LETTER: Town Meeting Member Says "We Failed" Our Misson

Calder: "The members of Town Meeting may not agree with the speaker ... To censor him, to chase him from the floor with protocol is counter to our principles and our purpose."

I believe that Town Meeting owes an apology to the citizens of Framingham for its actions last night.

During the meeting, a resident tried to speak, or more accurately tried to make a speech, on an issue. That speech was repeatedly interrupted from the floor and the head of Town Meeting. The premise for this inhospitable treatment was that the speech was not apropos of the article on the floor. It does not take a literary genius to infer from the few complete sentences the speaker was permitted to say that his point was something along the lines of: "while the average incomes for Framingham residents are falling, we are voting raises for Town employees". Most certainly on point.

The members of Town Meeting may not agree with the speaker, but Town
Meeting is founded on the idea that the best way to prove someone wrong is to let them make their case. To censor him, to chase him from the floor with protocol is counter to our principles and our purpose.

Town Meeting is an interface, it is a conduit for the many citizens to make their thoughts known to the few that govern on their behalf. It is definitely not our place to question the minutiae of complex labor agreements. Our purpose is to monitor the outcome, share it with residents, and deliver their judgements back. In that mission last night, we failed.

All too often I see Town officials take an aloof and paternalistic stance towards Town Meeting, as if our inquiries are a nuisance, an interruption in their efforts to accomplish their real work. This attitude is an incivility. It runs counter to our democratic purpose. Last night we displayed that same attitude to those we serve, and that is a shame.

Matt Calder
Town Meeting member, Precinct 2

Karl Rookey October 18, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Matt, An excellent letter, and an excellent point. I would hope that citizens be allowed to speak on motions when they are under consideration. One point: I think the role of a representative is to listen to constituents and then make an informed decision. It should never be simply to do what the majority of voters say they want. Otherwise, we could (and should) govern by polling station and dispense with debate and deliberation.
John Sullivan October 18, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Karl - Citizens ARE allowed to speak. This citizen was also given an opportunity to speak. He was only asked to sit down after he couldn't bring his topic to the article at hand despite repeated requests to do so.
Dan Fredonia October 18, 2012 at 05:42 PM
I'm curious..I didn't get to see the meeting....without naming any names, was the speaker one of the two that were recently booted by Patch? (which is a triumph, IMO)
Susan Petroni October 18, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Dan: No, it was a former Town Meeting member, who has lived in town for 40 years. The two you were suggesting are actual Town Meeting members, elected by their precinct.
Dan Fredonia October 18, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Thanks for the info, Susan!


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