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PHOTOS: 2012 Westford Fall Town Meeting

Photos from the Special Town Meeting held on October 15, 2012.

If you couldn't make it to the Special Town Meeting on Monday night at the Abbot School gymnasium, here are a few images of what you missed.

Amanda coleman October 16, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Westford you are an awesome town.
westford resident October 16, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I feel that I don't get a voice under the town meeting style of government. It is just not that easy to attend these lengthy meetings. IMO the results are not indicative of what the town wants but represent what the few that have the flexibility to attend want. Enlighten me. Why can't this stuff just go on a ballot? If you want to hash out articles do so ahead of time.
Dan D. October 16, 2012 at 09:20 PM
You are correct. For many, attending town meeting, especially during the week in the fall, is impossible what with work, travel, kids and school. Every once in awhile, you will hear the "Westford 200" mentioned. This refers to the relative handful of people who attend all town meetings, town board meetings, and have the time and interest to be on town boards and run for town offices. Make no mistake, they run the place, and put the time into it. So, every once in awhile you hear of weird sounding decisions that make you scratch your head and think how can said decision benefit the vast majority of taxpayers and residents. In fact, many decisions don't but are the result of either a handful's best interest or the feeling of a handful that it's for the "common good" (that phrase should strike fear and cynicism anytime you hear it...it usually means "I can't sell this to many, so I'll use a meaningless phrase that sounds good") as defined in their minds. That's life. Those that put the time in and do the work usually get their way. The only way to change it is make your voice known. A pretty small group of 20-30 TM attendees can frequently make the difference in a TM vote.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) October 16, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I covered New Hampshire for a few years, and up there it can go on a ballot in towns, school districts (schools are separate governmental entities throughout most of the state) and village districts that have "SB2" style town meetings. In SB2 style town meetings, the town meeting is basically split up between a "deliberative session" where voters decide what will be on the final warrant, and an election day a month later where voters go to the polls.
Anne Shirley October 16, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I was at the town meeting last night, and even with just a very small fraction of the registered voters attending, it looked pretty full. I can't imagine how the logistics of a town meeting would work if even half of the registered voters attended. Wouldn't it take a stadium to hold all of those people? Is there a point where a town becomes too big to have a town meeting style of government?
Sam October 16, 2012 at 10:30 PM
That sounds good to me!
westford resident October 16, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Can we get converting to that style of government put on the ballot? Obviously, many of us can not attend to vote for a different style of government. Could a huge petition do the trick? Many people i know feel the same way. I know that nothing will change but it is so frustrating to be eligible to participate but excluded due to logistics. Many of us could, however, find the 10 minutes to swing into a voting booth. Somehow I feel my constitutional rights are being infringed upon. What if most of Westford's voting population turned out - or just enough to go over those allowed under the fire code-, would we be turned away? That would be denying a voter his/her rights. I'm surprised this isn't a bigger deal/problem for the towns.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) October 17, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Hi Westford Resident, I can double check here on NH vs. MA , but on the fire code issue, here's the wording in part from MGL 39:10.... "...The town meeting may be held in one or more places; provided, that if it is held in more than one place, the places are connected by means of a public address system and loud speakers so that the proceedings in all such places may be heard and participated in by all the voters present therein. Whenever the moderator determines that voters are being excluded from the town meeting because there is no room for them in the places provided or that voters in attendance are being deprived of the opportunity to participate therein for any reason whatsoever, he shall either, on his own motion recess the meeting for any period during the day of the meeting or, after consultation with the members of the board of selectmen then present, adjourn the same to another date, not later than fourteen days following the date of said meeting, when places and facilities sufficient to accommodate all voters attending and to enable them to participate therein shall be available...."
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) October 17, 2012 at 01:54 AM
P.S. -- Here's the link to MGL 39:10 (http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleVII/Chapter39/Section10) and RSA 40:13, the law in NH for SB2 Meetings, also known as "Official Ballot Town Meetings" (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/III/40/40-13.htm) Generally the larger towns have SB2 meetings, but they don't need to. P.P.S -- Fun fact: in New Hampshire, the only two towns without a town meeting are Derry and Durham.
Parker Village Resident October 17, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Well, this could be just the solution to overrule the Westford 200! Andrew, how do we get started?
Tim Walsh October 17, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Westford's Town Meeting is nice, but very antiquated in my humble opinion. How can we feel we're representing the voice of the 10-12,000 registered voters (someone help me with the correct number) when we have 200-300 people making all the decisions? That alone has to tell us that it's not working. I know lots of people think it's great and a unique opportunity to participate, but the end result is it's not at all "inclusive" in practice. Some will say I'm just not happy with the results of recent votes (BFRT Parking) and that's absolutely true, but regardless, 200-300 can't represent 10-12,000. Do the math. I like the debate and would like to see that remain for those that want to participate. But let's do a ballot when it comes time to vote. I like the NH example referenced above. But folks, here's the ultimate conundrum - to change the process, we'd have to get it passed at Town Meeting. LOL!
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) October 17, 2012 at 12:28 PM
One thing I should probably note here, many folks I knew in SB2 towns had similar complaints about a small core of 200 to 300 people, only in that case it would be about those people deciding on what the voters would vote on rather than the final result. Many times, people wishing to prevent a particular article from going on the ballot in its intended form would amend an article down to remove almost all of its substance (i.e. -- going from "Shall the town do etc. etc. etc." to "Shall the town" and it would just say "Shall the town" on the ballot) or they'd insert a "not" or a negative to make the warrant be the exact opposite of what it was intended to do.) I had heard a law had been passed in the attempt to stop tactics like that, but I'd have to double check there and even then, it'd be very hard to enforce.

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