Friday, June 1, 2001
Carlisle Comments: Town Meeting
Town Meeting is over and things are beginning to calm down, although my guess is that the sparks that flew there are still simmering. Let's think for a minute about Town Meeting and the way our town is run.
First, about attendance and the quorum. If you took a group of 100 people and told them that only five of them were needed to make all of the financial and living decisions for the next year, and only three of those five would be the ones to make the final decisions, what do you think the response would be? Well, that is the same ratio required at Town Meeting. Our quorum of 150 voters is less than 5 percent of the voters. I'm sure that when that number was set, the figure was closer to 10 percent. Today, 10 percent would be 320 voters.
I think that the secret to fair and equable government is participation. I have to admit that I haven't attended every Town Meeting during my 37 years of living here in Carlisle, but I have attended most of them. Many times we have had to wait more than half an hour, while people beg others to come and make up a quorum.
What's wrong with us? We complain about the taxes, the services, the politics in general, and yet we don't do anything about it. People say, "What can I do? I'm busy. It's a bunch of "old boys" running the town." Baloney. If people would contribute something more than a lot of whining complaints and participate, things could and would be different.
Our system of local Town Meetings and local government has worked for this country since before the Revolution. Robert's Rules of Order, a system of conducting meetings which we follow, has been in use since 1907. People stood up to be counted. When offices needed filling, they filled them. We do have the right to be heard, so why don't we exercise that right where it will be effective? Run for office, even if it is only for one term. Join a committee, we need you. Take some of the heat that you have been giving out.
And this may come as a new thought, but why not vote in local elections? People certainly do vote in national elections. Carlisle has close to a 90percent turnout for national elections. But when it comes to local matters, things that affect us, our children, our community and our taxes, we are half-hearted. Is it possible that we just don't care? I think we care, but are just too lazy (busy) to bother with the things that affect us the most and might just take a few hours of our time. Our town is filled with capable, caring, even brilliant people. Why not take up the challenge and become part of the fix instead of part of the apathy? Remember, a community is made of all of its parts. That means you and it means me as well.
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