Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Courier Gazette

Waldoboro replaces town meetings

By Art Mayers
(Created: Wednesday, November 8, 2006 12:18 PM EST)

WALDOBORO"”Waldoboro residents voted to abandon the traditional town meeting format in favor of the voting booth as strong numbers went to the polls on Tuesday.

Supporters of the referendum style of meeting stressed the need to bring more people, especially senior citizens, into the decision-making process.

Waldoboro will join three other Lincoln County towns in substituting a referendum ballot for the annual town meeting.

[url=http://www.mainecoastnow.com/articles/2006/11/08/courier_-_gazette/local...

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Good news for Waldoboro! I wish Kennebunk had a board of selectmen that listened to the wishes of our residents like Waldoboro's did.

From the article linked above:

[quote]A citizen's group from the Dutch Neck part of town brought forward the initiative in the spring. In June, selectmen voted not to require the group to collect 200 signatures, but rather o put the item before voters on Election Day.[/quote]

We had over 1,000 certified signatures here, the petition was declared legal and valid by the town clerk, and our board still wouldn't let the voters have a say on the issue. Not even with a non-binding referendum question.

Country
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

The "citizen's group" from Dutch Neck are a bunch of people that are p*ssed about their property taxes. Most of them have shorefront property that is being assessed at somewhere near market value - at least as evaluated by the assessor. To the best of my knowledge none of these people are clam diggers or fishermen or are on Dutch Neck because of a need for shore access. Perhaps this is a move on their part to circumvent public discussion when it comes to reducing their taxes.

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Public discussion at town meetings is overrated.

Country
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

That's generally true. Especially in the case of Waldoboro, where there are at least forty articles up for discussion and there are people who feel a need to speak on every one of them no matter how insignificant the article or their opinion.

But the fact remains that this may be a ploy on the part of the Dutch Necker's to sneak something through that reduces their property taxes.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

All I know for certain is this - we have over 12,000 residents in town, and about 8,000 registered voters.

At the recent referendum election, 67% of the registered voters made their way to the polls. The norm around here for most referendums is anywhere from 45% - 60%.

At town meeting, we usually have about 125 people in attendance, if that.

I agree with Dan, the floor discussion at town meeting is largely overrated. The same dialogue is possible, and happens now, in public hearings for the school budget, which is already voted referendum.

I'd rather have 45%-60% of the adult residents vote on the budget, than 1.5%.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote][b]Traditional town meetings falling by wayside[/b]

By STEVE CARTWRIGHT, Blethen Maine News Service Portland Press Herald Monday, February 19, 2007

Town meeting season gets under way next month, but for some communities, there's a new twist.
A growing number of central Maine towns have switched to the secret-ballot or referendum system.[/quote]

[url=http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/state/070219townmeeting.html?com_...

The article misses some towns that have moved to referendum, including Ogunquit, York, and Gray. There are about 16 in all that have now moved to some form of referendum vote in Maine.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[u]Partial list of Maine towns that have already moved to a referendum election:[/u]

Berwick (hybrid)
Boothbay
Bradley
Dover-Foxcroft
Gray (hybrid)
Jay
Jefferson
Lebanon
Monmouth
Ogunquit
Waldoboro
Whitefield
Windsor
Wiscasset
York

There may be one or two more that have already switched, and there are definitely others considering the move, such as Kennebunk.

Mike Lange
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote]Public discussion at town meetings is overrated.[/quote]

Not at ours. We've stopped some pretty frivolous expenditures in their tracks on the town meeting floor. But what might work in a town of 1,800 may not in a city of 30,000. Hey, if voters want to switch to a different type of government, more power to them. Personally, I like town meetings. :D

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

I'd prefer a hybrid method, in Kennebunk. Keep town meeting for discussion of the budget warrant items, and voting on any ordinances, etc. Then, have a referendum election on the budget and spending issues, one that allows voting from 8-8, and absentee voting.

A lot of towns hold their meetings on Saturday, and make a day of it, as the article noted, with bake sales and community involvement. Kennebunk holds theirs on a Thursday evening, at 7:00. Not exactly conducive to big turnouts.

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Our founding fathers were brilliant in adopting a system of representative government. It's too bad that much of Maine remains more than 200 years behind the times.

Bowdoinham has a population of under 3000 and a town budget of over $1.5 million. It is impossible to show up at a meeting once a year and make intelligent votes on a budget of that size. You are basically forced to accept what is said by those who have put in the time to understand the budget.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Don't feel bad, Dan. Our town budget is headed for $11 million. Try discussing that on a town meeting floor, especially when this year, so much will be over the LD1 cap that town meeting is guaranteed to last TWO nights. By law, over-the-cap items at town meeting must be voted by secret ballot - so it's get up, wait in line, vote, sit down, wait for the votes to be tallied, results announced, start all over again with the next warrant item.
:roll:

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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

This might surprise some of you, but I am an avid supporter of abolishing town meeting and moving to referendum voting. I don't know if there are any statistical information out there, but I'd be willing to bet that statewide towns with town meeting have faster increasing budgets than those that do not, either city council form of government or referendum balloting.

Sanford has or had a pretty cool way of handling their town meeting, they elect representatives from different wards or districts I think, and the elected representative is the only person from the ward or district that votes on the town issues. All other residents are welcome to attend but they must set in the back of the room and watch the process. I am not sure if Sanford did away with the Representative Town Meeting form of government when they re wrote their charter.

leftout
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Town meeting has become taxation and governance by special interest.

The Sanford situation as Town Manager describes it sounds even worse, I would prefer to have no part of it. I have no desire to even look into that can of worms. Once a town reaches a population of about 1000 and town meeting attendence averages in the low hundreds the result is taxation by special interest.

Kennebunk, 8,000 plus registered voters - if just 25% of these voters should show up for town meeting it would have to be canceled. There is no where in this or neighboring towns prepared or able to handle a crowd such as this. Are we to rent the Civic Center? Town meeting has become primarily a joke as to the notion of the people controling much of anything.

Re-vamp the public hearing process so that it is before the articles are written so changes can be made where warrented and move the vote to referendum.

mediadog
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

I lost my affection for "the purest form of democracy" many years ago when those attending our town meeting spent more than 30 minutes arguing over whether to install a streetlight near the home of a little old lady (the article was rejected!) and then, without any debate at all, passed a school budget of more than $3 million, which was real big money at the time.

IMO, town meetings can tackle simple items but too often can't handle complicated issues. That's why we now have a town council-manager form of government.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Guest Column

[quote][quote][b]Take pride in our political culture ... and don't dump town meeting[/b]

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
Monday, February 26, 2007

Perfect government is an ideal continuously unfulfilled in human affairs, a fleeting wish just beyond the grasp of collective action and intellect. Perfect government eludes us because government, being a instrument of ordinary mortals, is incapable of transcending the imperfections of individual men and women.[/quote][/quote]

[url=http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/view/columns/3643245.html?com_sent... Romantic Bloviation Here[/url]

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote][b]Skowhegan mulls change in government[/b]
By Sharon Kiley Mack
Saturday, March 31, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

SKOWHEGAN - It isn’t just the low turnout at annual and special town meetings that has Skowhegan Town Manager Phil Tarr concerned. It’s the unruly and intimidating behavior of many of those attending.
...snip

"A majority of decisions were hotly debated," Tarr said, "but parts of the meeting were just uncalled for." He said that town employees were called "parasites" and town officials were similarly insulted.[/quote]

[url=http://bangordailynews.com/news/t/midmaine.aspx?articleid=148148&zoneid=..., Dang - Who's Up For Moving to Skowhegan?[/url]

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

End all town meetings.

I'm with the founding fathers -- representative government is the way to go.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Referendum voting, please. The more I read about what some town and city councils do with taxpayer money, the more I want that citizen vote on budgets every year.

JustSayNo
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote="Naran"]

We had over 1,000 certified signatures here, the petition was declared legal and valid by the town clerk, and our board still wouldn't let the voters have a say on the issue. Not even with a non-binding referendum question.[/quote]

Unless your town has a charter that specifically addresses referendum procedures,
there is a state law that enables citizens to FORCE a binding referendum question to appear on a town's ballot.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Thanks, Just. A couple people here took the issue to court, but the judge seemed to think the town selectmen had the right not to put our petition question onto the ballot.

In addition, they have steadfastly avoided even putting a non-binding referendum question regarding the issue on the ballot. The only response we've been able to get is a town meeting ballot question to form a charter commission this June, but once convened, nobody (not even the selectmen) can direct the charter commission.

So, we can hope the commission comes back with a recommendation to move our town budget to a referendum vote, but there are no guarantees.

They could, as one local wag put it, mandate instead that voters will only be admitted to town meeting if they're wearing blue trousers.

JustSayNo
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote="Naran"] A couple people here took the issue to court, but the judge seemed to think the town selectmen had the right not to put our petition question onto the ballot.
[/quote]

That's amazing.
On what grounds?

30-A, MRSA §2522. Petition for article in warrant:
On the written petition of a number of voters equal to at least 10% of the number of votes cast in the town at the last gubernatorial election, but in no case less than 10, the municipal officers shall either insert a particular article in the next warrant issued or shall within 60 days call a special town meeting for its consideration. [1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 and Pt. C, §106 (new); 1989, c. 6 (amd); c. 9, §2 (amd); c. 104, Pt. C, §§8, 10 (amd).]

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Kennebunk has a charter. The argument was that such a voting change could only be made through a charter change.

JustSayNo
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

I see, said the blindman.
And he picked up his hammer and saw.

Dan:
Would the above change in Ken's Charter be an Amendment or a Revision?

Let this be a lesson to us all...
Be REAL careful if your town adopts a Charter...
it's hard to change 'em,
and they tend to take power from the people.

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote="JustSayNo"]
Dan:
Would the above change in Ken's Charter be an Amendment or a Revision?

Let this be a lesson to us all...
Be REAL careful if your town adopts a Charter...
it's hard to change 'em,
and they tend to take power from the people.[/quote]

That was what the fight was about. The town, and ultimately a judge, said it was a revision that would require a charter commission.

JustSayNo
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

So what happens if a Town does it by Amendment?

[url=http://graynews.maine.com/2006-11-10/gray_goes_for_austin_tabor_woodcock... Gray did[/url]

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

I guess it stand unless someone challenges it.

Naran will likely point out that the two towns have the same lawyer who gave different advice to the two towns. (In fairness that advice could be correct in both cases depending upon the actual charters.)

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

Dan is correct as stated. The same attorney gave completely opposite advice to Kennebunk and Gray, on exactly the same issue. Both towns have a charter, both towns have a town meeting/selectmen/council format.

Difference? Gray's town council was the one requesting the change to referendum voting, and in Kennebunk, it was the lowly peasants asking for the change.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

[quote][b]Town meetings in trouble?[/b]

By DARLA L. PICKETT
Staff Writer Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Today's Top Headlines
from the Kennebec Journal

SKOWHEGAN -- Town Manager Philip Tarr has raised some eyebrows -- and controversy -- by daring to suggest the town look at swapping often caustic annual town meetings for voting by ballot.
...snip

"I just want people to think," Tarr said Monday. "I, personally, do not look forward to attending town meetings like the ones I've experienced. Neither do a lot of people. Let's take a look at what we are doing and what we can do to improve it."[/quote]

[url=http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/news/local/3774565.html?com_sent=1...

Dan Billings
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

It's funny to see a town manager favors the change because town employees get sharply criticized at town meetings.

A friend of mine who has moderated town meetings in a handful of towns for over a decade, moderated a meeting last year in Skowhegan and said it was the nastiest town meeting that he has ever been at.

Naran
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Waldoboro Voters OK Referendum Town Meetings

It is kind of different, because normally town administration would always rather keep town meeting, from what I've seen. I guess they're tired of being ripped to shreds in Skowhegan. However, I bet they're more careful about what they try and get passed, too.

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