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Thread: Town Meeting

  1. #1
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    Dec 2009
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    Default Town Meeting

    I recently attended a Town Meeting in another town where I have a second home. The Town has a representative form of meeting where an individual who has been elected by his neighbors represents a portion of the town. The meeting went very smoothly since the only persons who were entitled to speak and to vote on warrant articles were the representatives. There was a moderator who monitored the debate and then called for a vote. The representatives appeared to be well versed on the content of the articles and had canvassed their "constituents" for their opinion. The meeting took place during the day and was conducted in an orderly and businesslike manner. Why can't Wayland have a refendum to decide if this form of town meeting would be more acceptable to them than the current style ?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    Wayland, MA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Heller View Post
    I recently attended a Town Meeting in another town where I have a second home. The Town has a representative form of meeting where an individual who has been elected by his neighbors represents a portion of the town. The meeting went very smoothly since the only persons who were entitled to speak and to vote on warrant articles were the representatives. There was a moderator who monitored the debate and then called for a vote. The representatives appeared to be well versed on the content of the articles and had canvassed their "constituents" for their opinion. The meeting took place during the day and was conducted in an orderly and businesslike manner. Why can't Wayland have a refendum to decide if this form of town meeting would be more acceptable to them than the current style ?
    Since other Towns use this form, it is unlikely that Wayland cannot also choose to adopt it. What process would be required to make this change?

    I would strongly oppose such a change; we need more participation in town government, not less.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    Wayland MA
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    Default

    My understanding is that most towns that use the representative town meeting ("RTM") approach are significantly larger than Wayland. I don't know if there's an easy to generate list, though--would be interesting to see.

    I'm with Dave on this. I think that RTM should be a last resort put in place only after all other options are deemed to be profoundly broken. Electronic counting would go a long way to alleviating our current problems where voting is done at the meeting. And I'd prefer having discussion at a meeting followed by voting at the polls (or online, or by mail, or whatever) before I'd want to experiment with RTM.

    So, if we're going to poll voters, I wouldn't want the question to be status quo versus RTM, but rather, choice among a number of options including those two.

  4. #4
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    Dec 2009
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    Default Town Meeting

    The town I am referring to has about the same population as Wayland. I believe they vote on the warrant articles prior to the meeting but the binding vote is at the town meeting. I am in favor of some kind of refendum on the topic. If it includes choices then so much the better. If the current system is not broken after the latest catastrophe I don't know what else has to happen.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2005
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    165

    Thumbs up According to Wikipedia...

    Representative town meeting
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    A representative town meeting is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont.

    Representative Town Meetings function largely the same as an Open Town Meeting, except that not all registered voters can participate or vote. The townspeople instead elect Town Meeting Members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them, much like a U.S. Representative votes on behalf of his or her constituents in Congress.


    Massachusetts towns having at least 6,000 residents may adopt a Representative Town Meeting system, known in state law as Town Meeting Limited, through acceptance of an act of the legislature, or they may petition the legislature to enact a Special Act which applies solely to the individual town, or they can use the Home Rule Charter process. Under the Special Act or charter enactments, even communities of less than 6,000 may adopt a limited town meeting if the residents vote to accept the Special Act or approve a new charter-change process. Depending on population, a town may have anywhere from 45 to 240 Town Meeting Members under the acceptance act statute. Framingham, the largest town in the state by population, has 216 representatives in Town Meeting, twelve from each precinct.

    Looks like there's absolutely no reason we couldn't attempt to rid ourselves of the pandemonium Jerry. I'm with you - let's do it!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
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    382

    Default Too soon to pull the plug...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I think that RTM should be a last resort put in place only after all other options are deemed to be profoundly broken. Electronic counting would go a long way to alleviating our current problems where voting is done at the meeting. And I'd prefer having discussion at a meeting followed by voting at the polls (or online, or by mail, or whatever) before I'd want to experiment with RTM.
    I'm with Jeff and Dave on this...

    We have a 300+ year tradition in Wayland of self representative town meeting and now it needs fixing, repairing but not a heart transplant.

    I still believe we can have our cake and eat it too. The single largest obstacle is the long count and this can be shortened, practically eliminated with technology.

    I've done some research on this and I offer it here.
    Bringing Electronic Voting to Wayland's Town Meeting
    A quote on a 2,000 keypad system

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    44

    Default What's the Real Problem Here?

    The questions regarding Town Meeting that are now being discussed will hopefully lead to a better and more efficient process, whether it be in the form of improvements to our longstanding tradition of open town meeting or a change over to a representative town meeting. I think these discussions, hopefully resulting in follow-through of some sort, are good. But, having watched on WayCam the proceedings of "that night" for the second time (the first time having been in person), I think that we have problems with regard to Town Meeting that are bigger issues than the method of counting votes, the rules on terminating debate, etc. Specifically, the behavior that took place on the first night of the Meeting resulting from the Moderator making the decision to have a recount (which, in a town meeting setting, is more accurately described as a revote) was appalling and shameful. The aggressive disrespect exhibited toward the Moderator, for making a ruling that was both statutorily mandated and consistent with the advice of Town Counsel, in both language and tone was intolerable in a civilized society based on the rule of law. If you don't believe me, watch the tape. No issue before Town Meeting is ever going to be more important than the way that we behave toward each other as a community, particularly during difficult times and with regard to making decisions on highly contested issues. At any given time, the current controversial issues before the town always appear to be the most important matters imaginable. Despite that sense of urgency, decisions on these matters will be made, and some will prove to be good decisions and and some will prove to be not so good decisions (let's hope that we're smart and lucky enough that the former will outweigh the latter) --- we are all human, and, as a community, our goal should be to do the best we can with the information that we have in an intelligent, fair and respectful manner. And, one thing that we can always be sure of is that, whatever the result, the Town will move on, and there will be other "important and urgent" decisions that we will need to make in the future, many on topics we can't even now imagine. We can fix the voting and the rules for Town Meeting, but that will not fix the real problem that reared its head "that night." The Moderator has always taken great pride in running a civilized Town Meeting where people with differing views can be heard in an environment which is deliberative and respectful of everyone. I suggest that we, as a community, never allow what happened on that evening to happen again. I don't know how we fix this, but it needs to be fixed.
    Last edited by Lawrie Glick; 12-10-2009 at 03:42 PM. Reason: Clarification

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
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    Default Lets fix what we have

    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrie Glick View Post
    The questions regarding Town Meeting that are now being discussed will hopefully lead to a better and more efficient process, whether it be in the form of improvements to our longstanding tradition of open town meeting or a change over to a representative town meeting.
    Your thoughts written down above crystallize the situation succinctly.

    Rules and strategies concerning 'calling the motion' should be re-thought out. One suggestion that was said to me worked something like this:

    Every article would have a minimum of 30 minutes of debate time (and the clock is still bounded by 60 minutes) unless:
    a. There are no further people standing at the pro or con microphone or
    b. The moderator determines that the same points are being made over and over even if there are people still standing at the pro or con microphone. And, yes, this is a judgment call for the moderator.

    After 30 minutes, someone may ask to move the question and then the normal process occurs.

    I submit that debating is infinitely more important then voting. Debating has the role of possibly helping us make up our minds (assuming we still have an open mind to an issue) and even if we are stuck on which way we are going to vote, it still is interesting and useful to hear opposing opinions because not only might we change our mind but we might re-enforce what we already were intending on doing.

    Voting is a measurement system and the faster and more accurate that measurement system can be done the more time will be left for the important things.

    Its also important to note that shouting, standing, raising our hands or pushing a button on an electronic device is NOT voting. Voting is a mental process and all of those other things are the physical way to implement what we are thinking. There is no physical or electrical system which substitutes our minds for the act of voting. Voting is between the ears.

    A fast, accurate method of voting will preserve our 270 year old tradition of one vote - one person and it will allow the town meeting of 1638 to scale to the town meeting of 2009.

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