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The dangers of SB2 voting

To the editor:

In “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville extolled the New England town meeting as an exemplar of democracy. The SB2 form of town meeting is something else entirely, as was illustrated at the recent ConVal deliberative session.

At that meeting, two amendments were offered that would have preempted the right of the electorate to vote on the two most important issues, in terms of tax dollars, on the warrant. In the first case, an amendment to reduce the operating budget to the default value was proposed. This amendment would have had the same effect as requiring a “no” vote on the warrant article. In the second case, the proposed amendment would have reduced the requested funds for resurfacing and upgrading the high school parking lot to zero. In my view, this amendment should have been ruled out of order since it would have had the effect of completely removing the article in question from the warrant, something that the deliberative session is not empowered to do. Fortunately, both amendments were defeated, but they could have been accepted and placed on the warrant had as few as 80 voters supported them.

The intent of this letter is neither to support nor oppose the warrant articles in question, but to warn of the mischief that can be done at poorly attended SB2 deliberative sessions.

While these meetings can be long and boring (and in this case plagued by a poor PA system that made much of the “deliberation” unintelligible), it behooves those who value their right to weigh in on important issues to make the effort to attend them.

David McKenzie


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