Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Town Meeting, Mooo....
Here in Massachusetts, our town government is very interesting. We have an elected Board of Selectmen and School Committee and an appointed Finance Committee. All these bodies hold hearings, plan budgets and accept proposed articles from citizens on town business. Once a year a Warrant of Articles get sent to every household. Then a multi-night meeting takes place where all registered voters can go and speak and debate. Then the citizens vote. They approve the budget (or not). They make amendments. They argue about technical legal and financial municipal rules. It is very wonky and quite a free for all.
Last night one of the articles proposed to lower a surcharge on our taxes that goes into a dedicated fund to support conservation, historical preservation and low-income housing in town. The fund has gotten quite large in anticipation that the 200+ acre farm that is across the road from us will at some point in the near future be available either for development or conservation restriction (or some combination). There is a contingent in town very concerned and doing good work to keep our taxes from continuing to grow. Our taxes are high for the state because we have incredibly wonderful, well-funded schools and very little business or industry. Amazingly, the town is a semi-rural enclave only 20 miles from Boston. There are conservation areas, national wildlife sites and farms everywhere.
Thankfully, people voted overwhelmingly to support continuing this fund. In fact, this vote took place around 10 pm and right after the proposal failed, about half the crowd got up to go home. (They didn't care as much about the hour-long argument that followed to create a dedicated water fund.) I was truly heartened to know how deeply people in this town want to preserve its open space and beautiful character.
Here are some of my neighbors.
Town meeting continues tonight and likely another night after that too.
Democracy at work!