[Fwd: PorcFest 2005 Spam #4: Mock Town Meeting!]
The Free State Project's*
* Second Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival*
* will be held on*
* Saturday, July 23, 2005, thru Sunday, July 31, 2005 *
* Rogers Campground & Motel, Lancaster, New Hampshire
**4/10/05: PORCFEST SPAM #4*
The "Mock Town Meeting"
"How New England direct democracy really works in NH"
We all know about New England town-meeting democracy, right? No
problem. Everyone in the towns gets together each year to vote on stuff,
Not quite: What we don't know about town-meeting direct democracy in
New Hampshire will fill a granite mountain. I just got through talking
for hours with NH Unity town selectman Mary Gere, who tried to explain
it all to me.
There's a lot to understand.
Did you know, for instance, that there are three types of local
governance in New Hampshire? "Cities" have either a city council or
board of aldermen; a town must request to become a "city," and can't be
considered one unless it has at least a minimum population. "Towns" can
use either the "traditional town meeting" format, or can be "SB2" towns
(for "Senate Bill 2, a reform that was instituted in the New Hampshire
legislature less than 10 years ago). And you need to understand the
difference between the traditional and SB2 formats if you want to serve
and be effective in NH local politics. It all has to do with when
articles to the town Warrant are considered, when decisions are made,
when the actual debate takes place, and most of all, when and how the
actual town vote takes place.
Mary Gere and her husband Paul, parents of two children (including a
daughter in college and a well-spoken teenager named Bobby) bought their
land in Unity in 1978, and then moved there in 1983 from Long Island,
NY. She's been on the Unity board of selectmen since March 1994. Asked
if she calls herself a libertarian, she says, "Yes. I'm mostly a
Constitutionalist, but the libertarians are the closest thing to that
that I've found." On the Unity board of selectmen, however, her agenda
is "good government." "My job is to watch government to keep taxes low
and keep government small. You watch out for corruption, and make sure
that people know what's happening. That's not necessarily libertarian,
that's just good government."
At all town meetings, Mary observed, "the bulk of people who attend
are attending with an agenda; that agenda is their article on the town
Warrant. "Each year will bring groups together to try to push something
or stop something," she explained. For instance, in the immediate past
election, a zoning law was passed in Unity for the first time after a
developer bought land (to build housing for the elderly) and was made
into a bogeyman by local zoning boosters (as a result of the zoning
vote, the developer may now be building Section 8 welfare housing
instead). Either way, says Mary Gere, "It's abhorrent for me to have to
go ask permission to use my land that I'm paying taxes on. To me it's
unfathomable. It's not what America is supposed to be about, and it's
certainly not what New Hampshire is supposed to be about."
Even so, the zoning measure passed by only 21 votes out of 750
registered voters in Unity, and about 420 who actually voted. "That
gives you an idea of the power of one vote," said Mary. But if one vote
can be so important, I asked her, why don't more people participate?
"They don't think they can be effective," she answered. "It takes time
out of their lives, they're too busy doing other things they need to do.
Politics is not the sport of the general public. But it is mine"
What's going to be taught at the Mock Town meeting? There's a lot to
learn, Mary explained. "It amazes me how few people really understand
the power of the town meeting, even among longtime residents," she said.
"Most people don't realize that your town government only spends what
the people VOTE to spend. I would like everyone to understand just how
much power they have coming into a new community, and I want to prevent
missteps. I want to give them an edge that I didn't have when I started
That's why Ms. Gere--a member of the Unity board of selectmen for
more than a decade now--has set up a "traditional deliberative session"
at the Mock Town Meeting in Unity's Town Hall. The purpose is to teach
everyone "how New England town meetings work." The Mock Town Meeting
will be run just like a regular meeting, traditionally under a modified
form of Robert's Rules of Order, and will feature all the regular
players at a traditional town meeting, including a board of selectmen, a
moderator, a town clerk, ballot clerks, and others (including at least
one heckler...a selectman who wanted, for once, to "be on the other
side"). Also present will be the local 8th grade class who will be
selling food and drink to raise funds for their annual class trip--just
as they do at every regular town meeting in Unity.
The Mock Town Meeting will be held during the PorcFest week in the
town of Unity on Thursday afternoon, July 28, 2005. So if you're not
planning on coming to the Free State until Friday, change your plans (if
you come in on Thursday, you can do the Mock Town Meeting on your way up
to Lancaster, which is farther north). The Town Meeting will be great
fun, and an extremely important learning experience. Handouts will be
given to every Porcupine "voter" who attends (and all are invited),
including "13 things every town voter should know," a Town Report, and a
Warrant (which is a "warning" to the townspeople to come to the town
meeting and vote) with multiple articles to be considered and voted
upon. "This should give people so much of an edge coming in," said Mary
Gere, "an edge of knowledge that I didn't have when I started out."
People will be taught "what you have the power to change and what you do
not," she said.
One last thing: Many Free State Project Porcupines and Friends
already live in New Hampshire, and some already know how town meetings
work. Those people are needed at the Mock Town Meeting too, said Mary;
she still needs people to "play various parts." So if you've been to
town meetings before and know how they work, get in touch with Mary Gere
at 603-863-9581 or email her at gere1356@.... You're all important!
*(See You At The Mock Town Meeting!)
1. You need to be a part of it! For all information about the
PorcFest 2005, plus to find out how you and your family can take part,
go online to www.freestateproject.org/festival. Join with in both
attending and helping to publicize the 2nd Annual Free State Project
Porcupine Freedom Festival...aka the "PorcFest 2005."
2. Forward this email to your own email lists. We all have lists of
friends, family, and freedom-lovers we know, and they should all have
the opportunity to plan on attending PorcFest 2005. So when you receive
this "PorcFest spam," pass it on!
3. In 2004 the We'll Be There List topped out at about 177, and over
300 people attended over the course of the 2004 PorcFest. Today there
are already 190 on the 2005 List, and we're still months away! To check
out who's already officially and publicly signed up, go online to
http://freestateproject.org/news/festival/bethere2005.php...and then add
yourself to the list.
4. Lodging and accommodations at the Porc Fest: Here's everything
you need to know about the Lancaster, NH campground and motel where the
PorcFest will be held, as well as other local lodging; go online to
5. PorcFest 2005 is going to be extraordinary. How do we know?
Because PorcFest 2004 was a stupendous success. Don't believe me? Check
out the reports and pictures we have online at
6. If you have any questions, email Varrin Swearingen, our "PFC"
(Porc Fest Czar) this year, at varrin@..., or me, Tim
Condon, at tim@... (813-251-2626). Many people are helping put
this gathering together, but we need you too. Help us by joining our
PorcFest planning email list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/porcfest2005.
(See You At The Porc Fest!)
*/SUPERCHARGED SOLITONS, Chapter 4, By Tim Condon/*
*/(Note: Wondering what's going on? Wondering what happened in Chapters
1 through 3? You can read them all at the end of each PorcFest Spam,
found online at http://www.freestateproject.org/news/festival/publicity/.)/*
"What?" responded Bill Tidwell to Frank Bennett's query.
Bennett's face twisted. "Sometimes I wish one would try it. They
make this city unlivable."
The older man snorted at the youthful scientist; he and Bennett
had shared war stories and an occasional beer. Tidwell had been a Marine
in his younger years, and he knew that Bennett had been an Army Ranger
(a fact that marked the two of them as "cat and dog"). But like all
veterans, they also shared the knowledge of their military experiences
in their respective youths.
Tidwell shook his head at Bennett. "Better think twice about
that, Jarhead. They don't come at you one at a time. You get jumped by a
half dozen Camachos and you're dead meat." The Camachos were the most
feared and violent gang in greater Miami, known for their cruelty and
Frank Bennett snorted back in turn. "Give me one platoon of Army
Rangers or Recon Marines for one month, and there wouldn't be any
Camachos at all."
"Fully-armed, you might be right," said Tidwell. "But you may
have noticed that guns are outlawed, so only the bad guys get to run the
"Yeah, well, I'll take the Metro home tonight. Shouldn't be any
problem there. Besides, the bad guys are mostly north of here."
"You know the scumbags are all over the damned place these days,
'specially on the trains," said Tidwell. "You're not safe just cause
you're south of their territory."
"Relax, Bill," the younger man joshed. "If somebody wants to
jump me, I'll hit'em with my purse."
"Purse? I don't see no purse you're carrying."
Instantly, with a blurred flick of a wrist, Bennett whipped a
lock-blade knife into view with a snick as the blade locked home.
"Here's my purse," grinned Bennett.
"Well, it's better than a purse, I reckon," said the old Marine.
"Even if it could get you five years in prison for defending yourself.
Better to at least give yourself a chance, but don't get caught with
that by one of those block committee creeps."
"You're right," Bennett said resignedly. "They'd rather do a
bust on a citizen than mess with the muggers."
"You bet," replied the older man. "They're no fools. They don't
wanna mess with anyone might hurt'em. That's why they always bust the
guy smoking a cigarette or eating a banana, but they're never around
when somebody's gettin' beat up."
Bennett sighed. Five years previously, personal defense weapons
of any kind, particularly handguns and knives of any size, had been
totally outlawed. First the politicians, lawyers, and courts did their
part. The Supreme Court had decreed that the Second Amendment to the
Constitution didn't mean citizens had any right to own weapons to
protect themselves. Then the usual combination of political interest
groups, formed and driven by incessant media pressure, had ponderously
shifted into gear.
That in itself wouldn't have been enough to screw things up so
badly, Bennett reflected. But the will of the American people was
further weakened by years of increasingly violent street crime; the
lawyers and courts played a large part there also, ensuring that
defending yourself against a criminal would get you sued for millions of
dollars, if not a jail term thrown in for good measure. Thus, the
general feeling was encouraged that there was no solution to the crime
that incessantly ripped at the social fabric. Nor did it help that
bloody revolutionary warfare in Central America had spread into Mexico,
and then inevitably spilled into America as American troops were drawn
into border incursion clashes.
Finally, a host of special interest groups---especially the new
anti-gun clubs and various "rights" associations---added their own din
to the tumult. The result was that the American people had had their
historic right to self-defense legislated away. Normal citizens were
completely disarmed in the face of increasing lawlessness. Of course in
the process they had been loudly and repeatedly assured by the
politicians, police chiefs, TV commentators, lawyers, newspaper
columnists, social scientists, and educators that this would "solve the
problem, for once and for ever."
"We can all breath safer now," the editorials had read. "The
solution to crime on the streets is at hand." In addition to disarming
normal citizens, the media and political elites had decided to take a
page out of the communist book of long-dead Fidel Castro. They would
establish "block committees" throughout the country, particularly in the
crime-ridden cities. BC's, as they quickly came to be called, were
modeled on the block committees traditionally formed in communist
countries of the late 20th century.
Social scientists lauded the step, and reassured the public
against "mindless fear." After all, they said, "We shouldn't be afraid
of something that works, just because communists thought of it first.
Those who resist are reflective of the fear and hatred of those who are
In other words, the new American block committees would sweep
crime before them, involve all law abiding citizenry, and result once
again in safe streets, parks, schools, and homes.
But the nightmarish reality was just as the media-marginalized,
pro-self defense curmudgeons had predicted. When all weapons of personal
self-defense were outlawed, only the outlaws---and the increasingly
corrupt police and military---had guns. Gangs proliferated, and only
those rich enough to afford private security had any chance of escaping
the constantly increasing wave of street crime.
As usual, only in the "insanely individualist" (as the
newspapers called them) state of New Hampshire were things different.
The state declared that their constitution decreed that, "All persons
have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their
families, their property and the state." And that was that. There had
been some discussion in Washington, DC of sending FBI and BATF forces
into the state to make some arrests, kick some ass, maybe shoot some
troublemakers, but they had been made to understand that virtually the
entire population of the state was "armed and dangerous" by Governor
Nappen, and that violations of any New Hampshire citizen's rights by
federal forces--including military forces--would not be tolerated. It
was decided to let them stew in their strange laws, which--it was widely
agreed--would eventually result in chaos.
The result in New Hampshire, alone in the United States, was
that they enjoyed ongoing economic prosperity, safe streets, no gangs or
gang warfare, and a conspicuous lack of crime anywhere. Fortunately for
the federal government, such news was able to be suppressed with the new
journalistic licensing laws ("The First Amendment is too important to be
left to amateurs," had gone the argument), as well as increased federal
government filtering of Internet content ("We can't let the terrorists
use the Internet to perform their killings," went the argument).
As for the rest of the country, at some point the decision had
been made that those who protested publicly the loudest would
unfortunately need to be silenced, for the good of society. As all
progressive-thinking people concerned with social justice had agreed,
the outlawing of all guns was too important to allow continued "sniping"
(as the exercise of First Amendment rights had come to be called) by
those asserting an individual 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
Many had been arrested, quickly tried, and sent to prison for publicly
protesting. "Gun hoarders" were accused of keeping "arsenals" in their
suburban homes that the media called dangerous bunker compounds." Not
surprisingly, police raids never failed to find proscribed weapons, and
one notable prosecution had sent a suburban husband and wife to separate
prisons because police had found an illegal oversized knife in their
kitchen (their children were taken by the No Child Left Behind Division
for Mental Healt, Families, and Children, and were adopted out and
records sealed while the parents were still in prison).
Others who would have protested quickly lapsed into silence,
afraid to draw attention to themselves. It was unfortunate but
necessary, the politicians and their media echo-chambers agreed; the
process of "public disarmament" had proceeded quickly after that.
Crime of course soared everywhere except in New Hampshire with
its "dangerous wackos," as criminals enjoyed open season on the public.
The police, as always, could never be everywhere at all times, and the
citizenry therefore suffered. But no right-thinking public leader or
politician ever suggested that the "anti-personal violence" laws (as the
statutes prohibiting self-defense were collectively called) should be
repealed. The notion of the right to self-defense by the general public
continued to be looked upon with horror. "You can't turn the clock
back!" exhorted the editorials and TV commentators. "Give the block
committees a chance to work!" cried the columnists.
And the situation deteriorated steadily. The block committees,
it turned out, were better equipped to spy and report petty breaches of
law and regulations than to either accost or prevent real crime. In part
this resulted from the types of people who volunteered to join the BC's.
Block committees quickly came to be roundly hated by anyone who valued
their privacy, and were gradually recognized as instruments of political
and social control rather than as any type of anti-crime units.
As for the original claims about the block committee system, the
criminal underworld had little to fear after a single BC leader was
killed by armed criminals. A tacit agreement had quickly been reached:
There would be little action taken by BC's against real criminality, and
the block committee patrols would be left alone by the criminals.
Young, tough, fast, vicious, fearless street gangs multiplied.
What did they have to fear, after all? Only the new, and private,
"security stronghold developments" were safe from crime. And only the
politicians, media stars, and other rich people had the money to live in
The block committee system quickly took on a life of its own.
The more outrage the citizenry expressed at the petty and intrusive
busybodies who made up the committees, the more the politicians, police,
and media commentators defended the new instruments of social control.
Many people sensed uneasily that something horrible had been put in
motion, but most could not articulate it. The few politicians and other
onlookers who had objected were quickly branded as "backward looking
right-wingers" and dismissed. Some were voted out of office, others
branded "wackos." Still others were sued by batteries of lawyers working
for various interest groups. Nothing seemed to slow the widening system
of neighborhood spying, even while it was so roundly hated by so many.
Frank Bennett sighed and folded his illegal knife and slipped
it back into a pocket. "Guess I'll have to take my chances with both
sets of assholes, the gangs and the block committees," he said.
"Not to mention the politicians," responded Bill Tidwell.
"They're all scumbags, you ask me. But listen, you go out there, you
better keep your eyes peeled. You know what it's like out there."
"You take it easy Bill," said Bennett, gesturing for the door to
"Try to," said the guard as he hit the buzzer to unlock the
massive glass door at the front of the building. He watched Frank
Bennett let himself out, then made sure the door clicked shut again on
its heavy magneto-locks.
Bennett moved quickly off into the darkness.
*/ (to be continued)/*
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