Town Meeting Matters

In America today one often hears complaints (or perhaps even complains oneself) about what ‘they’ are doing. Here ‘they’ refers to politicians and government at various levels. It is as if ‘we’ as in “we the people” no longer have any say in things; as if we are entirely at the mercy of whatever ‘they’ want. It is as if the government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” that Abraham Lincoln spoke of in his Gettysburg Address has been replaced by government “of the politicians, by the politicians, and for the special interests.”

It need not be so. For it not to be so, however, “we the people” must step up to our responsibilities as citizens and take an active interest in our government. If we do not, we ensure that not we but ‘they’ will decide how we are to live, what we may or may not do, how much our lives will be constrained, and how many of our liberties lost.

If local, state, and national government in the United States of America is permanently hi-jacked by politicians and special interests it will only be because we, you and I, as ordinary citizens, let it happen. We need to step up to our duties as citizens. We need to take an active interest and play an active part in the process. For citizens of Duxbury, Massachusetts, USA, Duxbury’s Annual Town Meeting at 9:00 AM on Saturday, March 8, 2014 in the auditorium of the Performing Arts Center is our best opportunity to turn that around.

This year’s Annual Town Meeting (and the Special Town Meeting within it on the same day) is especially crucial. Decisions by citizens on matters before it will have profound impact on the future of Duxbury, the conduct of its government, and the ability of its citizens to keep it a government of “we the people” rather than one that a ‘they’ comprised of a small circle of insiders uses as an instrument of its own interests.

Substantive matters include yet another attempt to eliminate the elected independent office of Town Clerk, a developer-friendly ‘affordable’ housing plan fraught with serious negative implications for Duxbury’s school population and tax rate, and a number of Town Meeting ‘innovations’ including electronic balloting (which will be put before the voters to decide) and various changes to the conduct of town meeting (such as requiring that amendments from the floor be submitted in writing – in quadruplicate) which will not.

We will discuss these matters in detail in further columns prior to Town Meeting. For the present, the aim is simply to note that matters before Town Meeting 2014 matter more even than they usually do. They will have profound implications for the future of Duxbury and Duxbury’s Town Government.

So even if you have never attended Town Meeting, if you care at all about what ‘they’ are doing and have even the slightest interest in keeping Duxbury’s government in the hands of “we the people”, you need to clear your schedule for Saturday, March 8, 2014 and be sure you are at the Duxbury Performing Arts Center by 9:00 AM, ready to debate the issues and make your votes on the floor count in favor of the Duxbury that you want to live in in the future.

Getting there by 9:00 AM is crucial this year because, contrary to precedent and for no obvious reason other than to get them through with minimal discussion or dissent, some of the most critical matters have been slipped into the Special Town Meeting warrant, rather than placed on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant where they belong. More on that shortly!