Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

June 5, 2013

Time for a change to Town Meeting

Editor, Townsman:

I’m writing as a follow-up to Michael Volger’s excellent letter earlier this month (”Andover deserves better than Town Meeting,” May 23), which stated that Town Meeting no longer works for Andover.

While attending two of the three nights of Town Meeting this year, I had several hours to consider its many disadvantages.

1. It’s disenfranchising. People who cannot attend include night workers, caregivers who can’t get or don’t have the ability to pay for a sitter, those who are away on business and those who cannot sit for many hours in an uncomfortable folding chair or, while not handicapped, cannot comfortably walk from the parking areas to the meeting.

2. It leaves the town vulnerable to manipulation by special interests. At this year’s meeting, you would have needed only 200 voters to show up to push through an item.

3. There is little meaningful debate. When an article to approve $1,700 owed to Claudia Bach came up for a vote, I would have liked to hear the cost and/or risk of not paying, but the microphones were crowded with people complaining and that question was not asked.

4. It’s too time consuming. I vote in every single election, but it’s unreasonable to ask anyone to spend 10 hours (25 percent of a standard work week) to do their civic duty.

5. If you believe that there is meaningful debate, it forces voters to consider budget items serially instead of as a whole.

My son, who just turned 18, came with me this year (while my husband stayed home with our daughter). When the budget voting began, he was legitimately confused and asked, “Why are all these people voting so fast?” I told him that unless he is informed, he shouldn’t vote, and that I was voting based on the Finance Committee recommendations.

I know it’s tradition, and Moderator Sheila Doherty did an excellent job. But when traditions no longer serve their purpose, it’s time for a change.

Chris Williams

12 Cherrywood Circle

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