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Thread: Is it time for Wayland to consider transitioning to Representative Town Meeting?

  1. #1
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    Nov 2005
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    Default Is it time for Wayland to consider transitioning to Representative Town Meeting?

    Some residents have expressed frustration with the our current Open Town Meeting (OTM) form of government and feel that Wayland has outgrown it. Nearby towns such as Natick, Wellesley, Framingham and Needham, have Representative Town Meeting (RTM). RTM requires that 100-200 individual representatives be elected from districts in town as "town meeting members", to form a representative democratic form of town government, akin to a town legislature, which would vote the articles presented for consideration at town meeting. It is normally easier to find town meeting member candidates than other elective candidates because their role is limited to town meeting votes. Attendance at RTM among the representatives is normally much higher than attendance by registered voters at OTM because the representatives are a self-selecting group interested in involvement in town government. Is it time for Wayland to consider taking this approach?

  2. #2
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    Default Representative Town Meeting?

    The other towns noted are considerably larger than Wayland. Representative Town Meeting deserves consideration, but should not be adopted lightly.

    The final report from the Town Meeting Study Committee is available at http://www.wayland.ma.us/tmstudygrp/index.htm.

    The Town Moderator's response to the final report is available at http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.or...MSC-report.pdf (355k).

  3. #3
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    6 Williams Road
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    Question Representative Town Government

    It is true that most east coast or New England towns with this form of government are larger than Wayland. Does anyone know what the forms of government are in the midwest, south and west?

  4. #4
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    Default Other forms of government

    Outside of New England, there are two main types of government: city and county. City applies to real cities (Worcester is a real city; Framingham is not). County applies to everything smaller than cities. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but only a bit. Of course, government functions (schools, police, fire) are performed at the local level, but decision-making tends to be representative and higher up. In many ways, this is a function of population density.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...lation_density

    Note that New England states (RI, MA, and CT) are three of the top four in terms of population density, and Florida is the only non-Northeast state in the top 10.

  5. #5
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    Default Consider a discussion forum and voting day.

    A jump to a Representative Town meeting may be too drastic a change for Wayland. The current situation meets the need for discussion of topics. This discussion can be enlightening, but often features speakers that are off-topic or restating the former speaker's sentiment. When I asked friends and neighbors informally if they go to TM to vote or hear discussion, most go to vote. My guess is that that is the case with many attendees. Could there be a forum night that allows for PRO/CON discussion of Warrant articles that could be televised and then a voting day that allows all registered voters to vote? This system supports people that cannot attend TM such as the homebound, parents with childcare issues and those who are travel for their job. It may be more Democratic than our current TM as it may be more representative of the cross-section of our population.

  6. #6
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    Feb 2006
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    Thumbs up Let's hear it for representative government!

    I feel that Town Meeting is an advertisement for the wisdom of representative government. It's been called quaint and entertaining, but in reality, attending one is only slightly better than having ones teeth drilled.

    I yearn for the day when we can have an elected town council (I'm skipping right past representative TM). As it is, we are de facto represented by those who are able to attend TM, not those who are chosen by the voters.

    I've asked older members of the town how on earth they managed to attend TM when their kids were small. The answer is that one parent attended and one stayed home with the kids. Hmmm. So much for one person-one vote. Seems to me that TM was an idea that worked when the town was small, and when only male property owners could vote. Not that I'm advocating a return to that!

    Babysitting isn't the only issue, of course. It isn't our Moderator's fault that some attendees just like to hear themselves talk (and talk and talk), no matter the issue. In between Town Meetings they seem to practice by writing letters to the Crier.

    My advice to all: when you attend TM to bullet vote on an issue (as 80% of us do), do us all a favor and use that procedural mike to Call the Question!

  7. #7
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    Dec 2005
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    wayland
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    The other towns noted are considerably larger than Wayland. Representative Town Meeting deserves consideration, but should not be adopted lightly.

    The final report from the Town Meeting Study Committee is available at http://www.wayland.ma.us/tmstudygrp/index.htm.

    The Town Moderator's response to the final report is available at http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.or...MSC-report.pdf (355k).
    Middletown Rhode and Portsmouth Rhode Island Were i used to live and was stationed there at Naval Base Newport .Have a town council form of goverment and it works quite well .As of member of the TMSC we have worked very hard to to reccomend ways of streamlining the town meeting
    and make it more user friendly .Now it is up to the selectmen to impliment
    some of the suggestions from us I move the question

  8. #8
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    Dec 2005
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    Default Town Mtg Comm. recommendations

    I just read the recommendations of the Town Mtg Comm. and the response from the Town Moderator. I couldn't find a response to rec. #12 (which is a very hopeful suggestion) and frankly, I was disappointed in what seemed to be a dismissal of many of the suggestions.
    I understand that there are limitations as to how much we are able to change, but did anyone else get the sense that the response was defensive?
    I have huge respect for the Moderator--he and his family have done amazing things for Wayland. It was bothersome to read that he believes the responders of the survey were, in his opinion, "oblivious to the benefits of our open town mtg"! I responded to the survey and having grown up in Wayland, feel very aware and thankful for how this town has encouraged democracy.
    I just hope that administration can open their minds to ideas that may have, a)not worked in the past---times do change, and b)they do not agree with. It sounds like the survey/comments were strongly negative and that should be no personal reflection on any of our administrators or to say they haven't done an amazing job.
    Many ways of doing things have changed with technology, but that is not to say we were doing it poorly in the past. The Town Mtg Comm. is simply reporting the overall challenges we face for improvement- I would hate to see any of the suggestions (that are within bylaws) dismissed before further evaluating implementation.
    Again, I am thankful for all our boards/administrators and especially the Moderator of Town Mtg--I would never wish to be in his shoes!!! I just hope that our historic success doesn't keep us from hearing and responding to what today's people are saying.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Far north Wayland
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    Default If it wasn't so painful it would be funny--Maybe it is!

    I apologize for the length of this. Once I got started it was hard to stop!

    I guess I was feeling a little overly pleased about the override passing last night, and I decided to look to see what was new here on the discussion board. I came across this thread on Town Meetings (not new at all) and since that is our next big event to endure, and I do mean endure!, I decided to read it all again including this time the full report from the TM Study Committee, see links under Jeff Dieffenbach's response, followed by our moderator Peter Gossel's official report back to them.

    I guess it was my giddy mindset and the fact that I have sometimes a "twisted" sense of humor (I like to think I can find humor in adversity) but I found myself laughing out loud big time (all alone in the house luckily) at both the suggestions the committee made as well as the response of Mr. Gossels. But it really wasn't the suggestions that struck me funny so much as the problems they were trying to remedy. Now don't get me wrong, both reports represent very serious issues and many, many hours of voluntary time by all involved to attempt to serve all of us citizens of Wayland to a very high degree. I do appreciate the serious suggestions and thoughtful responses they express. I also have the utmost graditude for their time and effort! However, if you step back and look at the situation called "Town Meeting" and the amazing challenges it presents to us citizens who try to participate, as revealed so well in those two documents, it is actually pretty humorous. I really think this whole event would be great fodder for Jay Leno and/or Saturday Night Live!! Too bad the rest of the country can't quite appreciate "Town Meeting" or I'm sure we could get some great comedy out of this!!

    I'm planning to attend Town Meeting this time looking for the humor in it myself. After all, what else can we do?


    Here are some of my favorite ideas from the reports: (remember I am in a giddy, twisted mindset! Please take no offense!)

    Under TM Culture:
    Give Mr. Moderator an assistant to help with efficiency. Problem is Mr. Moderator doesn't know what the assistant would do, he'd have to spend time at the meeting supervising the poor soul!
    Enforce the rules of procedure. Problem is most of us don't understand these darn rules and likely we never will!
    Stop having speakers re-identify themselves. We are all so tired of hearing their names and where they live!! Maybe they have the "Denny Crane" (of ABC's "Boston Legal") problem and actually like hearing their name even if they have to say it themselves, & maybe this explains why some like to hear themselves talk so much!
    Edit the warrant before the meeting. ---DAH!!
    Start on time! 100 citizens is all you need, forget the 1500 people lined up outside the door!!
    No fighting between departments at TM!! We leave our children at home to avoid this conflict!!
    Let us critique the process each and every time we come to "enjoy" the event and priviledge of TM (see Mr. Moderator's quotes at the end).

    Under Communication, Education, and Technology:
    Send us all to Town Meeting School! We all have time for that!!
    Add more meetings! We need separate sessions for "State of the Town" and "Thanks and Kudos for the Volunteers" --personally, I think this one should be a big party!! And don't forget to have a live WAYCAM broadcast meeting prior to the TM for Q&A so we can spend an evening at home watching those that like to hear themselves talk, talk some more!
    Add real time projection to TM which is supposed to help us avoid confusion in sorting out what we are actually voting for. -I hope we can see it! Bring binoculars!
    Write a "Town Meeting for Dummies" guide for us. Apparantly something like this already exists, but most of us are too dumb to get one and actually read it.
    Grow the Warrant to give more background on each article. Are you kidding me? We're actually going to make this thing longer!
    Make a special trip to go and get a Pre-TM copy of the Fin.Com's recommendations before TM so that we can read it in advance and talk more about it at the broadcast Q&A and TM.

    Under Streamlining
    Start the meeting on a Sunday. Is this really going to make TM more popular? --Doesn't seem to work when the boss asks you to work on the weekend!
    Schedule which articles get discussed on which night. What? -A fixed time agenda! --No way!
    Find ways to limit the endless debate. If you could figure out where to get your copy of "TM for Dummies" or go to the TM School, you would learn about "Moving the Question" and accomplish this (and maybe even learn how to Re-Move the Question!!)
    Get rid of the Thank You segment at TM --This is the separate meeting or the big party I suggested.
    Get those tellers to count faster!! Whip them into shape !!
    And please add some stretching breaks. Maybe we can pipe in "Sweet Caroline" and "America the Beautiful" or at least send a "wave" around the room every half hour! Hey, I like that idea!

    Under Needs of the Attendees:
    Many need child care. I say bring those kids with you! The talkers will want to adjourn much quicker if they have to listen to all of these crying, whining kids!
    Lets have an area for food and beverages so people can actually have life sustaining nourishment! What a concept! Girl scout cookies at at the door might do.
    Bring a cushion! This you really have to do!! Better yet a boat seat or a folding chair if they'd let you -- they might not, so park your car close by in case you have to run it back to the car (just try to park close by!!).
    The lighting is bad in the field house, so bring a flashlight.
    The acoustics are bad too, so sit next to someone with sharp hearing so they can translate for you.
    And finally, be prepared to take off most of your clothes. As the night progresses it will be very hot. You might want to fight for the low bleacher seats so that you can be closer to the slightly cooler floor.

    Here are some favorite quotes from Mr. Peter Gossel's report (I actually very much admire his passion for the tradition,and purity of Town Meeting democracy and also his knowledge of the whole affair, and I think he's a wonderful moderator, so again, please take no offense, but see if you can appreciate the humor along with me).

    "Since 1638, Wayland's residents have enjoyed true democratic government conferred on us by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which allows each registered voter in town meeting assembled to debate and vote on how much the Town shall spend, how its expenditures shall be allocated, how each resident shall be taxed, how the use of their real estate shall be regulated as well as many other issues."

    "Town meetings are not held to entertain, after all, or even to create community; they are held to provide a way for all of the residents of Wayland to consider, debate and decide serious issues that affect their schools, their safety, their property and their tax burden."

    "In short, if the residents of Wayland want to continue to make the political decisions that affect their property and bank accounts, they must pay the price for the rights that the Commonwealth has conferred on them by participating in our open town meetings."

    "And we, the leaders they have elected, should not be offended by the impertinence of our constituents, for that is the price we must pay for the authority that they have delegated to us. Hard work and good intentions should not shield us from criticism so long as we can respond to our critics at town meeting. Harry Truman said it best, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"."


    So suck it up Waylanders, both leaders and grunts! You have to pay the price for the right and enjoyment of Town Meeting. But if you try, you may even find yourself entertained by the whole thing and in this way a new sense of community may actually be felt, despite Mr. Gossel's presumption that this is not what TM is for. Nothing like a little shared pain to bring us together. It's something anyway.

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