To the editor:
We seriously wonder if a live Annual Town meeting in a Great Barrington school parking lot is an equitable civil right and democratic means to go forward, particularly now. It’s even a debate as to whether its normal format is an anachronism or not in this day and age, favoring special interests, but we can leave that for another time. The good of all local citizens must be considered. This unprecedented epidemic, in our lifetime, has turned everyone’s world topsy-turvy, affecting some more than others in a devastating way. In addition, so much is still unknown by the experts, that we are all left unsettled and in a quandary.
Consider, that at this moment our diverse population is made up of the employed and unemployed, students without summer jobs and an unknown future, struggling businesses and furloughed employees, young children at home who might otherwise have gone to camp, the able, the aged, hi-tech and lo-tech users, the ill and the caregivers, the comfortably off, the underserved and hungry and the extraordinary volunteers who help to keep them afloat. And those who have left town, those who have rented out their homes to others with means, escaping the more vulnerable cities, family members sheltering their loved ones, those with personal transportation and those without. And no doubt some people I haven’t mentioned.
Additionally, the full economic impact of the epidemic is not yet known. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, has publicly stated an unemployment rate of 13 percent will stay with us for years to come. Therefore, we join others in advising a commonsense approach — going forward on the basis of last year’s budget on a month-by-month basis. Some of the capital commitment could easily be postponed by six months. We acknowledge that in addition to everyone else, these are difficult times as well for town officials. Didn’t they implicitly sign up “for better and for worse; in sickness and in health”?
A possible alternative: One thing all local voters with an address receive is mail — as long as the mailman delivers. Perhaps volunteers could be solicited to help get relevant mail out that fairly provide each citizen with information and pros and cons of issues to be voted on. The state effectively does this before an election. And articles of a known quantity can be voted on or at least considered when the right time comes to ensure that all are fairly given the right and opportunity to be counted.