Being involved in Democracy is not always easy. It can be time consuming, a bit monotonous, and occasionally downright unpleasant. But it can also be rewarding, invigorating, and restorative to your faith in government. ?Deliberative session season is here, and for all towns with an Official Ballot government, it means giving up a Friday evening and/or a Saturday to take part in democracy in action. This week and next bring town and school deliberative sessions, and your town’s sessions should be circled dates on the calendar, as they’re just as important as the annual Super Bowl party. Unlike the big game, you are the one who has influence on the passes made in these sessions.
Voters are clearly in the seat of power at the deliberative session. That’s why it’s so important not only to attend, but also to stay for the entire duration. In some towns, that means just an hour or so of your time. While some may see this as too much time, the outcomes of these sessions affect your wallet, specifically in where your tax dollars will be spent.
You are the watchdog for your community. Large amounts of potential taxpayers’ money being spent are being discussed, so we urge you to do the right thing and questions, even if they are uncomfortable. These days every penny counts, and there’s no such thing as a stupid question when it’s you and your neighbors’ hard-earned dollars on the line. Remember, it’s the articles that come out of deliberative session that we will be voting on in March by secret ballot, and their wording, thanks in some instances to action at deliberative session, may not be the same as what the town council, selectmen, school board or citizen petitioner proposed. The deliberative is a hybrid animal – no up or down voting on an article takes place, as it would at the old-style Town Meeting. Voters (no quorum required) can propose and vote on amendments to an article, thus altering what goes on the official ballot in March. That is a powerful position for every voter to have.
Staying home equals abdication. For true change to happen, even just a small cadre of voters is necessary. Once you get inside a deliberative session, you’ll be enraptured by the emotion and excitement of the moment of participating in your town’s democracy, with as much right to do so as everyone else. You won’t regret going, but you may regret staying home.
With all of this said, we urge you to make attending the deliberative session a part of your winter routine. All you need to do is pay attention as the moderator explains the rules, and read the proposed warrant articles. Then grab your voting card and get down to the business.