Monday, April 29, 2013

Town Meeting’s great, as history

Special interest at its finest! Time to bury this antiquated joke and pronto. Ms. Braceras did manage to leave out Middleboro.
It’s April. Around here that means rain, daffodils, and that inefficient relic of our Puritan past: Town Meeting.
Ah, yes, Town Meeting. That uniquely New England institution where any registered voter can gather a few signatures (some towns require as few as 10) for any half-baked idea and — presto! — it’s on the town warrant.
Want to ban the use of leaf blowers (Arlington and Marblehead)? Put it on the warrant!
Think your town should require leashes for cats (Concord)? Put it on the warrant!
Want your town to go on record as pro-Second Amendment? Draft a law requiring a gun in every home (Byron, Maine). And put it on the warrant!
Yes, across New England this spring, minute fractions of the electorate — unelected and often uninformed — will congregate to approve budgets, pass bylaws, and debate issues of importance (and many of no importance).
Mostly, they will gather to hear themselves talk — to pontificate, bloviate, and hold court before captive audiences of voters desperate to cast their ballots on that one significant agenda item and go home.
In Concord, for the third consecutive year, residents spent an evening of their lives debating the sale of single-serving water bottles. Just over a thousand Concordians (of the town’s approximately 11,000 registered voters) attended Wednesday’s Town Meeting. The rest had lives to lead that prevented them from sitting in a crowded auditorium for hours on end listening to environmentalists and consumer advocates go at it.
And so by only 66 votes, with only 12 percent of the town’s electorate present, Town Meeting defeated an effort to lift the controversial water ban (approved by an equally narrow margin last year). Not exactly democracy in action.
In small 17th- and 18th-century agrarian communities, where only men voted and women-folk were home to mind the children, this form of participatory governance may have made sense.
After all, what else was there for Colonial farmers to do in the evenings? They weren’t rushing out after a long day in the fields to drive their kids to hockey practice, pick up the dry-cleaning, or play a round of golf. Back then, town meeting was not just a form of government, it was the social event of the season.
But in 2013, when many people commute to work, travel on business, or work the night shift, the idea of hiring a sitter in order to spend hours debating politics deters many citizens from taking part in local decision-making at all.
Put simply, Town Meeting has a discriminatory impact on working voters and voters with young children. It leaves governance to an unrepresentative minority of voters — usually single, childless, or elderly, who have time to spend long hours debating items that could be easily resolved in moments. For instance — call me crazy — at the ballot box.
The Minutemen who sacrificed their lives at the North Bridge would no doubt be appalled to see how Town Meeting has become a tyranny of the minority.
In an era of early voting, electronic voting, and other innovations intended to expand access to the ballot, it is ironic that many New England towns cling to this arcane and anti-democratic form of government. Try to move the location of a polling place or check a voter’s identification, and the ACLU screams voter suppression and disfranchisement. But allow a tiny, unelected minority of voters to make decisions for an entire town, and it is hailed it as civic engagement. Puh-leez.
Can’t we just admit that it’s time to abolish Town Meeting?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More Snippets Of Brilliance

My truck is quite capable of traversing three feet of water and doing it easily. Unfortunately if there is two feet of mud under the water the end result is a muddy escape and a tow. Thankfully, Bumpkin was not in the truck otherwise we would have sunk through the earth’s crust.
What will come first? Resolution of Edgeway or the local Big Dog at the rotary? Maybe my great-great- grandchildren will see the final result.
Shooters no longer accepts credit cards. In the restaurant business that is the fiscal death knell and closure is near. IMO the place had or it this case has a significant image problem when it appears to be a biker bar. I went in once to meet some family members and saw a sign saying “no gang colors.” Real homey atmosphere.
Joe Fitzgerald in The Boston Herald touched on a topic that occasionally surfaces regarding office holders running for another office. If you do so resign from your current position. I also find it strange that some run a two fer - such as Paul Ryan. On the ballot for Congress and for VP.
The morning after pill has been approved for girls under 17. I’ve always felt they should have a morning after pill to make you forget who you were with last night.
Was some talk about Scott Brown running for the Senate in New Hampshire. Dems went into the expected “Carpetbagger” frenzy. What a hoot! That is the domain of the Kennedy’s. Want to run for office? Move into the district and pull papers a week later.
1.9B or 500M? That is the new taxes to feed the machine. Of course exactly what stringent budgetary measures have taken place within our governmental structure to cut waste?
Per diem is another gift that the legislature bequeaths upon itself. Most take full advantage since it is done on the honor system. At last count sixty-two members passed on taking the perk and all Republicans were in that category.
The EBT Card battle continues with just some minor tweaking being done to the system rather than a massive overhaul. Still no photo ID’s. Anyways - according to our illustrious state auditor the fraud is “about 1%.” That is administrative speak for “anecdotal.”
Patrick Jenevein is the CEO of a wind energy company and he ripped into government subsidies for the industry in a WSJ article. Claims the handouts have stifled inventiveness in the industry and have actually driven up costs.
And on the Global Warming front The Economist had a substantial article that the figures regarding temperature increases are not accurate and need to be adjusted downward.
The Cape Flyer is going to make runs from Boston to Hyannis this summer. At a recent kick off celebration the usually suspects in our political arena were touting this new - really old - service. A spokesman said they “hope to break even.” Wonderful.
Looks like Adam Bond is more “open” for business than before.
The tribulations of the Tribal casino still manages to grab some headlines. Yawn.
The epic history channel presentation of “The Bible” was outdrawn on Easter night by “The Walking Dead” a series about Zombie’s. I always thought those Zombie’s were the ardent supporters of Obama. Wrong again.
Since there was a Resurrection maybe Jesus was a Zombie? I imagine a creative movie producer could make a movie like that since one was made on Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Slayer.
Jordan’s Furniture has a baseball promotion each year and in 2013 you get free furniture if a Red Sox pitcher tosses a perfect game. The last one by a Sox pitcher was Cy Young in 1904. In fact in 1904 they were not even the Red Sox but The Americans. The Boston Americans - Red Sox have played over 17,000 games! Great promotion (insert sarcasm).
Chopped paint and deteriorating shingles are now a health hazard in Middleboro? Seems to be an issue with the Board of Health.