Apr 242014

Town Meeting and You from Alan Foulds on Vimeo.

In the early days, attendance at town meeting was mandatory and the tardy were fined. The rules relaxed as it seemed unreasonable to force voters to attend meetings if they had no interest in the business to be acted upon.

This leniency gave birth to the warrant, a warning to all inhabitants of the subjects to be debated and voted on at town meeting. The warrant for the April 28, 2014 Spring Town Meeting should have arrived in your mailbox by now. (Download the Warrant here. — Ed.) Prepared by the Board of Selectmen, as required by state law, it contains 34 articles – items to be acted upon – when the meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Auditorium.

Consider yourself warned.

As we approach the meeting, voters should review the warrant and consider making time in their schedules to attend. After all, registered voters are the legislators who vote up or down spending and proposed bylaws at Town Meeting. There is no representative who will do it for us; you are the citizen legislators and your vote matters.

Because we are not professional legislators, voters may feel they do not know how to accomplish their objectives or may fear speaking during the meeting. As the moderator, required by state law to “preside and regulate the proceeding,” it is my job to help each voter participate as fully as he or she would like within the rules that govern the meeting. Here are a few points to remember:

  • I am available prior to the meeting at (978) 448-6421 or by email at jasonkauppi@gmail.com to answer any questions. What we discuss can remain confidential, and as moderator, I have no stated position on any issues before the meeting and act in an impartial manner in all decisions.
  • If during the meeting a voter has a question about what is happening (or even if the air conditioning is too cold), he or she should rise and say “point of order.” I will immediately halt the meeting and address the voter’s concern.
  • If you are new to Town Meeting or a regular, you will still get something out of watching a 30-minute program called “Town Meeting and You” now being shown daily at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the Groton Government Channel (Charter Ch. 13 and Verizon Ch. 41). Tune in, set your DVR, or view it online at www.massmoderators.org
  • In order to save some time, I will introduce a “consent agenda” to bundle six non-controversial, housekeeping articles together for a single vote without debate. These are articles that require a vote every spring. However, if any voter wishes, he or she will have the opportunity to remove an article from the consent agenda. Instructions on how to accomplish this are in the warrant, also online at www.townofgroton.org.
  • This year’s meeting will start at 7 p.m., April 28 and will almost certainly continue for a second session on the evening of Monday, May 5. A two-session meeting is not unusual in Groton or other towns. If we are concise and efficient, we can keep the meeting to two nights.

I look forward to seeing as many voters as possible at Town Meeting for a full and fair debate of the business before us.

Jason Kauppi
Town of Groton