Letter to the Editor: Town Meeting Citizen's Petitions
A letter to the editor from Ed Coburn.
To the Editor:
This year at Town Meeting Weston will hear discussion of 9 citizen's petitions. These are articles that are on the warrant not because of a town government board or committee but because of an individual resident. What could be better than that — it seems like direct democracy in action. In order to get an article on the warrant at town meeting, by state law, a resident needs to get just 10 signatures of other residents. That's it. These petitions do not go through the open government process with meetings and hearings. So, these citizen's petitions can be easily employed by an individual or small group to serve special interests.
Democracy means there's an open, fair process and majority support the outcome, not that you're going to get your way every time. It's great to have unanimous support but that often doesn't happen. Of the 9 citizen's petition warrant articles several are sponsored by individuals or small groups wanting to revisit previous decisions already made by the town.
Citizen's petitions, like ballot initiatives at the state level, are an important part of the democratic process. But they are easily used by individuals, corporations, or other special interest groups to manipulate the process to serve their purposes under the cloak of populist democracy.
At Town Meeting, I encourage my fellow residents to maintain a bit of healthy skepticism as we listen to the case made for and against these citizen petition warrant articles. I would also like to remind you that the League of Women Voters will hold a public forum on the warrant articles on Saturday, April 28, at 11 a.m. in the Community Room at the Public Library.