Vermont was an independent nation before the liberals and hippies found us. One cornerstone of our independence is an entrenched disbelief in representative governance. We citizens of the towns and gores of rural America would get together in our community’s largest building and shout at each other until a consensus was reached over whether to dig a long slit trench behind the livery stable or if we should require each house on Main Street to install its own cesspool. This was the first example of Centrally Planned Waste.
I guess we were supposed to talk about budgets.
Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 2) most Vermont townships will hold Town Meeting.
The Vermont Secretary of State gives this history of the event. “The first town meeting in America was in Massachusetts in 1633, but the practice of direct democracy dates back to around 400 B.C. in Athens of ancient Greece. Unlike town meetings today, in ancient Greece women, children and slaves could not vote, and meetings required the presence of at least 6,000 citizens!
“Vermont town meeting is a tradition dating back to before there was a Vermont. The first town meeting was held in Bennington in 1762, 15 years before Vermont was created” and 29 years before this tiny nation joined the union of states.
“In the late 1700s, as today, town citizens in Vermont held meetings so that they could address the problems and issues they faced collectively. Popular matters of legislation in earlier town meetings included whether or not to let pigs run free or whether smallpox vaccinations should be allowed in the town (some thought vaccinations were dangerous). Voters also decided what goods or labor could be used as payment for taxes.”
Town Meeting is a holiday for state government employees.
I served as a School Moderator at town meeting for more than a decade here. The moderators job is to keep the meeting orderly, calls for votes, keep the meeting orderly, and announce the decisions of the voters. And keep the meeting orderly. The real test comes when the moderator needs to interpret amendments, to govern how the discussion (and votes) proceed, and to count “ayes.” I think the Town asked me to step into the position because it would limit how much I could talk from the floor.
Vermonters can be … muddle headed … at Town Meeting. Last year in Brattleboro, residents voted on whether to arrest President Bush and Vice President Cheney for war crimes and more. This year state and local advocates for big gummint will have their hands out at every Town Meeting. “Now more than ever, we need more money and more people for programs,” they will say. Every warning has requests for increased staffing and more money.
Sounds like centrally planned waste to me.
No matter what goes on at Town Meeting, it is crucial to be there. We’re not the only family in North Puffin with our “full time” hours or wages cut. We’re making do with less. I encourage our towns and schools to do the same.
I just hope we won’t all have to BORROW MONEY TO PAY OUR PROPERTY TAXES.
Town Meeting is chance for all of us to weigh in, to be heard, and to make decisions. That doesn’t happen in Montpelier. Or Washington.