preparing for them. The BOS should be ashamed of themselves for this naked display of selfishness.
    I, too, was disappointed that we passed over these articles. I don't know what the ramification would have been to having an additional night - I think the hope (unrealistic) was that we'd finish the whole thing in one night. This was the end of two, and maybe the room wasn't even planned for a third night. Obviously, you go until you're done, and it's not right to just skip stuff, but I don't claim to know the whole situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    It is time for Wayland to drastically examine town meeting and make changes. Natick (albeit a much larger town) has a representative TM. I say we vote for elected reps to TM and let them handle the town's business. I realize that the existing majority may be able to be successful in getting their own reps into these positions, but what would be the difference?
    I've heard some really awful things about Natick's meeting this year. Here's a note a friend in Natick posted on my Facebook page: "we spent an entire evening on 1 article & now someone has asked for it to be considered to be re-addressed, need less to say I am not looking forward to tonights TM".


    Someone made the same argument to me today about representative Town Government, and I surprised by myself by saying, "Well, in effect, that's what we have now, but everyone who wants to be a representative gets to." The only difference between that and what we have now, really, is that with representative TM some people WANT to attend, and can't. In our form, the people who care about each issue get to vote on it, and if they don't care enough to be able to be there, they don't.

    But the problem is that the big crowds make things unwieldy. But that's a logistical issue, not a philosophical or political one. The biggest problem is how long counting takes. If we had a way to automate that process, the whole thing would be different, and people could focus on the debate, rather than on how much of a waste of time it is when we stop to count everybody.

    I'd rather fix the counting problem than tell people who want to participate that they can't. But boy do I share the longing for some kind of fix!!
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 02-28-2010 at 03:34 PM. Reason: fix typo

  7. #37
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    I would like to see a rule which requires that when a person moves to terminate debate, the moderator shall not accept that motion unless he/she determines that there has already been sufficient debate on the motion. And the question of what is or is not sufficient debate will depend on the particular matter under consideration. I think that the concept of termination of debate should only be able to be utilized as a mechanism for moving the meeting forward in a reasonable and efficient manner. It should never be able to be used by the majority simply to stifle debate or silence minority positions. I would like to think that people are actually interested in the views of their fellow citizens, and that the debate on a controversial issue is an important part of our legislative process.

  8. #38
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    Thumbs up Well said

    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrie Glick View Post
    I would like to see a rule which requires that when a person moves to terminate debate, the moderator shall not accept that motion unless he/she determines that there has already been sufficient debate on the motion. And the question of what is or is not sufficient debate will depend on the particular matter under consideration. I think that the concept of termination of debate should only be able to be utilized as a mechanism for moving the meeting forward in a reasonable and efficient manner. It should never be able to be used by the majority simply to stifle debate or silence minority positions. I would like to think that people are actually interested in the views of their fellow citizens, and that the debate on a controversial issue is an important part of our legislative process.
    I could not agree more with your sentiments here.

    Unfortunately, professional article movers have been designated at various town meetings and have actually camped out on stage, near the moderator, and have made motions to move the article multiple times during the night.

    Just imagine, going to a town meeting so you can hang near the moderator and cut the debate short for multiple articles in the same night. One has to be very dedicated to the science of article moving to want to do that !

    Its even more flabbergasting to do it when you have people in line to speak.
    I've never moved an article to vote even once... but thats just me, maybe I'm different.

    At the most recent town meeting Peter Gossels was seen and heard admonishing one gentlemen to get off stage and said something like "you've been here all the time waiting" "go and sit down". That admonishment seemed to have cooled the zealousness of the tactic for the rest of the night but maybe that was because we had a succession of 'passovers' (and I thought the Jewish people created that) of important and well meaning articles that people spent their time on and for which the town paid money to have materials printed. I can only conclude that the 'passovers' were done to get to the end of the meeting for that all important reconsideration of article 3 for which people wanted to vote and go.

    That is my take and NO, you out there won't convince me otherwise.

    I contacted Mr. Gossels with an email and a suggestion for the future.

    The suggestion goes something like this...

    Take the magnitude of importance of the article into consideration (as you just said Lawrie) then when that camper makes the motion to move the article, survey the number number of people at each microphone and with a mental algorithm of importance vs. number of people at the microphones vs. number of people already spoken determine on the fly how many more people will speak. Cut the line at the right length and let them speak. So that camper doesn't necessarily get an immediate gratification and has to wait for the rest of the designated microphone people to have their say.

    Then the motion to move is considered and then its voted on.

    Seems fair to me.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I agree that there is room for error, though if tellers are careful and voters are cooperative it can certainly be minimized, or even eliminated. I was a teller last night as well, working with Woody Baston. Woody and I were very diligent about checking counts with each other on each row before moving on to the next, and double-checking our math. I added as we went, Woody used a calculator to check totals at the end, and we didn't finalize anything until we were in agreement.

    I do not see the math as a source of error unless people are really not careful. I think it would probably be wise to have each teller group submit their counts directly to the Moderator before reading them out over the microphone to ensure the counts are accurately recorded, though I noted that the Moderator checked with the teller when he had any doubt as to what had been said. Also the Town Clerk was independently recording counts, and they then compared. And about a hundred people in the audience were probably recording the figures read and doing their own math. The counts my husband recorded matched the reported figures each time.

    As Dave noted, the potential for error comes from people who are not clearly associated with a seat. Woody and I were very strict about this, making sure people were clear about where they were standing, and keeping an eye out for people who might be drifting around to be social to ensure they were not double-counted.

    Voters can help out in this regard by being patient through the process and staying attached to their seat. It is tempting during this long, not very interesting, part of the evening to chat with friends during this and move around to see different friends. Please don't do it. Just stay at your seat and make the job easier for the tellers. Also, please sit down when the tellers ask you to. Especially for us short tellers! It's hard to see over you when counting the next row.
    Most Tellers did not have calculators; if both of a team's Tellers made the same adding mistake, who would detect their error?

    Tellers must sign a statement that among other things asserts that they are not proponents or opponents of the articles being voted. Since I opposed article 3, I initially declined the Moderator's request to serve as a Teller -- but he insisted, suggesting that I cross out the troublesome assertion (which I did). As it turns out, my partner in tellership supported article 3 -- but there was no way the Moderator could ensure that each team was balanced across all the articles being voted. A Teller team whose members shared strong support for or opposition to an article and possessed an "ends justify the means" attitude could easily under-report or over-report votes by ~5% in a large section without detection.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    Most Tellers did not have calculators; if both of a team's Tellers made the same adding mistake, who would detect their error?

    Tellers must sign a statement that among other things asserts that they are not proponents or opponents of the articles being voted. Since I opposed article 3, I initially declined the Moderator's request to serve as a Teller -- but he insisted, suggesting that I cross out the troublesome assertion (which I did). As it turns out, my partner in tellership supported article 3 -- but there was no way the Moderator could ensure that each team was balanced across all the articles being voted. A Teller team whose members shared strong support for or opposition to an article and possessed an "ends justify the means" attitude could easily under-report or over-report votes by ~5% in a large section without detection.
    I also told the Moderator that I had a position (or would have one) on each of the articles, but that I thought I was capable of counting fairly. He told me not to worry about it. I voted for the Town Center and counted with a partner who was against it. Maybe Mr. Moderator knows things we don't. :-) There was one time when I corrected Woody's addition and it was in favor of the opponents of the Town Center article. People can have positions and be fair. I acknowledge that two people working together who have agreed to cheat, could do it.

    Woody and I took the same position on the sex offender article, though I am confident that our count of that article was also 100% accurate.

    I believe there were many calculators available, at least enough for each team, maybe enough for each teller. Adding a running total, however, is not hard, but perhaps an acknowledgment that one is comfortable adding numbers could be one of the criteria added to the teller's signature sheet. Further, there is no reason that the math of the counters could not be checked, since the individual row counts remain available after the counts. The row counts could be checked with the audience. As tellers count each row, they could announce their count (and Woody and I did say our counts out-loud each time, though not necessarily audibly to all of those we counted) and let the audience itself self-check.

    All this being said, there MUST be a better way. I certainly wish we could move to electronic voting which would be both significantly faster and more accurate.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 11-21-2009 at 08:21 AM.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrie Glick View Post
    I would like to see a rule which requires that when a person moves to terminate debate, the moderator shall not accept that motion unless he/she determines that there has already been sufficient debate on the motion. And the question of what is or is not sufficient debate will depend on the particular matter under consideration. I think that the concept of termination of debate should only be able to be utilized as a mechanism for moving the meeting forward in a reasonable and efficient manner. It should never be able to be used by the majority simply to stifle debate or silence minority positions. I would like to think that people are actually interested in the views of their fellow citizens, and that the debate on a controversial issue is an important part of our legislative process.
    I agree with you on this.

    I would like to add one thought those who oppose the existence of this motion to consider - when you make a motion to terminate debate you are not allowed to say anything else to explain your motion. In fact, ignorant of the rules, I did this once years ago. I got up and said something first explaining that it seemed that we had heard all the arguments and that the recent statements were not adding anything new, and that I would like to move to terminate debate. Mr. Moderator smiled at me gently and noted that no comment is permitted on the motion when making it, so he couldn't allow it. He took another speaker (who I will add did not say anything new), and then took my (new well-formed) motion to terminate debate.

    An available tactic to a side is just to prolong debate (remember in basketball when there was no possession clock and a team could stall and just pass the ball around and never shoot? Boring!! And it ruined the game). A motion to terminate debate can be completely valid and reasonable. It is not the case that every such motion has bad intent behind it.

    When somebody gets up there to terminate debate, they cannot explain why. I think it would be nice to be able to allow someone to explain themselves briefly. Maybe we wouldn't all think so harshly of every such motion. Possibly the huge vote in favor that often follows these motions indicates that many are useful and necessary.

  12. #42
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    I agree strongly with Lawrie and others on this.
    There are “moving” professionals who have grossly abused the termination of debate to their own benefit and for their own reasons, who have created an environment that doesn’t even come close to resembling fairness or democracy. I think that the option of terminating debate should be used only in very rare cases.

    Terminating debate early on, when there are still people wanting to speak is really a slap in the face to the entire town. It is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care what you think, I just want to get this over with so I can go home.” Or worse, “I don’t want the expression of your ideas to potentially cause me to lose the result I’m seeking in this vote, so shut up and let’s vote”.

    The sex offender article is a good example of the value of hearing peoples’ ideas. I’m sure I was not alone in being aghast when that man got up to speak against passing the sex offender article. What could be more basic? We all love our children. We want them to always be safe and free from the danger of sexual predators. So, of course any legislation that will make them more safe is a good thing, right?

    However, as the man spoke, he made some very sane and rational points. And when others got up to support his opposition, they too presented some perspective that the average loving parent’s bias might not allow them to see on their own. It seemed to me that by the time the article was voted down, the attitude in the room went from an emotional, gut reaction “yes” vote, to a pragmatic “no” vote.

    Our sex offender article sounded great on the surface, because of its name and what it could be assumed to accomplish. But when all the points were made, there was doubt about the ramifications and implications of passing such legislation, including the very real possibility that it would create unintentional “safe zone” neighborhoods in which sex offenders could live. As one woman pointed out, who among us would want to find that their home fell inside such a zone? Coupled with the lack of historical evidence that such legislation actually makes our children any safer, people voted not to pass this article at this time, leaving open the possibility of revisiting it in the future.

    It seems likely to me that if discussion had been terminated early on in this vote, that it would have sailed through with a wide margin. Regardless of how you feel about its outcome, the discussion in this case probably had a direct impact on the vote.

    We should know by now that silencing people and stifling their thoughts and ideas will always come back to haunt us. Let the people speak!


    .
    Last edited by John Flaherty; 11-21-2009 at 09:20 AM. Reason: Well, if you MUST know, I added a K to now, so that it correctly spelled Know, instead of now.
    John Flaherty

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  13. #43
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    Default NOT democracy

    To all those that think that all that wanted or cared to participate in Town Meeting did indeed participate: you are wrong. I have two small children (one disabled). I cared and wanted to participate in Town Meeting, but I was unable. I'm not alone. We can vote for the President of the United States at a poll, but for our town this is not acceptable? I am baffled that anyone thinks Town Meeting is a democracy.

  14. #44
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    Default Thank you for speaking up

    Quote Originally Posted by Cari Cornish View Post
    To all those that think that all that wanted or cared to participate in Town Meeting did indeed participate: you are wrong. I have two small children (one disabled). I cared and wanted to participate in Town Meeting, but I was unable. I'm not alone. We can vote for the President of the United States at a poll, but for our town this is not acceptable? I am baffled that anyone thinks Town Meeting is a democracy.
    Rarely do we hear from people in writing who want to attend TM and can't.
    TM is a democracy which seems to be a microcosm of what we have in Washington DC. There are strategies and tactics and it all comes down to the number of bodies who show up and are willing to stay for the distance.

    This is not to say that TM cannot be improved.

    I wish there was a better solution for you situation. I wrote back to Elizabeth Price above about a 'designated babysitter' idea... perhaps its a viable one?

  15. #45
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    Default Not like Washington at all

    In Washington, we have elected representatives. I'm not expected to sit through filibusters, endless motions, and so forth. It's silly to suggest that Wayland residents should sit through similar shenanigans to have a say on town business. I'm especially surprised that someone who decries "professional article movers" would suggest that cynical maneuvering and endless debate are legitimate parts of town politics.

    My specific situation is unusual, but my general problem is common: many Wayland residents have work, family, or other commitments that prevent them from attending Town Meeting.

    There is no perfect form of government. Perhaps for Wayland, TM is the best form, even if it isn't fully democratic. I cannot understand, however, how anyone can defend the need to reconsider at TM issues that have been addressed by the electorate in a referendum. A town-wide referendum is the best way we have devised to poll the entire voting population; when an issue is important enough to convene a referendum, shouldn't that settle the matter? How is a subsequent vote at TM anything but a hindrance to democracy?

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