The following letter to the editor was submitted by Steve Walther (photo), a local government activist. 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.
Article 1 for Special Town Meeting would allow voters to have a say about Town governance. First, let me implore everyone to attend the Special Town Meeting on Monday November 20th, as there are critical issues that need as much citizen input as we can muster. Unfortunately, only about 1% of eligible voters1 usually vote at Town Meetings. We can speculate about the reasons, but the reality is that Town Meeting participation is abysmal and we need this Meeting to be different.
It is important to note that the participation problem is so bad, that even the Select Board is seemingly free to ignore Town Meeting decisions. The regular Town Meeting this year had a contentious vote on a fireworks amendment requiring biodegradable fireworks. A total of 255 voters participated out of over 26000 eligible Andover voters, less than 1%. The amendment passed by a vote of 152 to 103, in other words it was passed by 0.58% of Andover voters. That is probably why the Select Board ignored complying with the Town Meeting decision.
As noted by Andover News, the Town Governance Committee has studied this ‘extensively’. Not surprisingly, a committee appointed by those with a vested interest in the status quo unanimously decided for …… the status quo. Despite years of committee meetings and hired consultants, this committee had no actual Town Meeting participation data. No voting data, not even data about commenting on articles at Town Meeting – the two ways you can actually participate when you attend Town Meeting. The committee would not even bring their report before the voters for an endorsement, as to quote the committee Chairperson, citizen voting is “an inept method” to apply to Town Governance2.
Article 1 seeks to rectify the failings of the committee by obtaining voter input and approval of Town Meeting versus an alternative. The article does not promote or propose any particular alternative form of government, and so it follows the same path other Towns have implemented to get voter consent. This Special Town Meeting is important, and it is important for as many as possible to attend, to vote, and to comment on each article. Let’s beat the 1% democracy debacle, say yes to article 1 and no to the status quo. Let the voters decide.
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