Town Meeting Day 2009
03/03/09 12:00PM By Jane Lindholm
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It's that time again, when Vermonters gather with their neighbors to vote on the issues that affect their communities. Vermont Edition marks Town Meeting Day by checking in with town meeting officers to see how Vermont's venerable Town Meeting tradition is faring around the state.
First, Middlesex moderator Susan Clark talks about Switzerland's town meeting tradition, which predates Vermont's by about 600 years. Clark will present "Democracy in the Mountains: The Vermont-Switzerland Connection," an evening of photos and discussion, at the Dorothy Alling Library in Williston this Thursday, March 5 at 7 pm. (Listen)
Next we turn to the all-important tradition of the Town Meeting lunch. We go to Brewster-Pierce Elementary School where the Huntington Town Meeting is underway, and where Alison Forrest has been coordinating the Town Meeting covered dish luncheon for 21 years. Frost says the fare has changed somewhat during that time: no jello salad this year, for example, but plenty of foods labeled 'Localvore,' including Forrest's own baked beans with locally-produced bacon. (Listen to all the town reports)
Also joining us is Kermit Richardson of Orange, which holds its Town Meeting Tuesday evening. Richardson is stepping down after 51 years as moderator of his Town Meeting -- he was first elected in March, 1958. He's seen a lot of changes in his town, at least one of which has reversed itself. After a multi- year experiment with Australian Ballot, Orange now conducts all of its Town Meeting business from the floor, even the nomination and election of town officials.
Next, Rockingham Town Meeting Moderator Mike Harty reports on his town's Monday night meeting. Rockingham voters voted nay on a proposal to change the vote on the town's municipal budget to Australian Ballot. The town already heads to the polls to vote on the school budget that way. But voters decided to keep their floor meeting budget vote. Harty says many people in town seem to feel that, once the town budget goes to Australian Ballot, "that's the death knell of the floor meeting."
While voters in Essex soundly defeated a proposed local option sales tax, the town of Manchester voted in its floor meeting Saturday to add a new, one-percent rooms tax to its arsenal of property-tax-relief measures. Manchester moderator Michael Nawrath says Manchester was the first Vermont town to adopt a local option sales tax in 1999, and it brought in as much as $1.2 million annually until a multi-state agreement removed clothing and shoes from the list of taxable items in 2007. The tax on rooms, he says, will help make up the difference and help insure Manchester's continued status as Vermont's 12th lowest-tax town.
We also have an original song, "Town Meeting Tune," by singer-songwriter Jon Gailmor of Elmore, who also happens to be the Town Meeting Moderator for his town.
Also on the program, And we hear from Jim Bozeman, a Lyndon State math professor who's come up with a formula for legislative redistricting.(Listen)