Category Archives: Local Government
As I hope everyone is aware, the School Department is working on a plan for the future of our school buildings. They have several options to consider but they are all going to cost a considerable amount of money. No matter which option we pursue, any spending on the school buildings will depend on one or more votes by Town Meeting.
Right now, Town Meeting is made up of group of elected representatives that are not representative of the residents in their precincts. For example, in 2010 the median age of Town Meeting was 55. Only 20% of Town Meeting was under the age of 45. Parents of school-age children are under-represented.
As the School Department asks for money to fund our new schools, Town Meeting can make our break our future. Families of school age children are underrepresented in Town Meeting. And while many grandparents and others who care about our children serve in Town Meeting, I’m concerned that without more parents joining Town Meeting, we may not be able to get the votes needed for the school plan.
Town Meeting is relatively simple:
- Spring Town Meeting meets for 6 or 7 nights starting on the first Tuesday in May and every other Thursday and Tuesday thereafter until all of the business is concluded.
- Fall Town Meeting meets for 4 or 5 nights starting on the first Tuesday in October and every other Thursday and Tuesday thereafter until all of the business is concluded.
- At each session, you read the Warrant (the document that details all of the business to be discussed and voted on), you listen to a presentation on each article, and then you vote.
- The sessions begin at 7:30 PM and usually end around 10:00 PM.
- It’s easy to run for a spot. Nomination papers are available from the Town Clerk’s office on the first business day of the New Year which is Wednesday, January 2, 2013. You need to collect ten signatures from registered voters in your precinct (you can sign your own papers and your husband can sign yours, too) and then turn your papers in before the deadline, usually the 2nd of 3rd week of February.
- The election is held on the first Saturday in April. If elected, you’d be sworn in on the first night of Spring Town Meeting.
With our next Town election taking place in April 2013, there’s a great opportunity for parents to participate. Serving as a Town Meeting Representative only takes a few nights a year and no prior experience is needed. Some of the meetings are tedious. Some are boring. But when the critical votes hit the floor, there’s no more important place to be.
Can you really afford to let someone else decide the future of your children’s education?
I’m reaching out to School PTO’s and any other groups who are interested in listening to encourage participation in Town Meeting. If you have 10-15 minutes for me to present at your November, December, or January meeting, please let me know and I’ll be there!
Thanks, and please feel free to contact me with questions micmoor at hotmail.com or 978-362-2187.
UPDATE: Here is my current schedule:
- 11/14 Vining Elementary School, 7PM
- 12/4 Marshall Middle School, 7PM
- 1/9 Dutile Elementary School, 7PM
- 1/10 Hajjar Elementary School, 7PM
In today’s Lowell Sun, Evan Lips wrote an interesting piece on the story around me getting the horns in my recent attempt to get reappointed to the Billerica Finance Committee.
You can find the story here. I encourage everyone to read it.
As I said in my failed campaign for Town Moderator, decisions made at the local level of government have more to do with your daily life than anything that happens on Beacon Hill or in Washington, D.C.
Local decisions affect the water you drink, the roads you drive on, and the schools you send your children to and the quality of the education they receive.
I also commented during the campaign that the Moderator’s ability to appoint people to key Town boards and committees, especially the Finance Committee, was an often overlooked part of the role that people should consider as they make their decision in the election.
And this week’s development is exactly why… while some might approach the Moderator position with the goal of establishing a well-intentioned and diverse committee of experienced Town Meeting members to provide advice to Town Meeting, that’s not what happened this week.
Clearly there’s more to the story, based on what I’m reading in the Sun article. I know I’m left with more questions…
If I won, I’d be the Town Moderator for three years. I would be able to appoint my replacement to the Finance Committee.
If I lost, I was at-risk of not being re-appointed to the Finance Committee because my former opponent is the appointing authority for the Finance Committee.
And, in case you aren’t aware, I lost.
I reapplied to the Finance Committee on April 26, 2012, less than two weeks after the election. I reapplied because I enjoy the work and I think I add value to the process. I’ve learned a lot about municipal finance in the last four years on the committee. I spent the last year as the Vice Chairman and previously served as the Secretary. I’d like to think I am a strong (and somewhat humble) contributor to the Committee.. not God’s gift to the Committee, in any way, but still doing good work and providing helpful advice to Town Meeting.
Well, it seems my services are no longer needed, based on the letter I received from the Town Moderator today. It looks like I’ll have about thirty or so more nights at home this year… at least my wife and kids will be happy to have me home.
You know what they say, “You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”
Best of luck to the new Finance Committee members and to my former colleagues.
I’ve spoken with many people in the last few weeks who, because of the recent Town Election, have said they wish they knew what was going on in town. It’s easier to keep up with what’s happening in Billerica than most people realize.
Here are four things I do to stay connected to what’s happening:
Setup a Google Alert for Billerica
Go to http://www.google.com/alerts, type Billerica for your Search Query, select Everything so you get News, Blog posts, and other mentions across the web delivered to your inbox. You’ll find you get local news from the Lowell Sun, Billerica Minuteman, Billerica Townie News, etc., business news for Billerica, and the local bloggers.
Subscribe to the Billerica Minuteman
Even though you’ll get most of the news from the Google Alert, I recommend subscribing to the print edition of the Billerica Minuteman which you can do at http://buy.mypapertoday.com/index.html.
You can also view the digital edition at http://www.wickedlocal.com/billerica but not every article is posted to the web, hence my recommendation to subscribe to the print edition.
BATV, our local cable access channels, broadcast local government meetings like the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, Finance Committee, and Town Meeting as well as other community events. You can tune in to most meetings live and also watch recorded meetings on TV as well as on the web.
Comcast: Public Channel 8 – Educational Channel 99 – Government Channel 22
Verizon: Public Channel 31 – Educational Channel 24 – Government Channel 26
Check out http://batvinc.org/ for the program schedule and video on demand.
Become a Town Meeting Member
The Google Alert is informative and free. The Minuteman subscription will give you a well-rounded view of what’s happening in town and will only cost you a couple of bucks. And BATV will show you most of the key meetings you’d want to see. For all three, you don’t need to leave your house. All you need to do is read and watch.
But for my fourth recommendation, you’ll need to leave the house and come to Town Hall for a few nights in May and October to participate in Town Meeting. You must either be elected to Town Meeting in the April Town Election or be voted in by caucus, if there is a seat available in your precinct, in order to serve.
At this time, I think only three of our eleven precincts are full. And with Town Meeting starting this Tuesday, there are around 40 open seats across the various precincts. In precinct 4, the precinct I represent, we have 9 openings so come on down to Town Hall on May 1st at 7:15 pm, if you want to be caucused in… and if you don’t know what precinct you reside in, you can use this page on the Secretary of State’s website or call the Town Clerk’s office to find out at (978) 671-0924.
By participating in Town Meeting, you’ll have the Town Manager, the Superintendent of Schools, and all of the Town department heads brief you and the rest of Town Meeting on the key issues facing the Town. And even better, you’ll be able to vote on what action we, as a community, take on those issues.
So while the first three recommendations are passive, the fourth is active, but still manageable since Town Meeting only meets twice a year for a few nights in each session. And while we’re all busy, what price or amount of time can you put ahead of the future of your children? For me, the time I spend at Town Hall is an investment I’m making in the future of my three children.
So, please, come on out! I hope we see more new faces fill the open seats at Town Meeting, especially the families like mine that have a lot at stake with some big, make or break, decisions coming up in the next few years like the future of Billerica Memorial High School.
If you have questions about getting involved, please post a comment below or give me a call. I’m in the book.
And if you have other suggestions for how to keep current on events in town, please drop those in the comments, too!
Please share this post with your Billerica Facebook friends!