VT Edition: Town Meeting Day check-in

03/03/09 2:12PM By Jane Lindholm
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Cheryl Willoughby
Huntington Town Meeting March 3, 2009
It's that time again, when Vermonters gather with their neighbors to vote on the issues that affect their communities. VPR's Jane Lindholm checks in with town meeting officers around the state to see how this venerable tradition is faring.

First stop is the 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.

Jane then Jane speaks with 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. Jane speaks with Manchester moderator Michael Nawrath.

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