WVN Newsletter #164: No TM surprises
- TM BEGINS: SOME NOISE BUT NO SURPRISES
The first session of annual Town Meeting Thursday attracted
1,385 voters, most of whom departed immediately after
approving a fiscal 2007 budget of $50.75 million.
Save Our Services had urged supporters of the $2.1 million
override approved two days earlier to pack the house lest
opponents try to cut the budget with amendments from the floor.
But there was no opposition. Like everything else taken up in the
three-hour session, it passed easily on a voice vote.
The large crowd spilled over into the area behind bleachers
where there was a loudspeaker (originally meant for the main
floor) but no view of the action. Conversations there were loud
enough to disturb voters and impede debate. Moderator Peter
Gossels warned the noisy crowd and squelched applause,
which he explained is partisan and therefore inappropriate at
When the exodus began after the budget article passed, chatter
added to the unavoidable noise of 1,000 or more people leaving.
The effect was disruptive.
Officials took no special measures to accommodate the crowd
aside from the seating behind the bleachers. But they say they
are prepared for well over 2,000 at the special Town Meeting on
May 3 to consider the town center project for the second time in
six months. Doors will open 90 minutes ahead of the 7:30 p.m.
start and buses will deliver voters from satellite parking.
NOTE: Watch for details and plan accordingly.
SOS and other groups have campaigned hard for special TM
Article 2 with money and manpower. Representatives handed
out leaflets Thursday night headed "If you want a Town Center
that generations will cherish you MUST attend Special Town
Meeting on May 3." A full-page Town Crier ad sent the same
Though some voters say they're impatient with the pace of Town
Meeting, if there were a highlights video of Thursday night it
could come as a pleasant surprise.
Those who paid attention to the 17 articles disposed of saw a
meeting that generally represented Wayland Town Meeting
traditions: decorum, civility, fact-finding, questioning of officials,
occasional passion. Voters asked knowledgeable questions
about such things as the Water Department's plan for better
filtration, inequitable property tax assessments and the new
less-detailed listing of town expenditures.
A telling example of how Town Meeting operates came when a
voter wanted to know why the Landfill welcomes contractors but
for several years apparently nobody has bought a permit or paid
the tonnage rate for disposal. Board of Health Chairwoman
Michelle Wolf replied that the question was out of order. Gossels
overruled her, saying that Wayland allows not just questions
about articles but about town operations. This is the time to ask
how people run their departments, he said. Officials aren't
required to answer. Wolf responded that the rates were
apparently so high that there were no customers.
Article 17, transferring town retirees to Medicare from other
health plans, brought several retirees to the microphone to
argue emotionally that they and others would have to pay more
and change doctors and hospitals. The Finance Committee
estimates that the measure will save the town $90,000-167,000
in the coming year and hundreds of thousands annually in
time. Proponents tried to reassure retirees that most won't have
to change plans or pay notably higher rates.
Annual Town Meeting resumes with Article 18 on Monday at 7:30
p.m. at the High School to consider 10 remaining articles. Voters
needn't worry about an overflow crowd.
-- Michael Short
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor