Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Voices / Letters from readers

Town Meeting beyond reach for those who most need a voice

I hate to say this, but Town Meeting — that noble paradigm of American democracy — doesn’t seem too democratic anymore.

When we first moved 22 years ago to Williamsville from Providence, R.I. — land of infamy and uncontested mayoral appointments to school boards and other budget-crafting entities — we were impressed and encouraged by the Town Meeting construct.

As a teacher, I’d have the day off from school; my then-spouse was self employed and so we and our three boys, then new to the old Newfane Elementary School, would dutifully attend each Town Meeting until the kids finally convinced us that, since they couldn’t vote, it didn’t make much sense to be there. Pick your battles.

Now retired, I slid into the 2018 Town Meeting a little late and left a little early to head to a nine-day silent meditation retreat. (Yup, I’m a lucky woman to be able to weave such time for introspection and self-development into my life.) As I looked around at the meeting attendees — fewer than at last year’s, when there’d been fewer than at the year before’s — I saw several teachers, no teens, and a lot of folks who looked grey like me.

As article by article came up for discussion, it was we assembled who made decisions about what should be spent in the next 12 months, and how.

I was swept with an odd feeling of embarrassment and violation as it hit me straight on: We, the more fortunate in income and/or circumstance, are committing expenses for folks — adults and voting-age teens — who, increasingly, it seems, cannot afford the luxury of taking the day off to attend a meeting that history has honed as the apex of democracy.

I know many of these folks — many who lack two spare dimes to rub together. How wrong is it that I can have such an impact on their families’ budgets? How wrong is it to not hear their voices?

What to do?

Short of shutting the entire state down save emergency and health services, could every town — for starters — do as some have already done and move Town Meeting to an evening, to an after-dinner time with free child care provided?

That just might eke us a little closer to true representation again.

Ann C. Landenberger
Williamsville

Like what we do? Help us keep doing it!

We rely on the donations and financial support of our readers to help make The Commons available to all. Please join us today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.

Add Comment

* Required information
1000
Out of 56, 14 or 27, which is the smallest?
Captcha Image
Powered by Commentics

Comments (0)

No comments yet. Be the first!

Originally published in The Commons issue #454 (Wednesday, April 11, 2018). This story appeared on page D4.

Related stories

More by Ann C. Landenberger