Preserve budget modification at Town Meeting

DUMMERSTON — For thousands of years, Native Americans lived on the land now known as Dummerston, Vermont, and made decisions by consensus. Since the town of Dummerston was founded by Europeans about 265 years ago, direct democracy has continued through Annual Town Meeting.

Now, the Selectboard seeks to drive a “dagger into the heart of town meeting.” Those were the words of University of Vermont politics professor Frank Bryan, author of a book about Vermont town meetings, when he learned on May 25 of the board's plan.

The board wants to end the right of townspeople to modify the budget at town meeting. People in the vast majority of Vermont towns have this right. This is not an abstract problem.

In recent years, people at Dummerston Town Meeting have overruled the Selectboard and invested in farmland protection. As a result, we have permanently protected two farms. This is at a time when the USA is losing about 6,000 acres of open space every day. Protecting open space is one of the best ways to stop climate change - a life-and-death matter.

Fortunately, the Selectboard does not have the power to drive this dagger into the heart of democracy. They can - and are - lobbying townspeople to make this change at the next Annual Town Meeting or at a Special Town Meeting.

The board is required under Vermont law to provide townspeople with 30 days' notice of a special meeting. We must be vigilant: the only notice required is a piece of paper on the wall of the town office and a small listing in a newspaper. The town clerk told me she will try to post this information on the town website.

For more information, please contact me by phone at 802-254-2531 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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