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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Town Meeting 2006
Last night was town meeting, "the practice of direct democracy". At town meeting we get to discuss and vote on the amount of the school budget, the amount of the town budget, approve town expenditures and vote on other articles that are brought before the town.
Most towns hold their meeting on the first Tuesday in March and then have their Australian Ballot (what the rest of the country considers democracy) the following day as we do here in Chester.
Town Meeting is a chance for the people of the town to come together and speak about the issues at hand. They can ask for clarification of issues and try to convince others to vote in a certain way.
I love town meeting. The first one I went to was three hours of fun. Really - you can not imagine the thrill of it. We are talking and voting for the way our town is run. We get to hear arguments for and against the issues. Even though most articles up for the vote have to do with finance there is something unbelievably exciting - unbelieveably American - about being able to say AYE! or NO! to an article.
I love it. Ken went with me this year and was of the opinion (obviously shared by others) that the volume that you say AYE or NO at makes a difference. We also sat in the front row so that increased our affect on the vote ;)
This year we had the argument-rousing ARTICLE 18 "To see if the Town of Chester will vote to approtiate the sum of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) to be used to properly display and preserve our Town's Historic Treasures, artifacts such as 18th Century Letters and Documents, large amounts of Clothing and 1000's of Postcards" which took us quite some discussion (including an amendment to reduce the amount to $3000) but did eventually pass after a "Division of the House". Oh by what I think about 20 votes.
Then after much talk about all the other articles asking for money - we got to ARTICLE 25: "Shall our State Legislators support legislation that will protect young girls by requiring clinics to notify at least one parent prior to providing a surgical or chemical abortion to their minor daughter, with special provisions to protect girls in abusive situations. (By Petition).
Article 25, anticipated , dreaded. And so it came up to vote. Ken said afterwards that he felt me tense up as Bill Dakin, the town moderator, read it. And then.... and then... before a motion was even made a man stood up, jumped the gun, and said he was making a motion to table the article. "Table the article"? I had never known you could do that. What a stroke of genius. His name was Steve something. I was so flabbergasted I couldn't even follow.
Bill Dakin reminded us that FIRST the article must be moved and seconded - which it was and then BOOM! Somehow because of the surprise factor the motion to table it was moved and seconded before any of the supporters could argue for it. They tried but they had to speak not to the ARTICLE itself but the motion that it should be tabled because it was not an appropriate subject for Town Meeting. And BOOM we voted and BOOM due to the "loudness factor" we had to Divide the House. And the motion to table passed something like 78 to 52. And this was at 9:45 p.m. after 2 hours and 45 minutes of other wrangling.
Truely it was a thing of beauty. We never needed to argue for or against the article itself. They were headed off at the pass. The wind was taken from their sails. Really a stroke of genius.
And we were home by 10 p.m. HA!
Oh and I forgot - all the people who stood up in favor of bringing the Article to a vote (and I think by extension all in favor of the Article itself) were old men. Does that creep you out just a little bit? That some 60 or 70 or 80 year old man is thinking a lot about under-age girls getting pregnant? It creeps me out.