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New voices needed in Town Meeting

March 2, 2015

Last November, more than 64 percent of Walpole voters turned out to the polls and resoundingly rejected – by a 1,000-vote margin – a $30 million facilities spending plan that had been vocally and unanimously supported by just about every major town board, and by a 2/3 majority of Town Meeting. More than 90 Town Meeting Reps., out of 150 total, from across town, supported the plan at the Fall Town Meeting, and even cut off debate on it from opponents. These RTMs also rejected a substitute plan submitted by one RTM that would have put us on our way to funding new town buildings without any property tax hike.

When more than 90 Town Meeting Reps. (see roll call here), along with every Selectman and almost every Finance Committee member, vote for a measure that goes on to be so widely rejected in all precincts except one, something is clearly wrong with our system of governance in Walpole. The people currently in charge are not representing their constituents.

Many of you who read 180 know that there is a small but vocal group that has been working hard in Town Meeting to attempt to deliver reform and fiscal conservatism for the taxpayers. But there is a great need for reinforcements – that is, more people who believe that the town is going in the wrong direction – who can run for RTM in all eight precincts and can help us in our mission.

Will you consider joining us, and throwing your hat in the ring to represent your friends and neighbors – and the majority of Walpole that voted in November – in Town Meeting?

The time commitment for Town Meeting Representatives is among the most minimal activities one can possibly be involved with – only two meetings per year, totaling four to six nights at most (plus occasional Special Town Meetings, which are rare.)

If you do not have the time or stamina to run for office yourself, consider recruiting a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor in Walpole, who shares your views, to run for office instead. In the meantime, there is so much you can do outside of running for elected office – such as reminding your friends and neighbors to vote for the right candidates, holding signs for candidates, or writing letters to the editor to The Walpole Times.

Many people think that they do not have the time or political acumen to run for office themselves. They prefer to see someone else do it. I was in the same boat a few years ago, until I realized that when everyone expects others to step up, nobody ever steps up. Town Meeting Rep. is such a simple, yet powerful position, with such a minor time commitment, that the position is precisely perfect for those who feel like they are not good/smart/articulate/capable enough to get involved. For such a small role, Town Meeting Reps. have a big say – they directly vote on each year’s town budget, which affects all of our property taxes. Town Meeting is the legislative body of our town government.

There are also some who are afraid to speak up about their concerns about town government, and run for office, because they feel that their voice is outnumbered, they feel that the fight is futile, or they fear retribution. But anybody who serves in Town Meeting today, on any side of the ideological spectrum, will tell you that it is easier to fight for a particular cause when there are others backing you up. As a group, with a united message, it is easier for those of us who want reform to fight for that reform. You are not alone in your feeling about town government. You might be surprised how many others feel the same way as you do, and we have strength in numbers. The decisive override defeat in November was proof that there is in fact a “silent majority” that does not want big spending at Town Hall. This majority is not currently being represented at Town Hall, and those in power right now would prefer to keep it that way. Don’t let them stifle the “silent majority” that spoke in November, by allowing incumbent RTMs who supported the override to run without opposition.

If you don’t like the way things are going in Walpole, don’t just sit on the sidelines and read this blog. Join us and make a difference. The RTM term is only three years, and if it does not suit you after that time, then you can leave without running for re-election. And during your time in Town Meeting, you don’t even have to speak most of the time – just make sure to show up and vote the right way when you feel it is appropriate.

And if you are running for office or want to get involved in another way, be sure to reach out to me – because I want to help like-minded people get elected. We need your help in our fight to restore common sense to Town Hall.

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