, Newburyport, MA


June 6, 2014

Town Meeting is government at its best

I came away from Newbury’s Annual Town Meeting a few weeks back reminded there is no form of local government better in these somewhat less than united states at inviting all its citizens to have a say.

There have been larger turnouts than this year’s Town Meeting, but most seats at Newbury Elementary were taken when Gene Smith, from Plum Island, and I, from Newbury Old Town, arrived, and they were just about filled when order was called by moderator Christopher J. Armstrong.

There had been two Town Meeting-related stories earlier by Daily News correspondent Jennifer Solis, the first in December and a second on May 9, relating to the acceptance or rejection by Newbury voters of the Community Preservation Act.

Among its supporters are those who see it as a means of increasing open space and preserving what has been essential to the character of the town.

Some see it as a way to increase tax revenues.

It passed Town Meeting by four votes.

That puts it on the fall ballot, and the four-vote margin at Town Meeting is going to generate a considerable turnout.

There have been 62 Town Meetings since Susan and I settled in on Hay Street in 1952.

More than a half-century ago, the great majority of those attending Town Meetings weren’t from “away.”

Newly arrived from Newburyport, I suffered from foot-in-mouth disease too often.

I still do, but people are kinder.

There was more give and take at meetings back then, primarily because state and federal government regulatory authority didn’t intrude all that much.

At Town Meetings, we could, after being recognized, say what we had to say from where we were seated.

Today, recognition is the same, but no more speaking from one’s seat.

Making one’s way from seat to microphone can put a damper on participation by those discomforted by age or ailments.

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