Letter to the editor: Town meetings are much more than ‘hogwash’
Recently a Southborough writer held forth on the subject of Westborough’s town meeting, before enjoying milk and cookies and going to bed (a high priority for him). I suggest that he inform himself better before dismissing our proceedings as “hogwash.”
First, if he were to come to one of our meetings, he could pick up our short guide to meeting procedures, and he’d learn that an extremely high standard has to be met in order to reconsider an issue, and deal with it a second time. Our reconsideration by-law was put in place in 2006, and I cannot recall a single successful reconsideration since then. And if he were to chat with some of our regular town meeting voters, he might learn that we completed two of our last three annual town meetings in a single Saturday. Had he been a voter here, he could have attended those meetings, and been well-rested, alert, and ready to drive the children of which he writes at 6:30 the following Monday morning. And he would have set them a good example in terms of civic involvement.
Second, it is far from unreasonable to expect people to attend the annual town meeting. Consider how many other pursuits there are to which you devote 6-8 hours in a year. Then consider whether they are as important as (collectively): the quality of your children’s schools; the quality of life in the town as it develops; the quality of your drinking water and the condition of your roads, summer and winter; the ability of your police, fire, and ambulance teams to respond to your calls; and your property tax rate. And town meeting is unlike other public meetings, because at town meeting, when the talk is done, every voter present has a direct role in deciding the outcome.
Third, there is the notion that people should leave the discussion to others and simply vote by ballot at the polls. The voters at the polls needn’t participate in the process of shaping the proposals to be voted upon; they are simply confronted with a list of yes-or-no questions on which they may or may not be informed. And so often I hear people say “I came to town meeting very much opposed (to some issue) but as I listened to the discussion I changed my mind.” Town meeting voters are members of a legislature; they hear the debate and participate in shaping the issues to be voted upon, and then they vote.
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