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Moderator candidate Magadini explains open meeting requirements

The Open Town Meeting does not exist for the Town government, but rather for the governed, the people, the citizens, the registered voters of the their town, to act on all matters and subjects presented, to approve, to reject, or to amend in accord with established rules of parliamentary procedure, so that the will of the people present and voting may be accomplished.

To the Editor:

The purpose of the Open Town Meeting is give voters of the town an opportunity to act on matters that must rightfully come to be presented, to the voters, to be acted upon by the voters, at the Open Town Meeting. These matters and issues, that are presented at an Open Town Meeting can be placed on the agenda, also know as the warrant, by either the government officials of the Town, or by a petition with a sufficient number of valid and legible signatures of registered voters.

The Open Town Meeting does not exist for the Town government, but rather for the governed, the people, the citizens, the registered voters of the their town, to act on all matters and subjects presented, to approve, to reject, or to amend in accord with established rules of parliamentary procedure, so that the will of the people present and voting may be accomplished.

The two kinds of Open Town Meeting are: the Annual Open Town Meeting and the Special Open Town Meeting. All voters registered in the town are eligible to attend, participate and vote on matters and issues presented at an Open Town Meeting. The Annual Open Town Meeting is held every year in accord with local rules. Special Open Town Meetings may be called at anytime by a petition of 200 valid and legible signatures of registered voters. It is important for citizens to use the rights that they have.

In order to effectively participate in an Open Town Meeting a basic understanding of parliamentary procedure is needed. The parliamentary procedure most people have at least heard about is Robert’s Rules of Order. There are also newer versions called Robert’s Rules Revised. A familiarity with these rules will be helpful in understanding what is happening at an Open Town Meeting. The Town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, however, uses “Town Meeting Time: Handbook of the Massachusetts Moderators Association,” which is not readily available to the public, but can be found in some local libraries, including the Great Barrington libraries.

The duty of the Moderator is to see that the rules by which the Open Town Meeting is run are followed. Anybody who does not follow the rules can be ruled as being out of order by the Moderator. If any voter thinks these rules are not being followed, that voter can stand up at anytime during the meeting to call it to the attention of the Moderator by saying: Point of Order!!

A more polite way to call attention to incorrect procedure or a violation of the rules of order is to stand up and say: Mr.Moderator I wish to make a point of order. What happens next depends upon the rules being used. All rules about points of order require the recognition of the point of order, meaning in all cases that a point of order has been made. Robert’s Rules of Order say that when a point of order is made progress of the meeting is halted until the issue of the point of order is ruled on by the Moderator. In contrast to this method of immediate attention “Town Meeting Time: Handbook of the Massachusetts Moderators Association” allows a speaker to continue speaking after a point of order has been made to complete his thoughts with permission of the Moderator. There is, however, no established time limit in the rules.

The rule of immediately stopping the meeting as required by Robert’s Rules of Order is the better rule. This can also be done under Town Meeting Time, but is not required, and the speaker is commonly allowed to continue…  The exact amount of continuation is determined by the Moderator. This obviously has great potential for abuse. While it may make sense to let a speaker finish his sentence, the stopping of the meeting in its marathon tracks to deal with a point of order does little or no harm to the rights of the speaker, and greatly preserves the rights of the entire Open Town Meeting.

If I am elected to be the Moderator for the Annual Town Meeting of 2016, and all Special Open Town Meetings called by citizen petition, or the Board of Selectmen that are to be held after the Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Town Election, for Moderator and other Town Offices, I will give immediate attention to all points of order, when there is a point of order raised at the Open Town Meeting.

Beyond the duties of presiding at the Open Town Meetings, I would like to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Encourage all citizens to participate.
  2. Educate citizens about rules of procedure.
  3. Find new ways to enable more citizens to be able to vote at Open Town Meetings.
  4. Make everybody feel welcome to express his or her opinion on any matter considered.

 

David Magadini

Great Barrington

The writer is a candidate for the position of Town Moderator.

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