Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Town Meeting Day!

** Cross-posted at Exit Voices. Worth checking out to post your own town meeting day stories.


Just finished up Northfield Town Meeting. My son’s first town meeting day (he’s just 5 months old)! Felt great giving him a front-row seat to democracy in action.

Most items passed without much debate. The exception? A proposal to establish a $500 fund for picnic tables at recreational areas in town. Small town democracy at its finest!

I was particularly pleased that the town voted in favor of establishing a conservation commission, something a small, dedicated band has worked on for about a year now. They’ve already secured some grant funding for surveys of the Dog River and trail- work on Payne Mountain. Commission status will boost their grant potential for other projects in the future.

It’ll be interesting, too, to see how the other big items fare: There’s a ballot item for a new police station, and of course the school budget. The former went down last time, but there is renewed interest b/c of the building’s dilapidated condition; the latter is almost always a close, 50-50 vote with one side or another eeking out enough to carry the day (followed by a series of re-votes, ugh!).

Rep. Anne Donahue was there… so was Sen. Bill Doyle. Didn’t see any other political glitterati, however.

I was pleased to see most members of our Democratic Town Committee were present for the meeting.

Wonder how much a meaningful, contested primary this year boosted town meeting attendance. It would be interesting to find out. Do people just turn out to vote? Or, do they stick around to discuss the details with their neighbors at the town meeting? What do you think? Anybody else observe greater numbers at the meeting? I’m sure the overall vote tallies will be substantially higher - probably record numbers.

As for a wish list item for the ballot, here’s mine: One thing I would love to see is the elimination of the recall rule. It requires a legislative fix, but currently Northfield voters can overturn a result by getting a small number of petitioners to call for a re-vote (think it’s 5 or 10%, or something). This means that even when we get a majority vote, a tiny minority can call it back and rely on a much smaller turnout the second time around (because special elections frequently have smaller turnout either because folks don’t know, or forget a special vote is happening, or because there aren’t other elections/candidates/ballot items to bring people out to the polls). This happens frequently when we do happen to pass the school budget. It’s a real thwarting of democracy, and a deceptive way to go about doing town business.

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