The idea of bundling a group of spending articles with the same funding source in one vote has a certain logic if the objective is efficiency. But efficiency can never be the objective at town meeting. Town officials learned that the hard way when Article 22, comprising 12 separate capital spending requests, came up for a vote at Annual Town Meeting last Saturday. Officials hoped the bundling experiment would save time, but as townspeople lined up at the microphone to protest, it became clear that would not be the case.
When all was said and done, the voters demanded the right to choose whether to support each expenditure or not, based on its merits in each individual case. And that’s what they did. The outcome wasn’t particularly surprising—all 12 requests passed without much controversy.
But it was surprising that the Select Board and town administrator ever thought this experiment could work. People don’t show up at town meeting to be force-fed a mash of bureaucratic decisions. They show up to speak, listen, and decide for themselves on the merit of issues great and small.
Like it or not, that’s the point of town meeting, the legislative branch of town government. The objective should be for the executive branch to get out of the way.