[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to email@example.com.]
To the Editor:
While I chair the Public Safety Building Study Committee, the following opinion is mine and mine alone.
I love Town Meeting with all its quirks. In the last 2 nights we have seen Town Meeting at its best and worst.
At its best, we saw concerned citizens band together, working with the Town Leadership to preserve a historic building. We saw citizen initiatives receive careful discussion and both pass and fail. And we saw truth spoken to power in the rejection of the Rt 30 plan.
At its worst we have seen the power of a very small minority of people to defeat needed progress in the disposition of surplus buildings and the same Rt. 30 plan.
For major decisions, I regret that Town Meeting has become the place where change goes to die. I have regularly called out our elected leaders when they have acted in error but I do feel sorry for them. It is worth noting that each of our Selectmen was elected by roughly 3-10 times the number of who attend Town Meeting. More than 10 times the number of people in Southborough voted for Medical Marijuana than attended last night’s meeting. Last night years of hard work were disposed of in summary fashion and legitimate attempts supported by a wide majority of attendees to finally begin dealing with our rotting infrastructure were thwarted by the few. I for one am glad I lost my bid for Selectmen.
As I reflect, in light of the expected veto, I question whether the town should invest any further effort in building a Public Safety Complex. That complex will require several 2/3 votes (66.67% by the way) and will require making decisions about the disposition of another rotting building, a potentially controversial acquisition of land and a very large borrowing. The effort and cost required to bring this project to the floor is substantial and the prospects for success appear dim at best. It is hard to ask citizen volunteers or town employees to tilt at this windmill.
I think there is a possible answer but I doubt it will pass muster. We could change to a representative town meeting. In a representative town meeting members from each precinct are elected. In general, these are not contested elections but it would provide the town with a defined legislature and would prevent ad hoc coalitions from showing up for a single vote either yea nor nay. It would encourage a legislature that was interested in governing the whole town at the expense of the casual participant. As I say, I have been a huge fan of Open Town Meeting but I fear that as practiced in Southborough, its effectiveness may be coming to an end. I believe this should change should be given careful consideration. Of course we all know what happens to change in Southborough….