Legislative Report 3/7/2016 - Reflections on Town Meeting 2016

Since I moved to Vermont 38 years ago, I've attended every town meeting, eight in Shelburne and the rest in Charlotte, except for one during the year I spent in Germany. I love Town Meeting for its character and for the close relationship with local government it provides to citizens. I grew up in Pennsylvania where such a relationship did not exist. Even in my small town of Swoyersville people knew the names of their Town Councilmen, but didn't have much interaction with them. I heard over and over again that the reason people didn't bother to vote was because their vote didn't count, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. My brief stints in Connecticut and New Jersey offered political experiences that were very different from Vermont's as well.

The results of this year's overwhelmingly positive vote on Article 9, creating a two step Town Meeting process, is encouraging to me because I believe it will enhance the Town Meeting process. Only three short years ago there was a move to change the vote on the Town Budget to Australian ballot, which would surely have meant the death knell for Town Meeting as we know it. While well-intentioned to give more voters a say in adopting the budget, there would have been no significant business to attend to at the meeting itself, and attendance would have dropped off just as it has for the School Meeting held on the preceding evening. The concurrence of the legislature with our Charter proposal is assured with the 1148 to 403 vote. Now we'll have a chance to satisfy those who want to continue having a say on the budget from the floor as well as those who can't attend Town Meeting but still want to be able to register their approval or disapproval of the budget. We'll have three years to evaluate the results, and if we're not satisfied, we will automatically revert back to the current format in four years as a result of the sunset clause.

More than 200 Charlotters filled out the Doyle Survey this year. Since I took a few days to visit my two week-old grandson in Connecticut, I still haven't compiled the results of the survey. I'll have them for a future article. However, I did get a few comments in conversations in the hallway. At least one person was frustrated with the quality of the questions. She felt that several were virtually meaningless and had predictable responses. While some of the questions may have been predictable, others, such as the one regarding legalization of marijuana, should provide meaningful insight into how much support the issue has in town. Based on my observations throughout the day I think the participation in the survey represents a good cross-section of the community who came out to vote, not only of those who attended the three-hour meeting.

Along with many other people in town, I was disappointed that so many elective offices had no candidates. I can understand that there is a lot of demand on everyone's time, which makes the commitment to serve a challenge. So I offer my praise and thanks to those who did step up in spite of that. They are folks who provide essential and valuable service to all of us in keeping our town running smoothly.

I also want to thank everyone who signed my petition to run for re-election this year. I always welcome your thoughts and can be reached by phone (802-233-5238) or by email (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com).