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What Would Get You To Participate in Local Government More?

There's usually low turnout at open town meetings or few candidates for representative ones.

Would you give up a Saturday in March to vote on your town's budget? How about a few nights a week for a month? 

Open town meetings statewide typically draw a small percentage of the community's registered voters—a few hundred people at most. And many of them leave before the meeting ends.

Representative town meetings usually have few who run for open slots.

How can participation be improved? Tell us in the comments.

Dominic Capriole February 24, 2013 at 06:03 PM
And that population changes as the warrant articles change. This lack of overview is what makes the Westborough town meeting a very real problem. At least in a representative town meeting people would attend from start to finish and ,I hope, vote in a balanced way in order to achieve a better outcome.
GM February 24, 2013 at 08:02 PM
You shouldn't be looking to get paid for the privilege of representing yourself in how your town runs. Where do you think the money to pay you will come from -- you, through the taxes you pay!
GM February 24, 2013 at 08:10 PM
For those who see Town Meeting as only involving the participation of a limited number of town residents, you might want to look at this in a different way if you are willing to consider participating. If only 10% of voting taxpayers choose to attend their annual town meeting, then if you are one of them, you are essentially being given 10 votes, rather than just one, in determining how your town will run. You get more than your share of influence over the direction your town takes, and if people who don't attend town meeting don't like the results that come out of town meeting, they have the option to attend the next meeting to make their voice heard. Having said that, there are some issues facing towns that really do require some homework before town meeting if you want to be able to vote intelligently at the meeting. After several years of attending my town's annual town meeting and realizing that I wasn't smart enough on some issues to be sure what the right way to vote was, I joined my town's Warrant Committee (similar to a Finance Comittee). That was the forum I needed to participate in to have the time and access to detailed information that I was looking for. You don't need to actually be a member of a Warrant Committee or Finance Committee to take advantage of this. These meetings are open to the public and it's usually pretty easy to find out which issues will be discussed on which nights.
Andy Koenigsberg February 24, 2013 at 09:18 PM
Dominic - I guess my point I was trying to make is that no system is perfect but regardless, at some point or another, residents have to make informed decisions either directly for the issues or for the people who would decide them. GM - on a really good night at TM in Westborough a voter gets almost 50 votes relative to the population, and that is pretty sad. Other times, it's more like 100 or 200. Getting people to participate in town government is a hard nut to crack. What I find gratifying is that I am now seeing people who used to complain loudly about how things work now sitting on Fin Com or running for local office. Even if I don't agree with their politics, I think that's great.
GM February 26, 2013 at 01:52 AM
I'm with you on your comments, Andy. Having spent a few years involved with our town's government, I have come away with a strong belief that local government is the best place to ensure that government in general is effective and efficient. The local community is where people understand the true needs of the residents, and where people are in the best position to judge the urgency of the needs against the cost of providing for those needs (i.e., taxing the general population). For those who like to complain about the wastefulness of federal and state government, the solution lies within your grasp -- but you have to be willing to step forward and engage. Otherwise, you don't have much basis to complain about the performance of those people you voluntarily handed your personal authority over to. In the meantime, I'm happy to have people let me have an excess influence over the decisions that get made!

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