letter to the editor

Where has our democracy gone?

Mon, 01/16/2023 - 4:00pm

Dear Editor:

This is the first time I have ever written a letter to the editor, but I feel it is extremely important.

In New England small towns, the purest form of democracy has, for generations, been identified as the town meeting. It provides for all voices to be heard in the running of town government. Articles on the warrant are raised, discussed, sometimes modified, and then voted on by the residents of town. It appears as though we have lost this critical form of government in Edgecomb.

Three years ago and again two years ago, the Edgecomb selectboard canceled the town meeting and replaced it with a referendum vote. This was justified because of the pandemic. Last year, the selectboard again instituted a referendum in place of town meeting. They claimed there was insufficient time to prepare for the town meeting. Strange, but we were the only town in the area to have this problem.

This year, the selectboard has announced that the town meeting will again be replaced by a referendum vote. The excuse this year is that twice as many people voted with the referendum. The problem with this logic is that it is very quick and easy to just put check marks on a ballot. This, however, is done in a vacuum. All the voters know when they vote is what the selectboard put on the warrant articles. There is no input as far as the reasons for the articles and no discussion to determine what is the right amount of funding for a particular warrant article. The voters have no way of knowing how much was requested by a department. Quick and easy does not make for good government.

Showing up at a town meeting, discussing the articles and the reasons for those requests, and asking questions of the department heads takes a commitment. It also makes for much better government. Far better to have 65 enlightened, educated, committed voters than 150 drive-bys. In reality, the referendum is only letting three voices (this year only two) heard as the selectboard submits the articles for the warrant and this is too much power to cede to the selectboard. We need our town government back

Bill Witzell