Trying Out a Public Hearing
With continuing interest in a visible rift in Tiverton politics, I’m at the public hearing at the high school at which the town council will decide which suggested change to the town financial meeting will appear on the next ballot. The current discussion is whether the town council has the authority to take the charter review commission’s suggestions (months in the making) as little more than a suggestion.
Not surprisingly the council’s lawyer says “yes,” so Council President Louise Durfee has moved on without discussion to discuss the process of the meeting.
ADDENDUM (7:21 p.m.):
Pretty tame so far. The con arguments have most notably highlighted the degree to which the charter commission’s proposal creates opportunities for litigation.
As for the temper, I imagine it will have much to do with the way in which tonight’s process is manipulated. The stages strike me as inappropriate: public comment, official discussion, vote. To my experience, the audience doesn’t really know what to say until the officials start to state their opinions.
ADDENDUM (7:41 p.m.)
Huh. The charter review commission president just submitted my live blogging of the financial town meeting into the record. No “Anchor Rising” plug, though.
ADDENDUM (7:56 p.m.):
Interesting proposal: hold a vote on the tax increase (or decrease) before the budget is even formulated.
ADDENDUM (8:33 p.m.)
I hate to speak at these things. For some reason, I get much more anxious than I ever did with musical or theatrical performances or even offering extemporaneous political opinion to much larger audiences than the 60 or so people here.
Basically, I pointed out that concerns about the divisive rift encouraged by the financial town meeting would only be exacerbated were the process to move further from direct democracy, toward a legislature-only process.
I also noted the talk, in this process, that the voting booth and the budget meetings are the people’s opportunities to affect the budget process. Well, the review committee held meetings for months, and that was the opportunity for town officials to express their concerns and make suggestions with respect to its proposal.
ADDENDUM (8:51 p.m.):
Moving toward “official” conversation, VP Don Bollin suggested that the commission’s proposal should be included, by virtue of the effort and the process. Presumptive state representative (because of a lack of competition) Jay Edwards said that the proposal is so flawed that he can’t let voters decide. Councilmember Medeiros agreed. Mrs. Arruda, too.
Hannibal Costa noted that, following the last financial town meeting sparked 16 bids for town council (as opposed to the usual 8). He suggested that the commission’s proposal be used as a template for future changes, but that Medeiros’s council-only method (with a referrendal undo) as well as Arruda’s date-chainging proposal go on the ballot.
President Louise Durfee noted the legal flaws of the commission’s proposal and suggested that allowing the people such power to affect the budget would shirk the town’s obligation to keep its services going.
But isn’t that the point? Can’t we force the town to pick from among its services and benefits?