Selectmen & Residents Are Ready To “Fix” Annual Town Meeting, Possibly Move It From Saturday To 2-3 Weeknights

WILMINGTON, MA — During the “Public Comments” portions of this week’s Selectmen’s meeting, former Selectwoman Suzanne Sullivan asked the board to consider making reforms to the Wilmington’s Annual Town Meeting.

“There’s some residents in town that are concerned about the way Town Meeting operates. It’s not conducive to people’s lifestyles today. It’s held on a Saturday. The last Town Meeting was over 10 hours. It was brutal. Some of us want to see some changes,” Sullivan told the Selectmen. “I’m proposing that the board take the reigns on this issue and create a committee to review the way town meeting operates today, how other towns do it, and if we should make some changes.”

“It’s not fair to expect a senior citizen to sit in the audience for 10 hours. I don’t think it’s fair to expect anybody to sit that long,” added Sullivan. “It’s not fair for people. There needs to be discussion about this. After the last Town Meeting, something has to change. This isn’t right.”

Sullivan lamented the fact that there’s often just 50 or 100 people making major decisions for the entire town. She also panned the random draw feature, noting residents find it frustrating not being able to plan when a particular article is going to come up.

Sullivan pointed out that most area towns seem to hold their Town Meetings on weeknights.

“A group of residents have already have some proposed changes in a draft form after researching how other communities run their meetings,” said Sullivan. “I’m proposing tonight for the Selectmen to get on board or take the lead, but we want to give you the opportunity to do that instead of going to a Special Town Meeting or Annual Town Meeting with petitioned requests for changes.”

Selectmen React

Selectman Mike McCoy noted that he’s currently the board’s representative to the Bylaw Review Committee and the Committee is already discussing this very issue.

“During one of our meetings, I made a motion – with unanimous support – that we explore the possibly of changing the date of Town Meeting from a Saturday in May to a Saturday in March when there’s no sports or Holy Communions,” responded McCoy. “I’m now hoping we go one step further and go with a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday night format, with a 7pm start and 10pm cut off time, similar to Tewksbury’s. I would totally agree with that.”

“We talk about getting people involved. We talk about increasing participation among the residents. Well, we need to make everything easy for the residents. They foot the bill in this town. A lot of folks are busy on a Saturday in May,” added McCoy.

“I happen to agree with Mr. McCoy. The Town Meeting should be held on weeknights. That’s how other towns do it. That’s something we should really look at,” said Selectman Ed Loud. “I’d like to move this forward and not wait for the Bylaw Review Committee, which started at least a year-in-a-half ago. I’d like to invite Suzanne and her group in to give us ideas and maybe we consider a Selectmen-backed proposal.”

Selectmen Chair Kevin Caira expressed a desire to hear the recommendations of the Bylaw Review Committee, but also agreed that the board needs to explore changes to Town Meeting.

“We’ll see if we can get something moving on this,” said Caira.

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4 thoughts

  1. Changing it will not help at all. The only thing it will do is you will lose all your Seniors because so many do not drive at night or do not stay up that late. You will still get the same people at the meetings.

    1. There are not very many seniors that come out anyway. It is very sad in a town with 17,000 registered voters that between 150 – 250 voters come to the annual Town Meeting. I think articles should be taken up randomly with a limit of 2 1/2 hours per meeting and the meetings held on consecutive Saturday evenings with a start time of 7 p.m. People who are raising children and running to sporting events and other activities should be able to attend meetings without interference. How difficult are families having it when self serving financially interested employees are voting for each others pay raises and negatively impacting the financial stability of many family’s. These families better pray that college becomes free because helping their kids with college may only be a pipe dream after enduring the fraudulent over budgeting and over taxation.

  2. I agree with Joe. If we are amending bylaws, can we explore an option to include some votes on a ballot rather than at a meeting or special meeting?

  3. Every town around us has annual town meeting during the week. North Reading, Reading, Burlington, Billerica, Andover, Tewksbury. And I have not done much research beyond that. There is mixed results in attendance because some have representative town meeting, so that can be a little different I think North Reading and Tewks. are the only towns in the area that have open town meeting like Wilmington. There is no silver bullet as far as attendance. Some towns do better than others. So far Wilmington only has one gage to judge by, will it make it better attended? I have no idea, but is it worth the try? Why not, can it get worse? And if it will be the same people still, can we do better to accommodate those people? But, that being said, 8 or 10 hours is totally unreasonable to expect people to endure, especially when it is “luck of the draw”. Night meetings give the town the opportunity to split the budget from from other articles like petitioned articles and a set warrant that takes up articles numerically giving people the opportunity to come out for what they want instead of the cell phone mentality that is used to get articles passed or voted down. Luck of the draw and all day Saturday meetings maybe made sense when there was 6,000 people and small budgets, but it does not work today. The town had something like over 40 articles, there were 54!!!! all together. That is just plain crazy.

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