TOWN MEETING PROCEDURES NEED REVISION
The way we conduct our community affairs is crucially important to our future both individually and collectively. An old truism from the computer industry says: “garbage in - garbage out.” It would be good to bear that in mind in all official proceedings such as Town Meetings where the consequences of decisions we make can be serious and long enduring. My personal opinion in that regard, apparently shared by many others attending our Jan. 30 meeting, is that we have some serious work to do.
I will spare readers the troubles endured by the “many others” Wednesday night and proceed directly to some conclusions and recommendations. Suffice it to say that we proponents of the Resolution expected and were prepared for an informative discussion of the Tar Sands Oil issue, but we were deprived of that opportunity.
Conclusion: The conduct of the meeting, which may have met a narrow interpretation of requirements, did not meet the broad intent of town meetings, i.e., to allow fair statement and deliberation of issues at hand. Attendees thus were deprived of opportunity to provide and receive information vital to making informed voting decisions. We can and must rectify that sorry state to ensure no repeats of it in the future.
As a beginning, Bethel must amend rules of conduct for Town Meetings that would: 1. Ensure open nomination of Moderators; 2. Require the Moderator to present all salient rules, with sufficient explanations to equip voters to participate and vote; and 3. Disallow “calling the question” before speakers for and against the motion are properly heard. Other related items can be considered at the discretion of the Town Meeting Rules Committee.
Seabury and Sharon Lyon