WVN Alert: Controversial proposal to change Town Meeting
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The first of three public hearings on proposed changes to Town Meeting will give voters a chance on March 11 to hear arguments for and against a plan that one selectman describes as "draconian."
The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the large hearing room at the Town Building. The topic is Article 22 on the May 13 annual Town Meeting warrant. The petitioners article would replace the centuries-old procedure used in many New England municipalities with a night of debate followed by an election at the polls the next day. Proponents call it an Australian ballot system, after the place where paper ballots were first used in the 1850s.
So unusual is Article 22 that it couldn't be adopted locally without approval from the state legislature. Some Vermont and New Hampshire towns, but none in Massachusetts, use variations of the ballot method.
Proponents argue that it would greatly increase voter participation. Fewer than half of Wayland's registered voters typically participate in local elections. Town Meeting attendance in recent years is generally in the hundreds but once rose to more than 2,000 when a rezoning article for the proposed Town Center development was at issue.
Opponents say that Article 22 would essentially kill Town Meeting as the time-honored system under which citizens act as Wayland's legislature. The article as written does not allow for amending proposed articles, which is an important part of the town's ability to legislate. Foes are skeptical that many citizens would bother to show up for an evening of debate but no voting.
For further arguments from the proponents see:
The three public meetings were arranged by a special committee formed to study Town Meeting procedures and report to voters before the spring Town Meeting.
The second meeting, on March 25, will be devoted to petitioners Article 20, which would allow instant electronic voting at Town Meeting. Last November's special Town Meeting was marked by many time-consuming and perhaps inaccurate hand counts of standing voters. For further information from proponents see:
The third meeting, on April 8, will be about petitioners Article 29, which would allow the public to post arguments and information about warrant articles on the town website.