Letter to the Editor: Run for Town Meeting

"This year, there really is ample time to talk-up the benefits of participation in Town Meeting and to generate interest and activity in Town Meeting elections."

Ellen O'Brien-Cushman, Belmont's Town Clerk, circulated an e-mail this week to Town Meeting members reminding them about upcoming deadlines for getting on the ballot to run for Town Meeting. This message should be circulated as widely as possible.

One of the common fallacies with Town Meeting elections in Belmont is that one must wait to see whether there are "open" seats (i.e., if a current Town Meeting member is not running for re-election for some reason) before deciding whether to run. This is a "fallacy" because, in reality, an incumbent Town Meeting member has no "claim" on their seat. EVERY SEAT IS OPEN IN EVERY ELECTION recognizing that each precinct has only twelve seats per year that they elect. 

A study I did just three years ago found that Belmont's Town Meeting did not reflect the demographics of Belmont. In particular, younger families with kids, non-homeowners, and folks who have recently moved into Belmont (whether they are renters or owners) are under-represented in Town Meeting. You can get that study here. The study is free, of course. 

Here are the deadlines that Ellen noted in her e-mail this week: 

  • Nomination papers for Town Meeting Members and Town-wide offices will be available in the Town Clerk’s Office on Dec. 12. Nomination papers are due to the Town Clerk on behalf of the Board of Registrars by 5 p.m., Feb. 12, 2013. Nomination papers for Town Meeting must contain at least 25 signatures of precinct voters to have the name on the ballot; to make sure you have "enough," you should get a few more than 25 on your nomination papers.

The Annual Town Meeting will begin April 29, 2013 at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School auditorium. For planning purposes;

  • Non-Financial Articles: at Belmont High School, April 29, May 1, 6 and 8 
  • Financial Articles: at Chenery Middle School, June 3 and 5 
  • All sessions begin at 7 p.m.

I would encourage everyone, irrespective of age, income, political affiliation, parental status, political ideology, or otherwise (I'm trying to cover it all there!) not only to consider running for Town Meeting, but also to talk to friends and neighbors about running for Town Meeting.  

Ellen, and her staff, have done a wonderful job in making Town Meeting nomination papers available early in the process this year, well before the holidays. This year, there really is ample time to talk-up the benefits of participation in Town Meeting and to generate interest and activity in Town Meeting elections.

Roger Colton

Town Meeting Member

Precinct 6


joe white December 13, 2012 at 03:58 PM
The writer eludes to there not being proper representation unless YOU are there, I disagree. Everyone should be represented thru their rep., find out who they are and ask for them to speak for you.
Trish Lohmar December 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Well said, Roger!! I agree - no one has a claim on their TM seat and the more people we can get to run, the better. You did a great job at listing pertinent information - there are also videos from past LWV forums on "Running for Town Meeting and Office" on the Belmont Media Center website: http://www.belmontmedia.org/watch/lwv-running-town-meeting-and-office-part-1 I, too, encourage everyone to consider running for Town Meeting - I'm going to get my own nomination papers tomorrow!
roger colton December 13, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I imagine that whole classes might be taught on on whether one must be a MEMBER of a demographic group in order to REPRESENT that group. I think, however, it is a matter of life perspective. If having different life perspectives did not matter, we would not CARE that Congress has few women or people of color, or that 2/3rds of the US Senate are millionaires. But we DO care. If someone knows about TM, and knows how to become a participant, and yet affirmatively chooses NOT to do so, fine. But, if someone because they are young, or new to Town, or for whatever other reason, does NOT know about the unique citizen role in budget setting, or in deciding issues large and small, from paving tennis courts to banning smoking at kids' soccer games to drinking wine at Belmont restaurants, it seems that we have an obligation as a community to take very active steps to identify those folks, to educate them about TM, and to actively seek their perspectives through encouraging participation in the TM process.
joe white December 14, 2012 at 01:56 PM
The whole premiss or representation is, in our government, to speak for those who don't have time or ability, for what ever reason, to represent themselves. If it is done the way it was set to do it would work better than the special interest approach, which is why we in Belmont have elected members as opposed to open members. If the process was done as best it could be, with true representation, the lesson to teach is the process not the quest for position. The place for civics lesson is in the home first then honing in the classroom and healthy debate between the two. Without a reasonable understanding of the process or the issues, just running for election may not be healthy for and may be more hurtful to the process.(The Town) Setting an information forum on a regular schedule for potential and present members of Town meeting would be a good start to educating all on the issues. Open debate before Town Meeting would and has made the process smoother and informative. We could debate this at length and hope to. Thanks.


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