Town Meetings … When the moderator changes the rules …
Last evening, I witnessed a Town Meeting that reached a NEW low … at least from my point of view.
A Town Meeting is suppose to be a legislative meeting, where the citizens of the community debate and ultimately decide on laws (called ordinance at the town level).
The Town Meeting is ‘regulated’ by local ordinance, or in the absence of a specific ordinance, Roberts Rules of Order. The idea is to keep debate organized, civil and germane to the issue on the floor of the meeting.
A ‘moderator’ is chosen to keep the meeting organized and to insure that the rules are being followed.
At the Town Meeting in Salisbury (April 3, 2009), the moderator actually chose to ignore the rules of order. The Meeting approved a motion to take a vote concerning the formation of the SSRRA by paper ballot.
After the ballots were placed in the box, he then called for a voice vote on the same issue and declared it passed. Some people in the room were not aware of what was happening at the front of the room, including myself.
After voting on the second issue of the meeting, they were preparing to close the meeting with no intention of counting the paper ballots that had been cast on the first issue.
When called upon to count and announce that vote, the looks that came from ‘the Bosses’ of our Town were … well … let’s say quite demeaning.
The votes were counted and the actual vote was announced.
For a moderator to ignore a previous vote at a meeting and call for the vote in a different fashion, at his own discretion, shows that the moderator is ignoring the proper process of the Town Meeting.
Frankly it should disqualify that individual from serving as moderator at any future Town Meetings.
This is one of multiple events that raise questions about the conduct of (what used to be) our most sacred institution, the Town Meeting, and how it is being ‘dismantled’ by our public officials …
More to come …