To Tewksbury Voters:
During my term as Moderator, I have created informational matrices describing the articles at upcoming Town Meetings. Since the August 20 meeting has only one article, I'm not sure it's necessary. The article is sponsored by the Board of Selectmen and requires a 2/3 vote to pass per Mass. General Laws, Chapter 40A, Section 5.
I want to focus this note on Town Meeting itself. This is the type of issue that can create a civil war in a community and based on what I’ve read it seems the war has begun. My concern is preventing the insults I’ve been reading from leaking onto Town Meeting floor. This has become a highly emotional issue in a very short time, and emotions will inevitably run even higher over the last few days. However, I must insist that my fellow residents get the attacks and insults out of their system before Tuesday and keep them out of our Town Meeting. Tewksbury voters will have a great debate on August 20. It will be passionate and maybe a little heated, but above all it will be respectful, and dignified, and adult. My job is to ensure this. If you’re planning to come and shout people down while they’re speaking, I won't allow it. If residents of other communities plan to “cross the border” and attempt to influence Tewksbury’s voters, they must change their plans. They will be guests at our meeting, and I expect guests to observe in silence, and to speak only if a Tewksbury voter requests it and if a majority of our voters support that request. This is an important issue for Tewksbury, and our voters are going to talk about its pros and cons and nothing else. After the debate, we’ll vote, I’ll announce the totals, and we’ll move on and make the best of whatever situation results for both our town and our families.
Here are some guidelines for the debate:
· There is a five-minute limit for all speakers, including town officials. A request for additional time requires approval by the voters.
· Don’t applaud or boo after someone speaks. I know it sounds weird to be told not to applaud someone you support, but I don’t want the meeting to become a contest to see which side can applaud loudest and longest after every speaker they support. It wastes time and it moves the meeting in the wrong direction. Booing wastes time, too, and is also childish and disrespectful.
· If you think an official or a board is doing a great job or a lousy job, or if you think another voter is a genius or a fool, tell them before or after the meeting, not during the debate. If you want to dispute, challenge, or correct a point made by other speakers, do so by referencing only the point in dispute, not the speakers themselves. If I let someone praise or attack someone else personally, I have to let that person respond and let those who think otherwise have their say, and our great debate turns into a carousel of different people being offended and wanting to respond. We go off track and we forget why we’re there. We’re there to talk about this project, nothing else. Make your points without talking about other voters and officials.
· If you’re making a point of order, make sure it’s a real point of order having to do with procedural aspects of the meeting, not just an excuse for you to interrupt the speaker because you either disagree with what he or she is saying or because you want to make a debate point without having to wait in line. If I rule against your point of order, sit down and don’t argue with me about it, because the decision is mine to make and I will not change my mind.
If everyone follows these guidelines, we’ll have a good meeting. If not, it could get rough and some folks might not get to stay until the vote occurs.
A final thought. At the end of the night, one side will leave happy to have won, the other will leave unhappy to have lost. If you win, act like you’ve won something before and be gracious. If you lose, hold your head high – be 2013 Bruins fans, not 2011 Canucks fans. No matter what happens on August 20, our community has a lot of issues to face, and we need to work together to face them.
I look forward to the meeting. Let’s work together to make it show Tewksbury in a good light.
With thanks and best regards,