Governing the Empty Seats
Alright. I realize that a Charter Review Committee meeting is hardly likely to generate passions and intrigue, but the Tiverton town hall is mostly empty. The committee is currently discussing ways to market the meetings.
The truth is that even the “big” meetings of town government types — the town council and the school committee — are sparsely attended as a matter of course. Individual issues sometimes bring their own crowds, of course, and that ought to indicate something: Any contingent that made an effort to attend these meetings could have a disproportionately large effect.
Disappointingly, it seems as if the only organized group that pervades state and local governments in Rhode Island — the Democrat Party — has slipped by default into the role of conducting the meetings (so to speak). Arguably, that pervasive presence saves certain well-known special interests the effort of attending at times that their numbers aren’t needed.
I should emphasize that I’m not saying that the particular members of a town government such as Tiverton’s (much less its minor councils and committees) are stand-ins for special interests. However, there’s a cumulative effect to imbalanced participation, as well as a sort of potential energy of political action.