Kevin Coffey, shown at special town meeting in November, has an early lead in a four-way race for select board (Dave Copeland/Andover News)

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Andover resident Matt Hart. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andover News. You can learn more about our policy on opinion and commentary on our Mission and Policies page.

I attended Andover’s Special Town Meeting on November 20 (full disclosure: my first). I, like many, felt compelled to attend to ensure my vote was counted. And I, like many, feel like Andover has long outgrown this form of Government.

There were many moments that indicate that Town Meeting works, the highlight being the current AHS student who had the courage to attend and speak his mind on Article 7. The format, while arduous, does lead to open discussion and popular voting.

It may be time to shift our focus onto the real problem with Town Meeting. It’s us. Here’s a list of observations (and complaints), all driven by members of the community – us – that force us to call into question the effectiveness of this form of government.

For one, we started late: A motion to proceed with Article 1 was not made until approximately 7:25pm. The vote for Article 1 was met with confusion and anger from a few very vocal attendees who simply didn’t understand the Article. Article 2 is not even feasible under Massachusetts Law. How does it even get on the agenda?

The opening statements for Article 3 included a squabble between the Petitioner and Madame Moderator. While it was compelling drama, the discourse was petty and had been resolved, in writing and private, earlier in the day.

Article 4, well-intentioned, was poorly worded, unenforceable, and potentially unlawful. Articles 5 and 6 (amended during the meeting) are full of merit, but seemed to already be on the docket for the Town, and progressive dialogue is underway. And finally, Article 7 – A & B – the primary driver of attendance, was finally motioned shortly before 10pm. After Board presentations, a video, comments and lengthy pre-written statements, we were moved to vote on 7A and 7B. The latter of which required a revote because someone leaving before the final votes were tallied accidentally kicked the power cord for the electronic voting machines on their way out.

Is Town Meeting Broken? Or is it us?

Matt Hart
Wildwood Road

Andover News accepts and encourage reader submissions, including letters to the editor and opinion columns. Submissions should be 750 words long or fewer and Andover-focused. Please include your name, title if applicable to your topic and connection or interest in Andover. We also need a phone number so we can confirm authorship. Send us your prose! 

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