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Thread: Who wants to abolish Town Hall meetings?

  1. #1
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    Question Who wants to abolish Town Hall meetings?

    Are you sick of bickering, overblown self-important discussions? Would you rather have your personal time back to yourself or spend it sitting on an uncomfortable chair listening to hours of endless drivel? Who's interested in abolishing the Town Hall in Wayland and replacing it with a modern method of governing and decision making?

    Discuss.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post
    Are you sick of bickering, overblown self-important discussions? Would you rather have your personal time back to yourself or spend it sitting on an uncomfortable chair listening to hours of endless drivel? Who's interested in abolishing the Town Hall in Wayland and replacing it with a modern method of governing and decision making?

    Discuss.
    Not me.
    The "hours of endless drivel" is the part where residents get to voice their concerns, ask their questions and discuss the pros and cons of a given article. It is interactive. It is participatory. No one is forced to go to TM, but those who choose to have to accept that listening to your neighbors express their views is all part of it. In fact it is the value of it.

    As to the question of getting more people to show up, the best idea I've heard is for them to be held on Sundays. If we started at 10am, worst case, a marathon session could go 13 hours and happen all in one day. Babysitters shouldn't be a problem. If it is scheduled far enough in advance, people could work it into their schedule. Even sports teams could make sure there's a black out date for games and practices that day.
    It's only once a year, after all. Except when it's twice. Not a huge sacrifice, if it's planned and scheduled properly.
    John Flaherty

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

  3. #3
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    Default How about this then?

    Fair point and well stated!

    How about this then... Let's have a "Town Hall" meeting prior to an actual vote. At this meeting, everyone gets to talk as much as they want, as long as they want, and motions can be made and re-made and argued and whatever. No voting would be done here, but the session would be made available for those who could not attend (choose your media - internet, WayCAM, US mail, whatever works). Some time later (choose a suitable delay - perhaps the next available Tuesday?), we could have a conventional vote (identical to how we elect our school committee, selectmen, etc.) where everyone could vote on the issues after having reviewed and discussed whatever they found of interest from the debates. This way, the people who like to argue and influence can do it to their hearts content, and the rest of us can vote without being subjected to it. I've heard the argument that "people have their minds changed by the discussions, that's why they're so important." I'd love to see the data on that. How many people, and how often? What impact, if any, did it have on the ultimate outcome? While I'm sure that there might be one or two examples of an effective discussion, the reality is that 95% of the faces in the meetings have their eyes closed, are reading, doing crossword puzzles, or are in an animated conversation with their friends about something else. The whole idea of "Mr. Moderator..." is so ridiculous, I can't even begin to understand it. I'm surprised that women are even allowed to come to town hall, and men aren't forced to wear white wigs. It's 2014, not 1814. Time to move on. There are 364 other days in the year where people can talk to each other on their own terms. Let's stop wasting our time.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post
    Fair point and well stated!

    How about this then... Let's have a "Town Hall" meeting prior to an actual vote. At this meeting, everyone gets to talk as much as they want, as long as they want, and motions can be made and re-made and argued and whatever. No voting would be done here, but the session would be made available for those who could not attend (choose your media - internet, WayCAM, US mail, whatever works). Some time later (choose a suitable delay - perhaps the next available Tuesday?), we could have a conventional vote (identical to how we elect our school committee, selectmen, etc.) where everyone could vote on the issues after having reviewed and discussed whatever they found of interest from the debates. This way, the people who like to argue and influence can do it to their hearts content, and the rest of us can vote without being subjected to it. I've heard the argument that "people have their minds changed by the discussions, that's why they're so important." I'd love to see the data on that. How many people, and how often? What impact, if any, did it have on the ultimate outcome? While I'm sure that there might be one or two examples of an effective discussion, the reality is that 95% of the faces in the meetings have their eyes closed, are reading, doing crossword puzzles, or are in an animated conversation with their friends about something else. The whole idea of "Mr. Moderator..." is so ridiculous, I can't even begin to understand it. I'm surprised that women are even allowed to come to town hall, and men aren't forced to wear white wigs. It's 2014, not 1814. Time to move on. There are 364 other days in the year where people can talk to each other on their own terms. Let's stop wasting our time.
    Among other things, that would deny an affected party the ability to address everyone who will vote. If petitioners proposed to distribute free manure to Wayland citizens from a massive pile to be maintained on an empty lot near your home, you'd have no opportunity to persuade all voters to reject petitioner's Article.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post
    Fair point and well stated!

    How about this then... Let's have a "Town Hall" meeting prior to an actual vote. At this meeting, everyone gets to talk as much as they want, as long as they want, and motions can be made and re-made and argued and whatever. No voting would be done here, but the session would be made available for those who could not attend (choose your media - internet, WayCAM, US mail, whatever works). Some time later (choose a suitable delay - perhaps the next available Tuesday?), we could have a conventional vote (identical to how we elect our school committee, selectmen, etc.) where everyone could vote on the issues after having reviewed and discussed whatever they found of interest from the debates. This way, the people who like to argue and influence can do it to their hearts content, and the rest of us can vote without being subjected to it. I've heard the argument that "people have their minds changed by the discussions, that's why they're so important." I'd love to see the data on that. How many people, and how often? What impact, if any, did it have on the ultimate outcome? While I'm sure that there might be one or two examples of an effective discussion, the reality is that 95% of the faces in the meetings have their eyes closed, are reading, doing crossword puzzles, or are in an animated conversation with their friends about something else. The whole idea of "Mr. Moderator..." is so ridiculous, I can't even begin to understand it. I'm surprised that women are even allowed to come to town hall, and men aren't forced to wear white wigs. It's 2014, not 1814. Time to move on. There are 364 other days in the year where people can talk to each other on their own terms. Let's stop wasting our time.
    Suppose I want to propose an amendment to Article 10 that would increase funding for Community Preservation by $100K -- but only if the Operating Budget (Article 4) is approved without being increased through amendments by more than $100K. How can I know whether to advance and speak to my amendment in your proposed "discussion only" Town Meeting session when resolution of the Operating Budget remains unknown?

  6. #6
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    Are you thinking of moving to an empty lot near my home?

  7. #7
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    Your question is irrelevant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post
    Your question is irrelevant.
    Translation: the question exposes a fundamental flaw in your proposal.

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    What flaw would that be swami? You don't know, do you? Just bluffing.

    That's their choice.

    Ha. Still laughing over that one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post
    What flaw would that be swami?
    As already demonstrated in a previous post, your proposed scheme doesn't permit actions that depend on voting outcomes. For example, a citizen can't choose to amend or not amend an Article based on the outcome of a previous Article.

    Your proposal shares this inflexibility with the Australian Ballot, which when proposed to Wayland citizens was defeated by a majority of 2:1.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post

    That's their choice.

    Ha. Still laughing over that one.
    Laughing and insults have been your responses to any strong position that you can't refute. I'm sure readers here understand that.

  12. #12
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    Ah yes - the readers. Both of them are holding their sides.

    Thanks for hijacking this thread by the way. As you said to me earlier, you weren't invited, so you come in, spew nonsense, and prevent the other reader from chiming in. We could have had at least two more non-ridiculous comments if you'd just stop honking.

    But I guess That's your choice! (see how I did that?)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Rosenblatt View Post
    Ah yes - the readers. Both of them are holding their sides.

    Thanks for hijacking this thread by the way. As you said to me earlier, you weren't invited, so you come in, spew nonsense, and prevent the other reader from chiming in. We could have had at least two more non-ridiculous comments if you'd just stop honking.

    But I guess That's your choice! (see how I did that?)
    I didn't hijack this thread, I provided two concrete examples illustrating why your proposal doesn't work - both of which you continue to ignore.

    Using personal insults as a smokescreen is nothing but a big red flag signaling an indefensible position.

  14. #14
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    I have to agree with John F--while it's far from perfect, there's a lot to be said for and to like about Town Meeting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Winston Churchill
    It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
    It's VERY cool being able to participate in one of the longest running forms of participatory democracy. And we have to be careful when we look at attendance numbers on the order of 5%. Sure, that sounds low relative to 100%, but a better comparison is to the 20% or so who vote at the polls. Still low, but not brutally so.

    Our goal should be to two-fold:
    1. To remove barriers for people who want to participate but can't
    2. To get more people to want to participate

    I'm not going to address (2) here.

    What can we do to improve participation for people who want to, but can't? It seems fairly clear to me that there isn't much of an opportunity to speed up the time per Article without really limiting debate. That suggests reducing the number of articles (some of the ideas that John F and Dave B posted in this thread aim at that outcome).

    Changing the meeting days is probably also worth exploring. I'd steer clear of Saturday and Sunday mornings, and instead look at a mix of Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons and an evening or two. Perhaps Sunday at 2p, then two weeknights, then Saturday at 2p. That allows most weekend activities to happen, especially those with younger kids. Having a blackout date or two for sports doesn't really work that well, since schedules affect other towns.

    Finally, I'd crack the Internet voting challenge discussed at length here. I'm not sure how to solve all of the problems, but a location-aware real time code generator seems to be a pretty good start, especially with piloting on non-binding questions to see how it works. And, anyone participating remotely would have to agree that any number of glitches could prevent them from voting, and that they'd have no recourse if they weren't able to vote. Still, a pretty good chance of having one's vote counted beats a zero percent chance. I wonder, maybe the Internet isn't even the right channel. Perhaps it's the mobile network.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    What can we do to improve participation for people who want to, but can't? It seems fairly clear to me that there isn't much of an opportunity to speed up the time per Article without really limiting debate. That suggests reducing the number of articles (some of the ideas that John F and Dave B posted in this thread aim at that outcome).

    Changing the meeting days is probably also worth exploring. I'd steer clear of Saturday and Sunday mornings, and instead look at a mix of Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons and an evening or two. Perhaps Sunday at 2p, then two weeknights, then Saturday at 2p. That allows most weekend activities to happen, especially those with younger kids. Having a blackout date or two for sports doesn't really work that well, since schedules affect other towns.
    Using explicit readiness criteria to tighten up board-sponsored articles and defer those that aren't ready, providing petitioners with a well-staffed workshop, and eliminating the need to read motions aloud before each vote by appropriately displaying them on video screens should reduce the elapsed time required by most Annual Town Meetings to 10 hours or less. For reference, our 2014 Annual Town Meeting consumed 12.5 hours of elapsed time.

    Those 10 hours could be scheduled as two 1 pm to 6 pm sessions on consecutive Sundays, scheduled a year in advance, with reliable child care provided.

    The Warrant could be organized to ensure that the Omnibus Budget is always completed during the first session.

    The cost of two "setup and tear-down" electronic voting sessions would be less than what we're now paying for four sessions separated by "dark days". The tables and chairs would have to be set up and removed twice; I haven't yet determined how much this would cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Finally, I'd crack the Internet voting challenge discussed at length here. I'm not sure how to solve all of the problems, but a location-aware real time code generator seems to be a pretty good start, especially with piloting on non-binding questions to see how it works.
    Those devices may well solve the proxy voting problem, though there's the matter of acquisition cost. However, the internet's vulnerability to attack remains problematic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    And, anyone participating remotely would have to agree that any number of glitches could prevent them from voting, and that they'd have no recourse if they weren't able to vote. Still, a pretty good chance of having one's vote counted beats a zero percent chance.
    Many Wayland citizens might accept such a tradeoff, but this approach would be less compelling to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, whose approval we'd need to count votes from home.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I wonder, maybe the Internet isn't even the right channel. Perhaps it's the mobile network.
    A mobile network would be significantly less vulnerable than the internet, but unfortunately each carrier maintains a separate network, and those networks use incompatible protocols; at minimum, we'd have to engage with Verizon, ATT, and T-Mobile. The DPW proposed establishing a town-wide radio network for remote access to water meters, so a town-wide radio network for voting could be technically feasible; affordability may be a different story. Radios can be jammed, but on the frequencies we'd likely use the jammers would have to be geographically local, and thus could be located -- making a denial-of-service attack much more risky than simply renting a botnet.

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