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Thread: Wayland Town Meeting Disappoints Big

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Far north Wayland
    Posts
    10

    Default Wayland Town Meeting Disappoints Big

    Shame on you Wayland!! You should have shown up and voted yes for the voting rights of all Wayland citizens above all other interests! To do anything less was un-democratic and un-American!!

    On Wednesday night, night three, fairly late into the evening, the approximately 250 residents who were still attending Town Meeting chose to defeat Article 21 to "Change the Format of Town Meeting" by a vote of 167 to 90. This was about 2.9 % of Wayland voters. Why so few came out to support this article is surprising because it had the potential to change local town government in the state of Massachusetts significantly for the better. This change was potentially the "shot heard round the state", meaning that it had the potential to provide citizens living with Town Meeting governments the right to vote (imagine that!) on the articles of the town warrant via a secret ballot at the polling booth and an absentee ballot if needed. Voting rights? Haven't many people died for that cause? Aren't many of our military doing just that in Iraq and Afghanistan right now?

    The attendees of Town Meeting that night were for the most part the usuals. Some are those who relish attending and relish their role in determining for the rest of us how decisions will be made in town. Others are those who don't want to be there, but have to be in order to do their duty (and many do a very good job of it). And some were those who find it ridiculous, but have no alternative in order to vote. Those who spoke in opposition to this article basically felt that change would "injure" the debate and information flow to those who will vote and would rather deny other citizens their right to vote than lose control of the infomation flowing to those who will be voting. These speakers couldn't imagine how Town Meeting government could be done differently such that it would actually be an improvement.

    With all due respect, I say how dare you!
    You do not have the right to decide what information I get and how I get my information prior to voting.
    You do not have the right to require parents to hire a baby sitter for three very long evenings to cast their votes and protect their earlier votes against revisiting already determined Articles on night three (a very significant poll tax!).
    You do not have the right to ask an elderly gentleman to sit in great discomfort for three long nights at the risk of his health so that he can have his vote counted late into night three.
    You do not have the right to "represent" the interest of the nurse who couldn't be there because she was working the evening shift that night.
    You do not have the right to represent the interest of the many business travelers who couldn't be there that night either.

    And offensive as it may be to you who relish Town Meeting for whatever reason, you do not have the right to require citizens to sit and put up with the sometimes ridiculous, and always endurance-testing, procedings of Town Meeting in order for their vote to be cast and counted. It is time for a change!

    Instead of voting no on Article 21, why didn't you come up with an amendment or an alternative article to provide all citizens of Wayland a mechanism for voting? How can you possibly defend any other position? There is nothing more sacred than our right to vote and you know Town Meeting denies that right to many, many citizens. I challenge all who stood at the con mic. that night to come up with an alternative modification to Town Meeting that will provide every registered voter in Wayland a way to vote on all of the Town Meeting articles present or not! How would you do it? You can not require everyone to modify their schedules to be there for 3 long nights. It is impossible. But how would you ensure that their vote is counted? All those who voted NO on Article 21 should think long and hard about what their vote means. And don't think that there is a more important mission to "preserve Town Meeting". Town Meeting has a long painful history of denying citizens the right to vote. It is absolutely NOT the purest form of democracy!!

    I applaud those who stood up to promote this Article 21. They were eloquent in their pro arguments, and though I did not get up to speak, I support every thing they had to say on this. I also applaud Mark Greenlaw for putting this article forward. He obviously spent many hours on this. His website: waylandvotes.info is excellent and his research very thorough. If New Hampshire and Vermont have moved in this direction, it is obvious that there is a serious discontentment with Town Meeting government that has to be addressed! Would you rather have representative government? I doubt it. Mr. Greenlaw provided an option that preserved almost every good feature of Town Meeting and enhanced it by opening up voting rights and inclusion of more citizens to vote. Nothing could be more important than that.

    I can't say how disappointed I am. Mr. Tichnor: BRAVO! Other selectmen: YOU DISAPPOINT!! Shame on you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    448

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    Peg,

    Great post. Youíve raised many good points and your passion about the subject comes through loud and clear.
    I share many of your concerns about TM and even though I support electronic voting, itís clear that by itself this method does not address many of the concerns youíve raised. It has never seemed fair to me that some people simply canít attend these lengthy evening meetings and consequently the outcome of any given vote is left to the mercy of those who can. Iím not sure why we still call this democracy. It may have made sense 400 years ago, but in todayís world it simply does not represent a true democratic process. Iíve never been a fan of tradition for traditionís sake and when society has progressed on every level in leaps & bounds through ever-changing sets of circumstances, certain aspects of government should change with it.

    While no system is perfect, I did find one particular aspect of Article 21 to be problematic. I agree with Selectman Joe Nolan that Article 21 would have given additional power and additional responsibility to the Selectmen, and for me, that made this article in its present form, unacceptable.

    Like Dave Bernstein said about Article 22, electronic voting is not a magic bullet and does not fix everything, but itís a start. The issues you have raised are problems that will not go away and will not fix themselves if left unaddressed, with or without electronic voting.

    I think that a new version of Article 21 should come back that does not take certain decisions out of the votersí hands and place them with the Selectmen. I canít remember the specifics or if there were other controversial aspects to Article 21, but if so, with those and the aforementioned issue addressed, I would be in favor of anything that makes voting more equitable for all of Waylandís citizens.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Far north Wayland
    Posts
    10

    Default

    John, thanks for your thoughts. Glad you agree on some things.

    However, there is nothing more important than every voter in town having a right and an opprotunity to vote on the Town Meeting articles. Unless this method is provided, what we have is not democratic.

    How would you suggest the town do it? How would Mr. Nolan? Personally I would like to see all of the articles placed on the ballot ,and then the selectmen wouldn't be involved deciding anything. Mr. Greenlaw was trying to make this less hard to swallow for some by compromising on the ballot content-- not putting everything on it. Did this kill it? I doubt it. I think folks would have found another reason to vote NO. Why didn't Mr. Nolan offer an amendment instead if he didn't like this one element?

    Nothing short of all voters having an opprotunity to vote on all Town Meeting articles is acceptable. So how shall we make that happen?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    448

    Default

    Peg,

    I'm not sure how to make that happen, but it seems like a good place to start would be to learn more about it.

    Could you post a link to the website for it?

    Thanks.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Far north Wayland
    Posts
    10

    Default

    John,
    I assume you mean the Waylandvotes website. It is at www.waylandvotes.info

    There you can check out some links to info about how they do ballot voting in New Hampshire and Vermont that Mr. Greenlaw (& others?) pulled together. I have not studied these myself yet, but plan to a bit. His presentations to the League of Women Voters and the Town Meeting Committee can be linked to from that site also, and are very good to see if you missed them. The links are on the bottom of the home page under "Past Events". I'm sure neither state's approach will seem perfect, but many towns in each state have made the move toward opening up town decision making to all registered voters and we can draw from their approaches and experiences perhaps.

    Issues like what to put on the ballot and how to handle amendments are challenging. I have a feeling no two people, groups, towns or states would agree on the best way to handle these. However, getting an order of magnitude more participants than 2.9% of voters (the participation rate that decided to defeat Article 21) on any decision in town government has got to have more potential to be a better decision! I bet Vermont and New Hampshire are still perfecting their approaches, and we should think of anything done here in Massachusetts as just a giant first step in the right direction to be followed by little corrective steps perhaps later. Kinks would have to be worked out over time and I'm confident that once a town's population (hopefully Wayland's) had the opprotunity to have a say in such a more sensible way on important town decisions, there would be overwhelming support!

    I also want to say that we need to give town residents (voters) the benefit of the doubt. I think people are very careful about how they vote in town meeting and would also be in a voting booth. I personally abstain on many articles at town meeting if I feel I just don't know enough about the subject to vote intelligently (the debate often does not inform enough!). I also vote down many things when I sense that more study on a subject is needed before "rushing in"-- though I don't need to hear that at town meeting first hand!

    The only way for anything to move forward though is for the bulk of Waylanders to agree that though we might not get the details exactly right in the beginning, the value of having far greater voter participation is much more important and probably an improvement in town government by that fact alone. Let's also recognize that some will never support something like this because it will mean a loss of power to them and whatever "group" they think they represent or align themselves with that seems to work for them currently. The unknown can be scary for people especially if they think they are going to be giving up power.

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