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Town Meeting Commentary

May 11, 2011

This post has been edited since being originally published.

Spring Town Meeting notes you will not read in The Walpole Times or any other publication:

Town Meeting wrapped up after two nights this week and was relatively uneventful. In keeping with annual tradition, the meeting started late on both nights. Do not invite your Town Meeting Representatives to a party and expect them to show up on time. Our RTMs take the term “fashionably late” quite literally.

There were no National Honor Society microphone runners on either night, which is highly unusual. From what I understand, juniors were supposed to volunteer to be the microphone runners, but none apparently did.

During the past couple of weeks, Walpole High School students have heard numerous announcements urging students interested in working at Town Meeting to notify the NHS advisor. Apparently none did. The NHS missed out on an enormous opportunity to raise funds, as they did not hold their usual bake sale during the breaks.

If I could use one word to describe the atmosphere of Spring Town Meeting, I would use this word: hurried. The entire meeting had a very rushed feel, whether deliberate or not. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

By the time Selectman Eric Kraus and Town Administrator Michael Boynton were finished with their joint presentation about the Woodworkers proposal on the second night, RTMs spent less than an hour debating it before voting on it. None of the RTMs were fighting each other to talk, and it never seemed that there was much contention over any of the issues debated during the two nights. There were a few points-of-order on the first night, but for the most part there was little controversy.

The award for the most rambling speech on the first night would go to State Representative John Rogers. Rogers, who faces a tough race for re-election next year, told Town Meeting that he was glad prison mitigation money for Walpole was included in the FY 2012 state budget. His speech was not long, but it was one big long ramble that could have been summed up with one sentence: “I helped put prison mitigation money in the state budget.” It took awhile for him to get to the point and he may have just been trying to fill up time.

Rogers understands he needs the Walpole vote next year, so his speech was probably given not out of civic duty but because he wants to make sure he gets all the credit for bringing home the bacon. And guess what? This might be just what he needs to get him another term.

The shortest speech was given by Selectman Chairwoman Nancy Mackenzie, whose opening remarks on the first night lasted less than a minute. Clearly Mackenzie wanted the meeting to get going, adding to the hurried feel. I commend her for getting to the point quickly. Finally a modest politician who does not want to make speeches just to make a headline for herself.

As usual, Town Administrator Michael Boynton spent a portion of his opening remarks thanking every town employee and Department Head. Whenever Boynton gives a speech of this nature, he always enthusiastically profusely thanks town employees and department heads for their work.

While it is nice to hear some appreciation for town employees every once in awhile, it can get tiring to hear him always praise town employees as if they are walking on water. He does it in basically every speech. Let us have a bit more modesty, please, Mr. Boynton.

Boynton also called the town’s budget proposal “reasonable and responsible.” If you have been reading 180, you know my opinion on that. My personal opinion is that Boynton would fit right in with the spendthrift politicians in Washington right now.

The only two major controversial articles in the town meeting warrant that were expected to prompt intense debate failed to garner much controversy after all. For example, the Walpole Woodworkers override passed Town Meeting by a significant margin after a standing vote and only a short discussion. The free cash transfer to the School Department budget, which was expected to be controversial, ultimately passed easily.

The FY 2012 town budget, which I have some disagreements with, passed with barely any discussion. There were a couple RTMs who raised questions about the Capital Budget, which includes what appear to be some wasteful items, but it ultimately passed without any opposition. Town Meeting is not made up of any fiscal conservatives, as far as I can tell.

I was hoping for more fireworks. Town Meeting turned out not to be as intense as it could have been. It was a very boring meeting overall.

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