The Beginning of Actual Change
Just a quick reminder for any Tiverton residents (or fiscal conservatives who wish to offer moral support to their peers here): Tiverton Citizens for Change is hosting its first public meeting tonight from 7:30–9:00p.m. at the VFW Hall at 134 Shove St., Tiverton.
The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., and people are already showing up at 6:43. Space is limited.
Town officials in the room so far: Town Council members Don Bollin and Joanne Arruda, Town Administrator James Goncalo, School Committee member Sally Black, Town Clerk Nancy Mello, and Budget Committee Chairman Chris Cotta. I suppose from a good-government standpoint, incumbents really ought to attend these things, but given that the group is decidedly anti-establishment, it’s still a surprise.
Might make for an interesting evening.
ADDENDUM 7:12 p.m.
We’re probably about halfway to capacity, right now (with a big rush coming in), and even a crowd of this size can give one a sense of the complexity of society. That’s something that I think gets lost in the week-to-week operations of town government, and the number in attendance already is much more than enough to have made a difference at the last Financial Town Meeting.
When a typical Town Council meeting has more people at the official tables than in the audience, it isn’t surprising that the officials begin to take the people in the room as their constituency. When the School Committee is facing a grumbling crowd of teachers, with very minimal taxpayer representation, it isn’t surprising that Rhode Island teachers’ unions have pushed things as far as they have.
Even if local groups such as TCC manage nothing more than organizing an attendance movement (a phrase perhaps worth coinage), they could make a huge difference.
ADDENDUM 7:23 p.m.:
State Rep. John Loughlin just waved and called me Matt. “Wrong blogger.” By far, representative, by far.
ADDENDUM 7:30 p.m.:
We’re starting the meeting at room capacity. The reason, as moderator Tom Parker just said: “We have a problem in Tiverton.”
ADDENDUM 7:37 p.m.:
TCC president Dave Nelson is making his presentation now, beginning with the bio that he moved here from NY, where he saw his taxes double over four years. Now he’s seeing the same thing happening in Tiverton.
ADDENDUM 7:41 p.m.
A representative from the Little Compton Taxpayers Association is describing their experience: “Our main weapon is a newsletter… we have become a force in town.”
“When you belong to this group [meaning the TCC], you better wear your helmets.”
ADDENDUM 7:46 p.m.
Larry Fitzmorris of Portsmouth Concerned Citizens: “As individuals, when you go against town government, you don’t have a voice… Together you have a voice; individually, you’ll be ignored.”
ADDENDUM 7:48 p.m.:
Harry Stanley of RISC: “You have enormous power in your hands” if everybody here tonight joins TCC and then goes out and brings one other person. (Presumably beginning with those people whom we had to turn away at the door…)
“A day will come when they [town and state government] are going to have to listen to you and to me… Don’t let this be a one-meeting organization, because we need you — this state needs you.”
ADDENDUM 7:57 p.m.:
Dave Nelson: “Our message is simple: We can do this.”
It bears mentioning that the key take-away of this meeting is that we must vote, and we must be aware and organized in our voting. One important tidbit: Our ballot allows voting for up to seven town council members (and five school committee members), but voters don’t have to vote for that many. Just getting people to withhold free votes could be decisive.
Heard in the audience when a candidate I don’t recognize introduced himself to somebody: “Are you endorsed by this group? If you’re not, I’m not going to vote for you.”
ADDENDUM 8:02 p.m.
The free hot dogs are unveiled and the mingling begins.
ADDENDUM 8:18 p.m.:
His waving to me from the crowd reminded me that I neglected to mention the presence of my nigh-upon-inevitable state representative Jay Edwards. As at other public events — presumably in a display of pre-election comity — he spent the evening standing next to Rep. Loughlin.
By the way, the rough head count for the event was somewhere north of 200 people, meaning that we turned away about a quarter of those who showed up for the meeting because they wouldn’t fit in the room. (I did my part by walking to the event, so as not to dissuade attendance due to lack of parking.)