I went to a town meeting in Oxford a couple of nights ago. Town meetings have to be among the more interesting ways of running towns. In general, they have to be a lot closer to the Athenian style of democracy than you have with town councils and other variations of government. Anyone who wants to speak can do so. The meeting was presided over by the elected First Selectman and two Selectmen, one of whom was the last First Selectman. According to the rules, a moderator was elected who then stated that he would attempt to limit peoples comments or questions to 3 minutes so that everyone would have a chance to speak.

There were several items on the agenda, the first of which were dispensed with rapidly. The last one drew a great deal of interest. In an objective world, the elected representatives would describe what they had proposed and why they proposed it. Then the people would have a chance to discuss it. At first it seemed to be going that way until the former First Selectman jumped up and raised a point of order that the current First Selectman was exceeding her three minutes! Then, his backers wanted to limit the Director of Development to the same three minutes for explaining the details of the deal being presented to the public. The whole thing seemed to be more geared towards obstruction than participative democracy. Hopefully, in the future we’ll see rules that specifically state that the rule shouldn’t be applied to the overall presentation of what it is we’re about to discuss.

Whatever position people held on the issue being discussed and eventually voted on shouldn’t matter. The people in front were elected to do a job, and should have been permitted to present that work to the public without this kind of nonsense. It’s not about party (or party faction, which is clearly an issue there). It’s about giving approval or disapproval of a town action. There seems to be a group of people here with the wrong goal.

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