Vote for what you care about or someone else will

by beth on April 3, 2014

Recent conversations have made me realize that some people don’t understand the power a resident has at town meeting.

Every registered voter can vote. Each person who showed up represented 38 registered voters at last year’s Town Meeting.

Paraphrasing Donna McDaniel: Nobody in town government can spend a penny unless it’s approved by the voters who come to town meeting.

That 2.6% decide whether to approve a budget or reduce it. Can you trust that the people who show up are making choices you agree with? 

These budgets are the lifelines for schools, police, fire, recreation, road maintenance/repairs, family services, library, recreation and so much more. And the spending decisions impact our property taxes.

So, if there’s a budget you care about, be there to support it.

Or, if you thing the town spends too much money, weigh in on budget and spending decisions.

Of course, money isn’t the only thing a stake. Town meeting is a legislative body.

Other issues voters will decide on this month include:

  • Accepting Barn Hollow Open Space parcel
  • Marijuana Dispensary zoning
  • Amending a section of the zoning bylaws – Site Plan Review
  • Having the Chiefs of Police, Fire and DPW report to the Town Administrator (instead of Board of Selectman)
  • Allowing department heads to accept and use donations of under $5,000 (without currently necessary approval of BOS).
  • Declaring preference on Split Tax Rate (a non-binding measure to influence BOS’ future vote on the FY15 tax rate)
  • Creating and funding Main Street Reconstruction Review Committee
  • Seeking funding for renovation of 9/11 Field
  • Amending Zoning Map for mediated resolution of the town’s legal disputes with the Gulbankian family

This year’s Annual Town Meeting will open at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, April 16. It’s likely to continue to Thursday, but the section on budgets is normally completed in the first night. The meeting is held at Trottier Middle School auditorium.

The town has posted this year’s Annual Warrant . Click here to see it.

In addition to the items up for vote, the Warrant includes an overview of procedures and terminology. But if you want a better understanding, check out Donna McDaniel’s “tour”, now available online.

[Note: You could call me a hypocrite, as this will be my first time attending an Annual Town Meeting. I think of myself as a new convert, seeking to spread the good word. Covering these issues and attending the Special Town Meeting in fall gave me a new outlook.

If you’ve never gone, it’s worth it for the experience alone. And if you get bored, isn’t that what Angry Birds and Candy Crush were made for?]

1 Donna McDaniel April 3, 2014 at 7:42 PM

Great reminder! One IMPORTANT CORRECTION however. The article that calls for the police and fire chiefs and DPW head to REPORT to the Selectmen is mislabeled in the contents because the actual article clearly asks us to TRANSFER THE APPOINTING authority for those positions to the Town Administrator. That’s what the Selectmen are proposing I believe we want people, namely those we have elected ourselves, with whom we have a specific relationship, who need to listen to us (the electorate), and who know and live in the town to appoint these major positions (and others too).
PLEASE please note the important difference: The article would not just have those officials report to the TA–they would be APPOINTED by him.

2 Tim Martel April 4, 2014 at 8:57 AM

Police & Fire: it is important to note that while the Town Admin would be able to appoint these positions, the appointment would still be subject to the approval of the BOS. Also, only the BOS would be able to remove people in these positions – that would not change.

DPW: the wording seems to indicate that the BOS would no longer be involved to any degree. I’d like clarification on that if anyone could offer it. Also, the final sentence in the warrant article starts, “Nothing contained in this section” – does “section” refer to the warrant article itself, or to the “employment contract” in the preceding sentence?

Ultimately, this article is just another small step along the path of evolving our Town Admin into a Town Manager. It is a slow and deliberate process on purpose, and one that allows us to find the proper balance for Southborough. As we consider the change of the BOS’s responsibility (from “CEO” to “Chairman”), these types of changes make sense.

3 Desiree Aselbekian April 3, 2014 at 8:03 PM

Beth,

Thank you very much for posting this! It’s never too late to start attending Town Meeting. I have been going since I turned 18, and I actually look forward to it every year. I can tell you, it can be exciting, nerve racking, and frustrating all at the same time. On occasion, you may even get a laugh. Regardless, it is extremely important!

You are completely right to highlight budgets, zoning bylaws, and town governance as key issues this year and every year. Voters can and do impact the direction of our community through Town Meeting. It is Town Meeting voters who decide whether or not certain items make it to the ballot. The very small amount of voters who attend Town Meeting make very large and important decisions.

I stand with you in encouraging all those who truly want to engage in this town’s government, to attend Town Meeting this year. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about where you live by spending a night or two at Town Meeting.

4 Julie Connelly April 4, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Thank you, Beth for posting this! Your points are important ones. Town Meeting is democracy at its core. I attended my first Town Meeting last year and was disheartened by the low turnout, particularly of the under 50 crowd. I agree, I ‘d love to see some new faces there!

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