* Yes, at the high school there is a lectern with a mike in front of the stage, and it is standard practice for sponsors of special articles to use it, although anyone else is welcome to.
* I think most members are used to being able to stay near their seats and have the mike runners come to them, but I've been to other meetings where people queued up for a central microphone, and it worked well. (Of course, now I sit on stage, with a mike in front of me, so what do I care? :-))
* Time limit for what? -- each speaker? discussion on a single article? In my experience, it's rare for a single speaker to go very long -- the time gets taken up by multiple speakers on various sides of a question, and with some questions that seems entirely appropriate. There _is_ a way to cut off discussion, though -- it's called "moving the question", and it has been used. The moderator also has the option of questioning whether the speaker's remarks are actually relevant to the question under discussion, and I've seen that happen, too. Jack Bassett was the moderator when I first joined town meeting, and when he retired Ray Godin took over. I've been to GMRSD district meetings where the Gill moderator presided, and in my opinion Ray G. does a great job -- with very rare exceptions, he strikes just the right balance between allowing enough discussion to allow all viewpoints to be expressed, while at the same time preventing the discussion from wandering off into redundancy or irrelevance. Having a good moderator is key, and I think we are lucky to have Ray.
* I suppose we're moving towards a world in which individual members can sit in front of their computers and feel that they are fully participating in the meeting, but I dunno how I feel about that. Maybe I'm old-fashioned (okay, scratch the "maybe"), but I think there's something to be gained from being physically present. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I like to think that while some of the new technology is quite useful for certain things, much of it is a fad that will eventually pass, and twenty or thirty years from now the hot new thing among youth will be events where you actually go and join a group of other people to do something together face to face. It will have a trendy name and trendy supporters, and most people will have forgotten that there was ever a time when that was the only choice people had.
Forgive me if this is standing practice at regular Town Meetings at the High School, but perhaps a standing mic, in the front, opposite the town department podium, would save a lot of time. If someone knows they want to speak about a motion, they could cue up in a line. Saves the Moderator time and the MCTV mic runners.
Also, for the sake of order, perhaps there should be a time limit, or at least someone observing the time....
I don't know if this is just wishful thinking, but if Town Meeting members can't make the meeting, they should be able to write or email in their votes. I don't how long the time delay is with MCTV, but a live chat with either the Town Clerk or MCTV would be a COOL option. IMHO
The "Size of Finance Committee" issue was unusual for several reasons. Unlike ongoing town boards (Select, Assessor, Health, Parks, G-M School, Library, Zoning, Soldiers', Housing, etc.) this one is not elected, so there is no automatic number of members (Moderator appoints from applicants, who may come and go). Also unusual, the Moderator is not obligated to appoint any applicant, nor to actively recruit to fill a pre-set number of seats. Considering this, a stated range of members for the Finance Comm isn't so odd, and fits the reality of Montague's history.
The question of how high or low the range should be is a different one. Several reasonable people stated qualms about a Committee as small as 3 (though several of the elected boards above operate with 3), and so 5 was the final minimum chosen by Town Meeting. Recent history (and my own efforts to recruit members) indicate that an upper limit of 7 will not arbitrarily restrict the Moderator's appointing action.
As far as I can recall quickly, during my tenure on the Committee we have lost 3 members to relocation out of Montague, 2 to run for another board, and 1 who decided to withdraw from formal involvement in Montague government. This indicates that turnover is a fact of life, and that this Committee is unlikely to be dominated by narrow entrenched interests (it's worth noting, as well, that the Moderator's appointment criteria, as he described them, help ensure a broad, balanced perspective).
There is no bar to the public's input to the Committee's discussions; we rarely have guests, but we frequently have invited visitors (esp. in the Jan - April period) and try to be hospitable to everyone (to the dismay of those longing for dinner or closure). Whether one wishes to be appointed, or to advise against a re-appointment, the Moderator is the one to contact.
Jeff, the problem was that the original article proposed going down to a *range* (3-7), not a single lower odd number. People suggested the latter, but no one had the presence of mind to draft an amendment on the spot to that effect. And some people saw a benefit to using a range.
They ended up approving 5-7.
I suppose that if an eighth or ninth person wants to contribute, they would be welcome at the meetings and allowed to do everything except vote.
Well, at least if the 5-7 range is approved, it should pave the way for other ranges, should the town so wish. Let's hope it works as planned, i.e., the Moderator gets to set the number at any time, typically to the number of sitting members, and never below.
"If you can't find enough players for your summer softball league ...."
If our failure to be able to play was affecting the town's ability to do business, then absolutely I would try to do something about the situation. And if approaching Parks & Rec or petitioning the state seemed like the best option, then I would do that.
I'm not sure what your point is, mickjen -- are you saying that we should just put up with a bad situation because people shouldn't try to change the rules even if they no longer work?
If you can't find enough players for your summer softball league, would you approach Parks & Rec and request them to rewrite the rules? ... would you petition the state, because you can't find people w free time?
Right?! I was able to glance at some spreadsheet, but don't have it on hand. I believe the monthly retainer is $1100. But in particular, over $10k (in the past 6 months?) on eviction cases in Millers Falls alone! Items related to the town owned properties (Strathmore, the old Cumbies, St Anne's)seemed to be a 1 or 2 month expense. But, a swift resolution to some issues would stop a $1200+/month trail of time and paperwork.
Also, the very last item on the agenda was interesting. All the lawyers fees being spent on various cases, some of which involves certain parties over failure to pay taxes, and other issues.
Makes me wonder if anyone has made a full accounting of (a) how much in lawyers fees the Town of Montague has spent on them over the years, and (b) how much they owe the Town in unpaid taxes. And, if you want to go further, (c) how much extra we're paying in Town Council fees for each Town Meeting that is extended due to their rigamarole.
I bet you we could fund the PD with a brand new cruiser for all that money.
Maybe the Montague Reporter can dig into it a little. I'm sure it's all public information.
What's the proper number? Having served on a number of boards I've always found five to be a manageable number of people sitting around a table, assuming everyone participates. Seven is the upper limit for me, personally. So, if the AG would have preferred a fixed number (a "slam dunk" as Town Councillor called it) I would have voted for 7. That means with only five seats filled, they could still have a quorum with four present.
When I spoke, I mentioned another town committee I am working with who wasn't able to meet several times over the past year for the same reason: their bylaws say nine members, period. Historically they have had five seats filled, though for a short time they only had four seats filled. Now they have six, I believe, which gives them the flexibility of allowing one member to not attend a meeting. If they asked TM to reduce the flat number to seven, they'd be in even better shape.
No disrespect to anyone, and I know how hard everyone who is on these boards works, but I thought it quite absurd that a current selectman (backed up by a former selectwoman, seated next to me) insisted that the board's business was too important to be conducted by three people with a quorum of two in spite of the fact that the selectboard conducts more important business at just that size.
Thanks to everyone who turned out tonight -- I would have been just as happy to go home early, but I'm glad that we got our business done and don't have to come back.
As for the article on the size of the Finance Committee, I think it showed in some ways the weakness of a town meeting form of government -- and really, any body that tries to follow some version of Robert's Rules of Order -- namely, that it is very difficult and cumbersome to try to build a consensus around a complex issue.
I think there was general agreement that the existing situation -- that the fin comm must have nine members, and five is a quorum -- needs to be changed. But what's the best alternative? Should it just be a fixed, lower number? Or should it be a range? -- and if so, what's a good lower limit: three? five? and uppper limit: seven? nine? other? Toss into that the uncertainties about how a quorum actually works: if the town specifies a quorum, will it fly with the attorney general? If the town doesn't specify a quorum, but establishes a range for committee membership, how will the attorney general rule? and you've got a number of issues to work through.
Would people prefer fixed size to variable size? If fixed, how big? If variable, what's the range, and how much risk are we willing to take with the AG? The format of town meeting means that a specific proposal (article) needs to be considered, and alternatives must be offered as discrete amendments, which makes it very difficult to just toss ideas around and take straw polls. I think Ray did a good job under the circumstances, but they were difficult circumstances.
Hey all. As you may know, the Special Town Meeting is on Thursday, April 1st at 7:00. I'm going to post all the warrants as individual threads here.
SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
TOWN OF MONTAGUE
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
April 1, 2010
To either of the Constables of the Town of Montague in the County of Franklin:
In the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you are hereby directed to notify and warn the Inhabitants of the Town of Montague qualified to vote in Town affairs to meet in the Turners Falls High School Theater on Thursday, April 1, 2010, at 7:00 P.M. and to act on the following articles and any motions which may be presented.