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!


Kaat at MamaStories said...

I loved following it through live blogging. At the point when the CPA came up we were also chatting with my father-in-law and I'm afraid I was very impolite not paying any attention to what he was saying! It was great to see such an overwhelming support for the CPA! Thank you for explaining this. YES, democracy at work!

Andrea said...

I hope I explained it right. This method is pretty new to me. Government was nothing like this in NJ.

Meryl said...

How cool that everyone is so involved at the local level!

Tiffany said...

Hi Andrea -- your town sounds wonderful. I have always thought it would be nice to be a part of a community like that. i have lived in the city for so long.

hope all is well!

Andrea said...

thanks, Meryl and Tiffany. Going into night 4 of town meeting now. No longer so fun... Each night it's gone from 7:30 to around 11. Democracy is hard work.

By the way, Tiffany, cities can be pretty wonderful also. I definitely miss the bustle of NYC. The museums of Boston are terrific too, but I don't get there enough.

Tiffany said...

Hi there!! Hope you are having a good weekend. its usual for me to be on the computer on a saturday but my daughter is sick so we are hanging out!

hope all is going well with the meetings.

I guess there is just so much good life everywhere! I do have a nice community here where we live so at times i dont feel like i am in a big city!