Residents get worked up about the actions of their town and school government – and their tax bills – throughout the year. So get ready – the upcoming deliberative sessions are the times specifically set aside to debate and potentially change warrant articles that go to the March ballot.
At deliberative session, voters can amend a warrant article (except those whose language is prescribed by law – usually zoning amendments), so long as they do not change the subject matter. Or they can leave it as proposed.
Depending on who’s in the audience, school budget articles, for example, are often amended up or down before they go to the March ballot. That’s why you often hear people expressing the fear that some group will “pack” the deliberative session and “force” their views on everyone else.
There’s no force. The decision rests with the registered voters who care to show up. If the turnout is poor and few people are there to promote or defend an article, the majority of those present will have their way. It’s as simple as that.
To participate, all you need do is register to vote, attend deliberative, pay attention to the moderator’s explanation of the rules, read the proposed warrant articles, listen to public comment, say your piece if you choose to, and vote on any changes or to send the article as is to the warrant.
The articles on the warrant hit you where you live, and as New Hampshire residents, we have the right to express our views in a forum specifically designed for that purpose, and to change articles if we have the votes.
Registered voters are clearly in the seat of power. That’s why it’s so important not only to attend, but to stay for the whole deliberative session. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not such a time-consuming commitment to make.
In some towns, a deliberative session takes an hour or so. Others last four or five hours, and some take 10 or 11 hours of your free time. It’s worth it.
Sometimes there’s a warrant article or two that elicits strong feelings. Other years it’s pretty routine. But it’s always about your tax dollars, whether on a routine warrant article, a town or school budget, or a multi-year bond commitment.
Plan to attend your town’s forum for making change, and play a role in one of the most participatory forms of democracy still around today.
We can wave the flag all we want, but if we really believe in democracy, the deliberative session is the place to be.