Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…., Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Act I, Scene II.”
Although I am a sitting member on the Groton Town Meeting Review Study Committee, this Letter is being written, with genuine regret, as the opinion of a private, concerned, citizen.
It has been suggested, in recent times and in different venues, Groton’s open Town Meeting format no longer reflects the opinions of the vast majority of the Town’s citizens. The prevailing argument given is the perceived, limited attendance of residents. And, attendance at Groton’s recent Special Town Meeting, on Saturday morning, January 26, 2013, as was reported in some media outlets, would seem to reinforce this argument, …but, really?
Indeed, that morning’s Meeting started with 277 Groton citizens present, more than satisfying Groton’s Special Town Meeting’s current Quorum requirement of 155 residents. And, as described elsewhere, the Warrant’s Articles I and II both passed, unchallenged, by voice votes. When Article III’s “Main” Motion (New Central Fire Station funding) was voted upon, the Meeting’s voice vote was challenged from the floor, and 285 hands were then raised and tallied (227 Yea’s vs. 58 Nay’s).
Now, the description I just gave you might suggest, a mere eight additional residents arrived to vote that morning, thus reinforcing the aforementioned argument.
In reality, a grand total of 398 residents, or nearly six percent (6%) of Groton’s registered voters, were signed in as attendees (Source: Groton Town Clerk’s Office). Or, in other words, prior to the vote on Article III’s “Main” Motion, 121 more citizens had arrived late, while 113 citizens, having voted on one (or both) of the first two Articles, picked from the Town Meeting’s Warrant, given a freedom paid for in blood, with a civic obligation, and the opportunity to stay and express their opinions and positions on Articles’ III and IV, filed out of the Meeting early, never to return.
We know their voices impacted Articles I and/or II’s outcome, but what effect might they have had on Article III and Rule Loving’s Citizen’s Amendment? Could their opinions have altered the end result? Could those additional votes have had a profound effect on Groton’s history that day?
A century ago, in what was a far different age, this behavior, in departing a Town Meeting prior to it’s adjournment, might have been looked upon as (in no specific order) boorish, irresponsible, ill-mannered, immature, self-centered, selfish, thoughtless and/or tactless. That Saturday morning, after two separate episodes of mass exodus, I have little doubt those same thoughts and feelings existed, if only silently expressed, in the minds of many of those who felt it their civic obligation, and responsibility, to stay and participate in directing Groton’s affairs.
No (with apologies to William Shakespeare)! The fault is not in our attendance levels at open Town Meetings, but in ourselves. On that particular Saturday morning (as with many other Groton Town Meetings in recent memory), it was exhibited in the “a la carte” nature of voting behavior seemingly (and increasingly) preferred by Groton’s citizens.
Think about it.
Scott Evans Harker
Martins Pond Road