Some thoughts at the conclusion of Town Meeting

The purpose of Town Meeting is to conduct the business of the town. We are not a debating society. Some observations:
• The annotated warrant provides an excellent tool for Town Meeting Members (TMMs) to read the text of every article, the amendments, and presentations posted in advance. TMMs have a responsibility to do their homework prior to an article being brought to the floor.
• Unlike the days when the Meeting conducted its business using voice votes and standing votes, we are now using electronic voting that records the votes of every TMM. There is no longer a need to take the floor to be on the record regarding a particular vote; the vote is recorded and the community can evaluate the positions of all 252 TMMs as the meeting progresses. These recorded votes, and our ability to evaluate our representatives based on an extensive voting record, are as close to pure democracy as we can get in a town of 45,000 people.
• Debate should be persuasive. It can clarify questions, it can present new facts, but it should add value to the decision-making process.
• The moderator’s job is to lead the Meeting where it wants to go. TMMs have an obligation to communicate in a manner that helps the rest of the Meeting and the moderator to understand where the Meeting is going. (This is much easier when Town Meeting is conducted in the hall; it’s hard to take the temperature of 252 Zoom participants.) Terminating debate is an important tool in this process, as it avoids the Meeting being mired in a speaker list of a dozen or more potential speakers on an article destined to pass by a 242-2 margin.
• The moderator has done an excellent (though not perfect) job of leading the meeting through difficult circumstances. I strongly support his decision to limit debate on resolutions. Prior to enacting the limits on speaking time for resolutions, many TMMs would routinely vote down resolutions because they are not relevant to the mission of governing the town. We can now get a vote on resolutions without being tangled up in extended debate, and this prevents the use of the Meeting as a captive audience for a plethora of tangential causes. Advocates and opponents of resolutions brought to the Meeting can present arguments in writing before the vote. Most TMMs walk into the Meeting with opinions on the resolutions, and I think it is appropriate to allow TMMs to hit the button to vote for, against, or abstain on these articles.

We need to remember Town Meeting is a collection of 252 registered voters who volunteer to conduct the business of the town. It is a significant time commitment, two nights each week, three hours each night, until the business of the town is completed. We should honor that time commitment with thoughtful, efficient discourse that leads to to the best possible decisions.
——-
I have compiled a scorecard for Town Meeting zoning votes. It is publicly viewable in Google Sheets.