TOWN MEETING

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TOWN MEETING

Postby Little Willie on Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:57 am

Looking for ideas and ways to get more registered voters to town meetings. Please weigh in with your ideas I'll start:
To entice voters who have younger children at home -Form a commitee of sophmores,juniors and seniors looking to do community service who would "babysit" free of charge. Of course there would need to be age limits and with our new High school facility coming up, there should be ample space to do something like this
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby Han_Bernier on Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:43 am

I think to find solutions, we must first understand the underlying problems. I found this on an unrelated website but I think it is appropriate here.
To paraphrase...The first step is to understand why people do not participate:
1) They are not aware a meeting is taking place;
2) They receive inadequate notice;
3) They have other commitments;
4) They have a negative perception of Town government;
5) Public comments are not taken seriously;
6) Decisions have already been made behind closed doors;
7) Meetings are too time-consuming or boring; and
8 ) Meeting sites are too far away, inconvenient, or inaccessible.
Underneath these very real and very valid reasons lies a deep-seated cynicism: generally, people today do not believe their input makes a difference.

Source: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/pittd/impromtg.htm
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby Little Willie on Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:24 am

Han please list ways you think the town could remedy these situations. I also want to add that at the last town meeting, the green initiative was defeated by a narrow margin. My wife and I voted against it. I think the margin was a couple of votes. Someone correct me if I am wrong. The other major reason I get out to vote is that I and others have given their time, their blood and their lives so that we could keep this right. To not vote is to dishonor their sacrifice. I understand every election or town meeting cannot be made but to not do so for no good reason is something I couldn't do. I am patriotic to the core and every vote or town meeting I attend is in honor of these servicemembers sacrifices. ALL GAVE SOME , SOME GAVE ALL
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby sean_czarniecki on Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:34 am

Too bad - I actually wrote a pretty good post (or so *I* think) and then clicked too fast and lost it... :(

My basic thought is that the main reason that people don't go is because they would rather do something else. Period. Even most of the people that attend would rather do something else, but feel that it is their duty/obligation or have an interest in one of the articles. You could eliminate some of the issues that Han listed, but the others are always available as excuses. If someone just doesn't want to go, they aren't going unless there is a significant issue that they feel strongly about. However, that doesn't mean that the form of government should be changed. There *are* times when important votes come along that everyone's voice should be allowed to be heard.
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby bferrari on Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:31 pm

Looking for ideas and ways to get more registered voters to town meetings. Please weigh in with your ideas.


Town Moderator uniform ==> speedo
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby sean_czarniecki on Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:42 pm

Good one, Bob! We would have to say that it won't be televised though, so that it would make people go down to see the show....
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby swamper on Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:51 pm

As I've said before on TI, I think making Town Mtg. more "user friendly" *could* make a difference. Since many residents don't attend Town Mtg. unless/until a particular issue hits home....when you DO get a large crowd, there's absolute chaos with people totally clueless re. the procedures and protocol of the TM process. (the condo trash debacle comes to mind) For starters you need a STRONG moderator in charge who is knowledgeable and well-researched in the process.... of which I have high hopes for Keith filling that void. Some educational "outreach" along this vein might help...perhaps Keith's expertise for explaining things in layman's terms coupled with his enthusiasm could get the ball rolling on something like this. Heck, it's (education) even part of the moderator job description! Read the article in this week's Town Crier on Keith whom *I believe* is a staunch supporter of Open Town Mtg. and you'll see I'm not far off the mark. Perhaps if more residents felt included and confident in that they COULD make a difference via attending Town Mtgs. outcomes would be more favorable....I think it is at least worth the effort. That being said, I really like LW's idea of the community service babysitting initiative....not only would it provide a viable option for parents who would like to attend and be focused on (Town mtg. can be tedious enough for adults never mind antsy children :wink: not to mention with the acoustics the noise can be a disruption to others) plus it would also serve those teens looking to fulfill their requirements....a win-win situation. Keep the ideas coming....they can only help make our community a better place! :)
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby bobr on Sat Mar 05, 2011 2:56 pm

Hello:

I like the suggestions so far. Here are a few more.

1. Large crowds turn out at Town Meeting when important votes are scheduled:
- new schools
- the proposed mall
- the sewer project.
So, the best way to attract a crowd is to schedule important votes.

2. Currently it is difficult if not impossible to amend a budget article from the floor.
My suggestion is to make the Finance Committee an elected board rather than an appointed board.
The finance committee would be responsible directly to the voters.
The finace committee could then propose amendments and alternative figures to the town meeting in a way that would be proceduraly appropriate and easily understood. This would provide real "checks and balances."

Bob Rauseo
ps. If Keith becomes moderator, he hasn't looked good in a speedo since he was about two years old. Trust me.
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby grandmasboys on Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:04 pm

I believe Wilmington has their Town Meetings on Saturday. If we tried this, with baby-sitting and possible and hour for lunch. it might work. Anything is worth trying, even a door prize. We have got to get more voters interested, in even the simplest of things.
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby swamper on Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:52 pm

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that option was tried several years back and the outcome was even worse. "Personally" I would rather "give up" a couple of weeknights rather than a Saturday, plus I would think there would be conflicts with sports re. parents/kids.
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby Han_Bernier on Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:45 pm

Great ideas so far. Since we are throwing ideas out…here are a few more (again, just thinking out loud)....
- We have 3 cable channels. Only 2 are utilized. Put more notices on these cable channels. If we are understaffed, then maybe someone with knowledge can create a volunteer group to help man the station while also teaching them a new skill…open this up to all residents (even those in high school).
- We have a marquee downtown that I drive by almost every day. There must be other public land around town that we can put a marquee on to help publicize meetings.
- Voice messaging broadcasting (similar to Reverse 911) – calls to townspeople. I believe this was used by someone for the “new” high school agenda.
- Newspaper ads (Town Crier, the Patch et al). Make sure we utilize any “community Calendar” that they may have.
- Create a “Welcome to Tewksbury” committee to welcome new residence and teach them about town meetings. Maybe create a pamphlet or even a video on one of the cable channels?
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby PaperBoy on Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:08 pm

grandmasboys wrote:I believe Wilmington has their Town Meetings on Saturday. If we tried this, with baby-sitting and possible and hour for lunch. it might work. Anything is worth trying, even a door prize. We have got to get more voters interested, in even the simplest of things.


I live in Wilmington. We have our Town Meeting on a Saturday -- it's the Saturday after the Town Election. The Town Election is always the fourth Saturday in April. The Town Meeting is usually the first Saturday in May -- this year it happens to be in April because the month has 5 Saturdays. While Wilmington, too, struggles with low attendance, I think an all-day Saturday meeting is preferable to (at least) 2 weeknight meetings.

One measure that would help attendance is contacting in-town sports leagues, schools, churches, etc. and asking them to not schedule anything during Town Meeting. (I realize you probably can't do anything about traveling sports leagues.)
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby grandmasboys on Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:25 pm

Good ideas, Han!
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby melli_fera on Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:57 pm

A strong town moderator who can keep control of the meeting is a MUST. I've been to a few town meetings, and I've seen voters go on and on for longer than they should, and I've also seen them treated with utter disrespect. And yes, sometimes there is utter chaos.

During the vote for the new High School, many seats were taken up by children. This concerns me because there were so many people in the stands who needed to be HAND COUNTED who were NOT eligible to vote. Granted, I'm sure that the counters didn't count children, but, I'm sure that it was an unnecessary distraction. Perhaps there could have been a "family room" with the meeting on close circut broadcast (maybe in the Auditorium?). I know they TRIED to keep the families with children contained in one section, but it was not successful.

To hold a meeting on a Monday or Tuesday evening that can easily go on for 2+ hours isn't conducive to bringing people out to vote. I would much rather see Town Meeting happen on a saturday afternoon. Some may argue that people won't sacrifice their saturday for Town Meeting, however, I don't think that attendance can get much more pitiful.

For me, I have a standing committment on town meeting days. It's unfortunate that there isn't an absentee ballot alternative for those of us who would vote but can't be there in person.
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Re: TOWN MEETING

Postby grandmasboys on Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:36 pm

An absentee ballot for Town Meeting, not a bad idea. I still like the idea of a Saturday meeting.
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