Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Orientation and warrant review

Just returned from New Member Orientation and the Warrant Review Meeting. Both were great – interesting and informative. (I’m going to need a new phrase – maybe “informative and interesting?”) Town Meeting Handbooks were available – more homework, to go along with the rest of my TM study and prep.

Harrison Gregg, Town Moderator, gave some historical background on TM – it is a tradition older than our country. He described the various responsibilities of the assembly: appropriating money, passing town bylaws (zoning being the most vital,) and various legal things such as agreeing to certain banking relationships. He also talked about the offering of opinions and solicitations to the state and federal legislatures. I’m not actually sure if he was calling these a responsibility of TM, or just an Amherst tradition. I’ll have to check the handbook. If it turns out that these “Let the record show that we oppose the suffering in Elbonia” articles are more than just the symbolic time-wasters I have always regarded them to be, then I shall humbly reconsider my opinion.

Then he got into the nitty-gritty of procedural issues – how the introduction, discussion and voting on articles proceeds. He also talked about the ordering of the articles and how they’ll be addressed – first are the “housekeeping” issues, then the petitions, then the zoning articles, and finally, all the budget stuff.

There were about 25 people there for the orientation part. The only thing not touched on that I wanted to know was the whole seating thing. I’ve heard the stories about some helpless newbie venturing into TM for the first time, innocently sitting down, only to be hollered at by a TM lifer who has sat in that exact seat for 30 years. Truth or fiction? I don’t know . . .

The orientation merged into the warrant review. Maybe 25 additional people showed up for that. I’m not sure if Alice Carlozzi’s Finance Committee/budget article discussion was technically part of the orientation or the review, but anyway, she did a very thorough job of describing the different components of the budget articles (you don’t want me to list them all) and gave an overview of what they mean and where they come from.

We then got an overview of most of the other articles: Aaron Hayden, Planning Board chair, addressed the articles that board has sponsored; Harrison explained the Community Preservation Act and gave the gist of that committee’s (CPAC’s) articles. Then came the Petition articles: Carol Gray addressed the article to rezone the area of South East Street to prevent the condos; Anne Awad dealt with the Select Board articles; Irvin Rhodes introduced his Special Municipal Employee Status article; Elaine Brighty discussed the Regional School District Agreement article; an unidentified person spoke about the Universal Health Care article, and I think that was it. Not all the articles were addressed, but most were.

Definitely helpful and informative. I have much to study before Monday.

If you find this recap riveting, you won’t want to miss the broadcast on ACTV.

I’ll be giving my initial opinions on the various articles in the next couple of days. But meanwhile, please weigh in on any you feel strongly about, by comment or e-mail. Not just Precinct 9-ers – anyone with a thoughtful, informed opinion.


Jim Pistrang said...

What a great blog! I have a comment about seating: I'm one of those TM members who sits in the same seat every year (second row in the middle). I don't really do it for political reasons, I do it so I can see everything that's projected on the screen, and being so close to the 'action' forces me to stay awake and alert. If someone came before me and sat in 'my' seat I would NEVER ask them to move, since, well, it's not really MY seat! I think anyone who asks someone to move or who dispproves of people sitting in the wrong place is just plain rude and should be ignored. Just my opinion of course....
Jim Pistrang, Pct 2

Stephanie O'Keeffe said...

Ahh, yes -- the political part of the seating arrangement. One side of the auditorium is supposed to be more conservative, the other more liberal, and the middle perhaps is moderate? It would be just my luck to try and make some statement with my seating choice, only to find I got it backward. I think I'll move around a lot so no one can pin me down. I will, however, try to avoid sitting in your seat. :-) Thanks for commenting!

Jim Oldham, Pct 5 said...

Your blog is "interesting & informative." Thanks.

Regarding seating, since first being elected to TM about 5 years ago my preference has been to move around a bit. I like to see the room from different places and get to know different people. Only once did I find myself "in someone else's seat" and it turned out to be an accessibility issue. The individual has sat there for a long time but the claim on the seat is also driven by the need to be easily entered. I simply moved on.

In general, I find people attached to a particular area but not to exact seats. And I suspect that more than once I have forced old timers to shift slightly without raising any complaints.

As for politics, TM is much too complicated to be reflected in seating laid out in only two dimensions! One of the fun aspects of town meetng is to watch how we divide on different votes throughout the night and the entire Town Meeting.