I have posted on my position on Town Meetings several times so why stop now? Nothing like a revisit, especially after the latest Middleboro sojourn into that antiquated system that has long since passed its shelf life.
TM is a special delight for a few who view it with “Betty Davis Eyes” the way I view the opening of the baseball season. This is their one time to shine and dazzle us with their parliamentary knowledge, oratorical skills and comic interludes. For the uninitiated it is a tedious and boring task at hand to watch a collation of Ms. and Mr. Bluster’s ramble on while the “normal” look for sharp objects to end their misery.
My first exposure in our quaint community was when I first located to Middleboro and observed the house clearing out after their project of note was voted upon. I had witnessed the exercise in previous communities that had the privilege of me locating within their borders. All too often an item would be placed on the warrant, another cute term, and be, eventually debated and voted upon. This usually means racking up as many friends, relatives and those lolling about the Central to show up and vote favorably on your item and promptly leave the house. The finest example of special interest in America!
Debate is central to the system. Fine. Everyone has a chance to speak, but, unfortunately, many do not wish to participate at that level. This can be out of sheer fear or not willing to make a fool of themselves like far too many grandstanding participants do. Then comes the vote.
This is where I most assuredly leave the reservation. Why should the vote be public? Nothing in our General Laws about it. And the beauty is some communities actually – now get this - have moved into the 21st century! You do it electronically! Chelmsford was the first in Massachusetts and many communities have committee’s to study how to actually accomplish this.
Options Technologies and Pagett Communications are two companies that provide equipment for TM’s. You simply get a tablet upon entering the meeting and that is how you vote. When you leave the equipment is returned. There are various options on the tablet and, knowing Middleboro, I am sure – on a temporary basis only – a tech savvy seven year old will have to accompany each adult to “help” them. Good luck with that.
Seems this town is willing to squander CPA monies on a variety of public expenses and now, just maybe, they will actually fund this little adventure in having a ballot where an individual will not be singled out. Worth looking into. I understand the cost is somewhere in the range of $25,000 or about 1/40th of a new fire truck.
Of course, use of electronics does exist in even this humble backwater. A quick text to notify one that their moment has arrived so they may scuttle forward. Yes, it does happen. What would be the major roadblocks?
The local gentry so embedded in the past would be the most significant stumbling block. Change, to some, is an evil thing to be cast outward, ignored or generally scoffed at. I imagine there are many who still cling to the hope that this “internet thing” is just a fad. Some communities measure change in increments of months and some in increments of decades.
So as other communities drift forward and embrace technology there will stand Middleboro. Alone- and debating the merits of a swearing by-law.