Town Meeting: Reflections

The hottest item at last night’s Town Meeting was the election of a new School Board Director. 91 citizen-voters turned out. The vote count was relatively close, much like last fall’s rescission vote, except it went the other way this time. Marie Fay won with 49 votes to Karen Nelson’s 42.

I supported Karen, had campaigned for her,  and was very sorry to see her lose, especially by so few votes. With her fierce and absolutely unswerving commitment to keeping our school open, she would have been a tremendous asset to our School Board. However, I give Mrs. Fay, the winner, the benefit of the doubt and believe we should all give her a chance, in good faith. I hope she sticks to the statement she made last night–when asked–that she has no agenda to close our school.

The school budget passed with relatively little discussion. This year, in a long overdue move, the School Board is applying $59,000 out of unencumbered funds (surplus) as revenue in order to reduce education property taxes.

We then took up Article #6, which proposed that we conduct the election of School Board Directors and Moderator by Australian ballot. The Town side has been using Australian ballot for many years already. The general consensus in the hall last night was in favor of moving to Australian ballot, in the interest of having a more organized election process and a better informed electorate. A few people admitted to a certain nostalgic regret at the idea of shifting this over to Australian ballot. Actually, I am sympathetic to the nostalgia factor. But I think the need for a more organized and serious approach to electing School Board officers outweighs the nostalgia. The Article passed on a voice vote.

The Town portion of the meeting flew by rapidly. There was virtually no discussion on any of the warned  appropriations. Article #12 proposed making Road Commissioner an appointed rather than elected position. Some people felt strongly that going the appointed route would afford more options for professional roads management. Others felt that keeping it as an elected position was important for local control. In the end, the Article was defeated and the position will remain an elected one.

The Town budget passed with exactly zero discussion or questions. (This always surprises me). $300, 933.00

At the conclusion of the meeting, a woman who lives in Dalton but owns some property in our town, stood up to speak. (We later realized she was not a resident or registered voter–so technically she should not have been allowed to speak without formal unanimous consent).

This woman told the assembly that she didn’t like all the recent publicity generated by our recent town and school controversies. She said she thought that people in town should just deal with each other face to face, that we should not let things get into the news, and that we should go back to some time in the 1700s when “everyone got along.”  (As one of my neighbors commented to me this morning in reference to the woman’s speech last night, “they use to shoot each other in the 1700’s, in contrast to now.)

She was clearly very uneasy with the idea of any publicity about issues in our town–so uneasy that I actually felt badly for her.

But I don’t agree with her.

Does she object to Christina McGrath’s letter to the editor in last week’s Coos County Democrat, in which Mrs. McGrath thoughtfully criticized the Guildhall School Board for it’s freeze on the school checking account? Was she referring to articles written by reporters (which no one can control, that’s for sure)? Was she objecting to Lynn Berry’s recent letter to the editor about the importance of voting? Was she talking about one of my blog posts? Who knows.

This woman said she felt embarrassed by people’s public expression of opinion. In contrast, I feel proud. I feel proud when people care enough about something to write a letter to the editor, or speak out loud at town meeting. Guess what? It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s brave.

This is what democracy is about. We express opinions. We write letters. We make our voices heard. We should never feel embarrassed by that, only proud.

And that’s what Town Meeting is all about.

6 responses to “Town Meeting: Reflections”

  1. I can not believe, or maybe I can, that you are already judging Marie Fay as a school board member! To say give her the benefit of the doubt or that you hope she stands by her statement on not closing the school is unbelievable!
    I supported Marie Fay with no questions to her intentions, she doesn’t have a hidden agenda, is knowledgable in education as well as budgets, and she cares about our town and our school…she isn’t out there sending hate mail to people, calling reporters, sending letters to the papers or plastering peoples names on the internet, bashing other citizens who live in the same town..the one you claim to care so much about? Its statements such as that that divide people, it shows that you already have an axe to grind along with a chip on your that really how we are going to start with a new board before they have even had their first meeting? How truly sad ! My wish is that people will finely see that its ok to have your own opinion, agree to disagree and move on..enough of the fighting, name calling and trashing of others. People need to make sure that they have all the facts before passing judgement on others.

    • Hi Melissa,
      Many of us had our doubts about Marie Fay (we knew she was likely to be a candidate), and that’s part of why we voted for Karen Nelson. I assume you had your doubts about Karen Nelson and that’s part of why you voted for Marie Fay. I believe, however, that whomever wins the election deserves the benefit of those previous doubts and also deserves good faith support from the people who voted the other way. I couldn’t have been more clear about that in my post, and I stand by it. I’m glad to hear that you believe she will be beneficial to our School Board. I do not judge her and will work with her going forward, as I believe most of us will who supported Karen.

      There has been hate mail? I am unaware of this and am surprised to hear it. I believe in people expressing their opinions, convictions and concerns in a civilized way. I do not approve of hate mail and would take a public stand against it if I knew it was happening.

      Are you really against sending letters to the editor, Melissa? Expressing our opinions publicly, particularly about our elected officials, is a cornerstone of our democracy (I feel.) I know sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but I just don’t think writing a letter to the editor, as several citizens have done recently, qualifies as “bashing” people. Everything I have seen written by citizens about this issue has been respectful and civil. In contrast to what you say, I have seen no name-calling or trashing of others whatsoever. (I do agree, however, that some of the newspaper articles written by reporters have utterly failed to get the facts straight. That often happens with the press. Not sure what we can do about it, other than do our best to correct the record).

      Thanks for writing!

  2. Hi,

    No, I didn’t have doubts on Karen at all, I feel she would have been an asset to the board as well, I like the experience that Marie brings to the board. I think the 3 school board members we have are going to do a good job for the school. All of the present board members have excellent educational backgrounds, and I feel they all have alot to offer. We need to give them a chance without being negative is all.
    I don’t like letters to the editors in general, I know its a way to be heard but it can also be misleading to some and unfair to others. People take things the wrong way at times and than it snowballs out of control. Wasn’t saying the recent letters have been bashing people, in the past some have, but the comment was more of a statement of how some letters go, not necessarily from our town even. It was a wide range comment that bashing, trashing, name calling etc doesn’t need to be brought into things, not that anyone is using those tactics now. Guess I should have made that statement as well or worded it differently. The bottom line is, and I think everyone could agree, is Guildhall is a great town, we have a great school that offers alot of potential and as citizens, parents and board members we need to work together to get things done.


    • Hey,
      Guildhall IS a great town and we do have a great school. I couldn’t agree more.
      I agree that bashing and trashing isn’t good, but again, I haven’t seen any of it. Actually, one of the things I’ve been really impressed by since this controversy erupted last August is how respectful and civil everyone has been–especially given how strongly they feel that something unfair and unjust happened on our School Board last fall. In spite of those strong feelings, people have behaved themselves and used civilized means to express their strong feelings. LW

  3. I, too agree with Laura regarding giving Marie the benefit of the doubt. I had high hopes for Mrs. Martin and look where that has gotten us. Please do not construe that as name bashing, just a fact. No one would have believed that the board would have gotten so out of control with their demands and threats to freeze the checkbook. As someone who does not know Ms. Fey, I don’t see it as unreasonable to take a wait and see approach.

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