This is a post I publish every year before Town Meeting. If you’re on the fence about whether to attend Southborough’s Annual Town Meeting on Monday evening, here are seven reasons why you should.
1. You get to decide what your tax rate will be
The more stuff that gets funded at town meeting, the more you’re likely to pay in property taxes. It’s as simple and as complex as that.
2. Not that many people attend, so your vote can make a big difference
As much as I’d like to think the auditorium at Trottier will be at-capacity next Monday night, I know that’s not likely. It’s been such a challenge to meet the 150-person quorum in years past that last year (2008) Town Meeting voted to decrease the quorum to 100.
But what that means is that every vote has a big impact. Last year (2008) a motion that would have decreased the average tax bill by $340 failed by just a single vote. How’s that for impact?
3. It’s democracy at its purest
It might be easy to assume you don’t have any control over how money is spent in town, that some board in some conference room is making those decisions. But you’d be wrong.
Town officials like the selectmen and the Advisory Committee make recommendations on how to spend money, but it’s the voters who get to make the final decisions. Town Meeting may decide to follow the town’s recommendations, or it may completely ignore them and forge its own path. Either outcome is equally valid.
Says Selectman Bill Boland, “We don’t make the rules. Town Meeting makes the rules.”
4. You get to see your friends and neighbors
Say hello to friends while buying a chocolate brownie from the Girl Scouts in the lobby. Wave to your neighbors across the aisle in the auditorium. Feel part of the community.
5. You care whether schools get technology, or the police department gets a new cruiser
Or any number of things. if there are services you’re passionate about — the arts, recreation, schools, public safety — Town Meeting is the place to make sure they get the funding they need.
6. If you don’t attend, you lose the right to complain
“When someone calls me to complain about something, the first question I ask them is did you go to town meeting?” That’s Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf explaining how she has little sympathy for those who don’t participate in the process.
If you don’t like the decisions that were made — or the amount of the check you send to the town each quarter — and you didn’t go to town meeting, then you have only yourself to blame.
7. It beats TV for a night
“It’s one of the great pleasures of living in New England. It’s an ongoing theater,” thinks Advisory Committee Chairman John Butler. So bring your popcorn. (Except don’t, because food isn’t allowed in the Trottier auditorium.)
Town Meeting starts Monday, April 8, at 7:00 pm at the Trottier auditorium. See you there!