A citizen’s petition to increase transparency in town government failed at Annual Town Meeting – twice. (If you skipped night two, you missed the second attempt.)
The article would have required town boards to post all communications promptly to a public website. Emails and documents would also be “indexible” to allow residents to search them.
By the comments prior to the first vote, I believed that most most voters and officials supported the concept. I assumed the reason it failed was questions voters had about how it would work.
But after the next night’s failed attempt to readdress the issue, I was less sure.
Resident Tim Litt asked Town Meeting to reconsider the article with a motion to amend. Litt’s rationale was that a passionate argument against the article was made by Town Counsel after a call to vote. Litt pointed out that the petitioner didn’t have a chance to respond.
Petitioner John Butler told the audience he wasn’t overly concerned about that. But, in response to Litt’s suggestion to amend the proposal, he advised, “Go for it.”
Litt suggested removing the language that would compel the town to comply with the new policy. Instead, the Town would spend $2,500 for a consultant to determine what the process would entail.
A 2/3 majority was required to allow reconsideration. Instead, a clear majority ruled to move on to new business.
That vote didn’t come with a survey, so I can’t speak for voters intentions. But I’m curious.
- Was it lack of support for the concept?
- Concerns about spending money? (Or how the money would be used?)
- Or simple impatience to move on? (Judging by voters who left before the meeting was done, some clearly attended to vote on 911 field and/or demolition delay articles. Others who may have considered it their duty to attend the entire meeting, may also have been eager to avoid it dragging into late hours or a third night.)
Feel free to explain your personal reason in the comments.
The vote left me curious about what voters want from the town.
Of course, I can’t ask those voters directly. So, I’m asking my readers. (And I’m assuming some of you are voters!)
It’s clear from past blog comments, some of you want more transparency. But how many of you agree with Selectman Bill Boland that public records requests and publicly posted meetings are enough transparency?
(Keep in mind that public records requests require applicant to pay for copies and can also include charges for personnel time. See the policy here.)
Or maybe it’s not communications you’re concerned about. Is there something else that you want more access to?
If you were able to make the rules, what would change? Here’s an initial list of ideas to get you started (based on past comments):
- Easy to find explanations of what Town Boards do – their responsibilities and “job descriptions”
- Clear methods for contacting those boards (outside of attending meetings)
- Easier access to past agendas and searchable minutes
Also – What’s more openness worth to you?
Chances are these things have a cost attached. (Either in consultant fees or diverted/additional personnel hours.)
Would you support the expense at Town Meeting? (Assuming you are among the small percent of voters who attend!)