Vol. III No. 9 5/1/2022
Photo: Lionel Delevingne
Editorial: Democracy at Work
From before the Revolutionary War until today, self-government is a treasure Stockbridge enjoys. At Town Meeting, the people come together to discuss and debate the issues. We vote for the laws that will govern us. We vote for the expenditures we will be asked to pay.
In the 1700s, as the villages of Berkshire were being founded, the first Town Meetings were called. Even before a Select Board was voted in at the first Town Meeting, the proprietors instructed the constable to inform all citizens of the date, time, and place of Town Meeting.
The proprietors were King George's land grantees. The constable was the Police Chief, and the citizens were males of a certain age who were landowners or the possessors of sufficient money to qualify for the right to vote. No, not all white — in Stockbridge Mahicans voted and were voted into office.
The ordering of a Town Meeting was by warrant article. Nothing was discussed unless on the warrant. Each article was presented by the proposer "To see if the town will vote to require..."
Among the first articles on the first warrants was "to chuse [choose] a tax assessor."
Having satisfied how they would raise money, subsequent articles addressed how to spend it.
Earliest articles were "to raise an amount of money for the making of roads and bridges" (15 pounds) and "for an additional constable" (a few shillings).
The Warrant of 2022 will not be much different in content. We will discuss roads and bridges and hiring an additional "constable". The amounts of money attached to the articles will be quite different.
Come join us in this age-old, democratic tradition in which the citizens direct the activities of the government.
Once at a Town Meeting, someone rose and said he wanted to know how the selectmen advised the people to vote. "After all we elected them; they should tell us what to do."
Well that's just wrong. The last thing a selectman should do is tell the people how to vote. In fact, an elected official's job is not to tell the people what to do but to listen to what the people want done. At Town Meeting it is the will of the people that decides, aren't we lucky?
Town Meeting is fun, unique, small-town America. May 16, 6:30 pm -see you there.
Carole Owens, Managing Editor
Photo: Jay Rhind