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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Monkton Chronicles.Town Meeting 2012

Monkton, Vermont Town Meeting

Monkton Chronicles

March 6, 2012
by mary e. gerdt
all rights reserved 2012

My first rough draft was eaten by Google. Perhaps a conspiracy theorist would call it the next generation of social engineering. A realist would blame my inability to press “save” early & often enough and using the wrong version of something. I took it as a sign to, well, start over.

I wanted to start with a photo looking out at Monkton on Town Meeting Day 2012.
town meeting day monkton,vt 2012

For my first 25 years in Vermont, I had to work on town meeting day,

Or take a vacation day. In Monkton town meeting is on a March voting Tuesday during the day.

My initial plan was not to go to town meeting. I felt a release of anxiety with that plan.

A day for myself. We had voted absentee. At the only few town meetings I have been to,

I did not like how people voted out loud, others were looking at you or them, judging, frowning, questioning, holding to the Rules.

To Fred, a lifelong Vermonter, it was a piece of cake. Natural. He knew how to glide with the questions.

How different we can feel with experience, being an expert, or going through the cognitive motions when they are familiar. What is next on the voting?

Is everybody understanding the 200 pages of town and school budget spreadsheets?

Hurry, the Jell-O salad is melting.

How odd that being an Illinoisan, that I find this town management by the citizens to be

Foreign, haphazard, and dominated by the most vocal. The little people mute in the back.

This morning Fred talked me into going.

I made a few notes in the town report and made some calculations, like the hourly wages of the tax collector and any big concerns, like my dreams of delinquent property tax law reform. I Ink it out, my visualization technique, the first step towards realization. Come on, it is for the children who lined the crowded school auditorium/gym.
The children should not bear costs like late tax penalties and fear of zero tolerance tax sales on top of the high taxes.
If I ever am successful at reform, they might thank me when they or their parents are having hard times.

It was nice to see so many people out to vote. The room was packed.. A few people spoke up.
The agenda moved along.

Still I could not consistently say out loud “yeah” or “nay”, and kept thinking, well that passed,

Or that is OK to pass. Only when I reached a vote I felt strongly about could I muster a “nay,” one of the very few I heard considering the size of the room. I did not hear enough voices for the crowd.
What was it?

I did manage to ask several questions and tripped over Captain Robert’s Rules when I used the word change instead of amendment and was told no you can’t again.

The room got a civic lesson and I got a lesson in how perhaps we need a new system

Of communication besides Robert’s Rules.

It was a wow I am still a flatlander moment and one I will not forget. Always learned better that way anyway.

After the meeting, more moments perhaps better left on the gym floor with the cake crumbs.

I do want to thank the moderator for keeping us all on track and encouraging attendance and participation.

It really was the

Knowing and courage to speak up that I saw as an invisible wall

Between awestruck citizen statesmen, and the more experienced citizen activists

And those oblivious to tax burdens.

Fred looked down at one of the kids and said, “Are you getting all this?” and the kid nodded and smiled.

I was encouraged. The next generation.

(Did I make faces their teacher could not see when she promoted one of her agenda items,

“a teachable moment?”)

It was a relief to get back home to the cats and fresh air and sunny cold March day.

I tried to write a post once for over an hour and it seemed nothing like this one. Then it died.

That is OK. I made it through town meeting and my foreign-er anxiety and my flub at Robert’s Rules and my rant after class.

Can we ever hope to reform this system of yeah and nay and….

did you hear the silent ones? Overwhelmed, perhaps cannot understand

The complex systems or just too tired or beat to fight?

So here is my post of town meeting 2012.

The town hall vote is still pending

But most other things got approved,

The civics class has a paper due,

We exercised a right many people do not have,

6:37 pm, And I am ready to move on with my day off.
taking tomorrow off the blog to let this diffuse into the blogsphere...
mary gerdt, citizen legislator for a day 3.6.12

For anyone looking to improve your meetings,
some suggestions and facts
from Ohio State U.

Very interesting was the fears that kept people from speaking up.
There are a number of barriers to overcome so you can formulate what to say
while people are looking at you.

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