The Process of Reigning

I’m increasingly noticing the degree to which procedural minutia affect the balance of power in the disputes resolved among the lower tiers of government. The reality was stark at the last financial town meeting in Tiverton, but even in the day-to-day operations, one must weave through various traps and catches in order to bring about a particular policy. It becomes, essentially, an extra-judicial battle of lawyers.
That sense struck me during a conversation at the latest Tiverton town council meeting concerning a motion to permit the town administrator to send another draft of the next budget to the budget committee (stream, download). This exchange, in particular, makes me think that there’s some defense being built of which the casual follower would remain unaware:

Ed Roderick: Isn’t there a requirement that the council get this budget to the budget committee by a certain date, and we already exceeded that date?
Louise Durfee: They have it. They do have it. So, we haven’t withdrawn it, I mean, so, you know…
Joanne Arruda: They can certainly work with what they have.
Roderick: I believe the wording is “an approved budget.”
Durfee: Yeah, but is it “approved” really?
Arruda: It’s a recommendation. It’s a…
Roderick: It’s a working budget?
Durfee: Yeah, it’s very much of a…
Arruda: Proposed.
Roderick: I just want everybody to be cognizant that it is a requirement that we get it to the budget committee.

Be it an approved proposed recommendation, the fact is that the town council submitted a budget with which to begin the process, and it was one that would require significant tax increases on struggling residents.

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