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Town Meeting process engaging, for once

May 13, 2013

After two long nights of discussion about everything from Health Department inspectors to expanding alcohol licenses, many Walpole officials are exhausted and disappointed that Town Meeting will continue into a third night this evening – the first time since 2010 that RTMs have needed more than just two days to get through the warrant.

But for a town body that has earned a reputation in recent years for too often rubber stamping the big spending at Walpole Town Hall, and rightly so, a third night of Spring Town Meeting is not all bad.

Indeed, the second night of Town Meeting on Wednesday was a Town Meeting for the ages – full of lively discussion, intense debate, probing questions, and uncomfortable answers from town officials. Several Town Meeting Representatives who rarely speak and who typically vote the party line in favor of more spending actually stood up, asked questions, and made town officials sweat. One article on the warrant for a street acceptance in South Walpole even sparked so much debate from RTMs that it will reportedly be pulled from the warrant tonight by the Finance Committee (more on that later.) Even the town’s revolving funds account, which rarely gets much scrutiny from RTMs, was hashed out and discussed on Wednesday, with RTMs pushing for more oversight and control of those funds.

Wednesday night represented everything that a Town Meeting should be. More importantly, it was the way Town Meeting has not been in Walpole for a number of years. And despite the fact that many votes didn’t go the way 180 might have preferred, Walpole taxpayers should know that RTMs really did – for once – care enough about your tax dollars to actually talk about it logically before spending it.

Town Meeting Representatives such as Ronald Ardine, Thomas Coyne, Mary Abplanalp, David Clark, and Marilyn Kelland – all of whom rarely speak on Town Meeting floor and yet collectively have been in office for years – actually stood up and offered interesting input into whether to install security cameras in the town’s public schools. Kelland even admitted she never speaks at Town Meeting, yet stood up twice on Wednesday. All security cameras were eventually approved, but the discussion made clear that many RTMs who normally might be rubber stamps were actually thinking deeply about the implications.

Good for our Town Meeting Representatives. This year, the results of Town Meeting may have been a foregone conclusion as usual (more spending, what else) but the process to reach that was engaging and thought-provoking.

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