Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Where is the Silent Majority

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Post Where is the Silent Majority

    Gordon and Beth Cliff sent the following letter to WaylandeNews. We don't publish opinion pieces as news items, so we did not post this letter on our website. I thought it worth posting here, as it is generating some useful and interesting discussion on the Patch site. I would like to refer readers to that posting should they want to review the many (80+ at the time of this post) posts there. Feel free to continue the discussion here now that this letter has fallen off Patch's most easily accessible items.

    The following is the text of the letter we received from the Cliffs:

    To the Editor:

    Running for selectman was a great experience for our Cliff family. We met many wonderful people and learned a lot about peopleís perceptions of the issues we face, and our daughters got a firsthand view of democracy in action. To the many that supported Gordon with such effort and enthusiasm, we are grateful for your support and regret we came up 300 votes short.

    We always knew that to win we needed an above-normal turnout of what we like to think is the silent majority Ė those who care about the same issues we do, but may not have gotten to the polls recently. Nonetheless, to lose by only 300 votes in a town of 9,000 registered voters Ė with only 3,000 caring enough to show up at the polls at all Ė is bittersweet.

    There are no official pollsters in town, but we are fairly confident that a majority of the town share our views Ė the Keep Wayland Strong platform Gordon campaigned on: strong schools, open-spaces, and prudent fiscal management focused on sustainable operational improvements. We may be wrong, but we think the town majority supports a new DPW building and Town Center, and wants to give to the seniors a new center, just as they helped to give us a new high school. But weíll never know for sure, and this is what is most discouraging to us about our loss. That 71 percent of Wayland voters didnít bother to weigh in on issues that will have a significant impact on the community we share together is not something we feel good about.

    We have seen the same dynamic now this past week at Town Meeting. By our quick tally, fewer than 280 voters attended on Day 1 and 260 on Day 2: thatís less that 3 percent of the town determining the long-term future of Wayland. (Editor's Note: This letter was submitted prior to session 3 of Town Meeting).

    Votes on Day 1 eliminated all taxpayer funding for retiree healthcare, and all funding for WaylandCares Ė by margins of 7 and 28 people, respectively. On Sunday afternoon, the town rejected a new DPW building; it lost by 8 votes. One cannot but wonder how reflective this is of the true Will of the People. We didnít hear from more than 97 percent of Wayland Ė we didnít hear from over 8,700 townspeople who could have been there and voted.

    Many Waylandites are frustrated about the way town meeting works right now. Many have gone to one or two meetings and decided they just canít take it; we guess most havenít bothered to do even that. This is too bad, as there is a small, tight group who do attend, and who seem to like Town Meetings just as they are. Certainly every registered voter is entitled to speak at Town Meeting, but when one hears the same five or six people speaking again and again on issues that should have been discussed in the Warrant hearing; as they dismiss the hard work of many town volunteers who sit on Boards and have studied the issues closely; and even as they are admonished for being out of order with their procedural red herrings - one has to wonder: is this really how we want our town meetings to run and our town decisions to be made? Where is the diversity of opinions, and the civil discourse that allows us to discuss pros and cons of an issue with candor and openness, and not gamesmanship and ďgotchaĒ politics?

    Where, at town meeting, is the collective community that has shaped Wayland for so many years? Where is the majority in town to support the issues most of us care about: Aaa bond rating? Schools? Town Center? DPW? Riverís Edge? Why isnít the silent group joining us at Town Meeting? Why arenít they voting at the polls? Why canít we hear them?

    Voting at the polls and Town Meeting are the laws of our land. If people across the community arenít willing to come and exercise their rights, decisions will continue to go the way of citizens that do vote, and that do attend town meetings, small and contentious as that group may be. Will it only be when school classroom sizes explode, or important programs are lost, or even a lawsuit springs up that ratchets up our tax bills, that people will wake up and decide to be heard?

    Our family agreed to enter the fray this election season because we care about the town -- and we wanted to make sure the silent majority had every chance of having a voice and being heard. Our disappointment is not so much in Gordonís loss, as in the reality that most people in town just couldnít be bothered to care Ė either on Tuesday at the polls, or at Town Meeting at the field house. To lose for this reason makes us sad. More importantly, it makes us more concerned than ever about the future direction our town will be taking.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Default Town Meeting Suggestions

    It is worth reading the many comments on the Patch that make an interesting debate. Below I summarize the various ideas suggested to make Town Meeting more accessible. Maybe none of this is new to the Town Meeting Study Committee, so apologies if all us commenters think we're being useful, but are just re-hashing what's already been discussed. I think there are some ideas in here with merit.

    Make it easier to Participate:
    • electronic voting over the internet
    • reconsider Australian ballot
    • sequencing of articles to enable better participation in "sexy" articles
    • fixed schedule so people know when each set of articles will be considered
    • child care, free or discounted on site
    • Town Meeting webinar

    Reduce the length of Town Meeting:
    • automatic periodic motions to terminate debate
    • allow amendments only if lead proposer agrees
    • 2 minutes rather than 3 for each pro or con comment
    • opening remarks/opposition period shorter, unless Moderator allows more time (we do now have abbreviated rules)
    • require all "questions" to be addressed in pre-TM hearings and meetings/be vigilant on requiring that what is asked is relevant and could not have been asked in advance
    • block together boiler plate articles
    • don't have electronic vote on every article (some don't warrant it)

    Make it easier to get informed head of Town Meeting:
    • Televised debate on "sexy" articles before TM
    • YouTube pro/con videos on each article ahead of Town Meeting to enable people to get informed if they miss public meetings

    • study of other towns to gather best practices
    • Representative Town Meeting

    If you have other ideas, or if I've missed any, please participate in this thread!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Wayland MA


    Make it easier to Participate:
    • ...
    • allow tax-paying residents who are not US citizens to vote at the polls AND ATM

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Default Prior Reports

    To get up to speed on what's been studied before, the following are two reports generated that look at Town Meeting procedures and recommendations:

    Town Meeting Study Committee (2005)
    Town Meeting Procedures Committee Interim Report
    Town Meeting Procedures Committee Final Report (July 2010)

    The current Town Meeting Procedures Committee has a page on the town website with agendas posted but doesn't currently have any minutes available.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    Here is an interesting interview with an expert on Town Meeting:

    and also a discussion with him on video:

    Warning: he's not looking to give the shortest presentation possible.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 04-12-2013 at 01:25 PM.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts