What Would Get You To Participate in Local Government More?

There's usually low turnout at open town meetings or few candidates for representative ones.

Would you give up a Saturday in March to vote on your town's budget? How about a few nights a week for a month? 

Open town meetings statewide typically draw a small percentage of the community's registered voters—a few hundred people at most. And many of them leave before the meeting ends.

Representative town meetings usually have few who run for open slots.

How can participation be improved? Tell us in the comments.

Amanda O'Reilly February 23, 2013 at 12:39 PM
I think it would help if we switched to a representative form of government.
Herb Chasan February 23, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Town meeting should not take so many nights. The town meetings of many other towns do not last as long as Framingham does. Not even close.
Resident Of Northborough February 23, 2013 at 02:37 PM
After last years town meeting I was sure I would attend everyone after. I do think they are important and I think the if you are available you should go and do your best to be available. A Saturday may work better? Hard to say. Families have kids that have sports on Sat. Also a suggestion would be to have the town have a kids workshop that day while the parents atttend town meeting. I think if more people attended town meeting there would be more voting happening that is actually for the people. But you can't vote blindly either. You should do your homework. Bottom line is people need to get more involved if they want to see changes being made in their town. This year it's looking like I can't attend which is upsetting to me. I wish there was away to have an absentee ballot. If you don't get involved or pay attention than you can't complin about the changes being made.
Kevin P. Crotty February 23, 2013 at 03:54 PM
In open town meetings not as much information is supplied to the voters as opposed to much information given to town meeting members of the representative town meeting . In the open town meetings members of town divisions might not be present to answer questions and give information ,.and the town warrant is rushed though to fast ! Kevin P. Crotty , TMM & Chair , Precinct 7
Jeffrey Rivard February 23, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Pay me!!!
Mary Gonzales February 23, 2013 at 10:16 PM
I think we should eliminate Town Meeting and make Framingham a city.
Andy Koenigsberg February 24, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Democracy can be inconvenient at the local level but if you don’t like the decisions being made, or want to have your voice heard, then your only choice is to participate, one way or another. Some say town meeting is undemocratic because only the same few people attend on a regular basis, biasing the vote. However, representative town meeting may not change anything because I would guess that the same few people who attend Town Meeting on a regular basis would be the ones who would run for representatives. Others have suggested ceding authority elected Town Council who would approve all budget and warrant articles that are usually voted on by Town Meeting. Electing those council members still would take an informed electorate who would want to know how these people would vote on these issues. All the issues around town budgets and warrant articles are discussed in advertised and mostly televised public meetings which are more poorly attended by the public than Town Meeting. All the supporting information is available at Town Hall and these days, on line. However, you cannot force people don't read documents or attend meetings. Democracy in any form takes an informed electorate and people have to give a darn one way or another to make decisions whether it is at the voting booth or at the High School auditorium. In both cases, it is always a small minority of total Town population (at least in Westborough) who bother to participate.
Dominic Capriole February 24, 2013 at 06:03 PM
And that population changes as the warrant articles change. This lack of overview is what makes the Westborough town meeting a very real problem. At least in a representative town meeting people would attend from start to finish and ,I hope, vote in a balanced way in order to achieve a better outcome.
GM February 24, 2013 at 08:02 PM
You shouldn't be looking to get paid for the privilege of representing yourself in how your town runs. Where do you think the money to pay you will come from -- you, through the taxes you pay!
GM February 24, 2013 at 08:10 PM
For those who see Town Meeting as only involving the participation of a limited number of town residents, you might want to look at this in a different way if you are willing to consider participating. If only 10% of voting taxpayers choose to attend their annual town meeting, then if you are one of them, you are essentially being given 10 votes, rather than just one, in determining how your town will run. You get more than your share of influence over the direction your town takes, and if people who don't attend town meeting don't like the results that come out of town meeting, they have the option to attend the next meeting to make their voice heard. Having said that, there are some issues facing towns that really do require some homework before town meeting if you want to be able to vote intelligently at the meeting. After several years of attending my town's annual town meeting and realizing that I wasn't smart enough on some issues to be sure what the right way to vote was, I joined my town's Warrant Committee (similar to a Finance Comittee). That was the forum I needed to participate in to have the time and access to detailed information that I was looking for. You don't need to actually be a member of a Warrant Committee or Finance Committee to take advantage of this. These meetings are open to the public and it's usually pretty easy to find out which issues will be discussed on which nights.
Andy Koenigsberg February 24, 2013 at 09:18 PM
Dominic - I guess my point I was trying to make is that no system is perfect but regardless, at some point or another, residents have to make informed decisions either directly for the issues or for the people who would decide them. GM - on a really good night at TM in Westborough a voter gets almost 50 votes relative to the population, and that is pretty sad. Other times, it's more like 100 or 200. Getting people to participate in town government is a hard nut to crack. What I find gratifying is that I am now seeing people who used to complain loudly about how things work now sitting on Fin Com or running for local office. Even if I don't agree with their politics, I think that's great.
GM February 26, 2013 at 01:52 AM
I'm with you on your comments, Andy. Having spent a few years involved with our town's government, I have come away with a strong belief that local government is the best place to ensure that government in general is effective and efficient. The local community is where people understand the true needs of the residents, and where people are in the best position to judge the urgency of the needs against the cost of providing for those needs (i.e., taxing the general population). For those who like to complain about the wastefulness of federal and state government, the solution lies within your grasp -- but you have to be willing to step forward and engage. Otherwise, you don't have much basis to complain about the performance of those people you voluntarily handed your personal authority over to. In the meantime, I'm happy to have people let me have an excess influence over the decisions that get made!


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