Town Meeting Travesty



It’s no secret that some of our esteemed citizens came away from Town Meeting unhappy. Some were displeased with the outcome of various votes. Some were unhappy about the dizzying plethora of Articles on the Warrant. Some were frustrated by the arcane language of some Articles, or annoyed by the inane comments of their fellow citizens.

But I was unhappy about the furniture.

Not our furniture. Not what we citizens were sittin’ in. No, I love the IPAC, and we’re privileged to have it. Our chairs were fine.

I’m talking about the furniture on the stage.

I know whose fault it is. The Town Moderator, under the law, oversees Town Meetings with dominion and authority of virtually biblical proportions. He can choose the onstage furniture, and he can arrange the furniture however he likes. Personally, I really like him. But this time he’s gone too far.

When I first began attending Town Meetings, the newly elected Moderator, Mr. Tom Murphy, Esq., allowed a single podium, with the various boards and committees seated at long tables. This was, I believe, the same arrangement that had been used for years. When it came time for a Town leader to speak, he or she had no choice but to rise from his or her chair and traipse all the way to the podium. The meeting lasted four hours or more, including a cumulative 47 minutes of traipsing.

At a subsequent Town Meeting, we were treated to a multiplicity of microphones on the onstage tables. This afforded our Town officials the freedom to address the citizenry without so much as lifting a cheek. This also cut back on traipsing time. Unfortunately, the array of microphones turned out to be something of a nightmare for the hapless sound engineer, and absolutely a nightmare for the ears of the citizenry. The dutiful soul in charge of managing audio on that tragic evening made a valiant effort to corral the sound-storm, but to little avail. Sometimes we civilians leaned forward, straining to hear, with the onstage speaker looking like a lip-synching act gone badly awry. Other times we recoiled in horror at the electronic screeching. Both my hearing aids melted in my ears. The million-mic experiment, I am happy to report, seems to have faded into the failure files.

Our most recent Town Meeting was a different kind of trial. It was disturbing to see what our esteemed Town leaders were being put through. Speakers were obligated to walk to a microphone and stand not at a podium, but before a lowly music stand. A music stand, indeed! People in Ipswich know that I am the biggest-ever fan of our Board of Selectmen, so I realize that my opinion is biased; but to see a respected selectman pitching a $30 million budget in front of a cheap black metal apparatus with a sliding neck, a music stand which only hours earlier had been used by an eighth-grade French horn player, was heartbreaking to me. (Thank God we don’t live in Danvers. Horrors. They have twice as big a budget, yet their Town leaders have to sit out in the auditorium with the commoners!)

It is my conviction that our Ipswich Board of Selectmen, if not our School Committee and FinCom, should be shown proper reverence at Town Meeting. A few suggestions:

1. I would recommend hiring a feng shui consultant to arrange the onstage furniture for the best possible Zen. The music stands will almost certainly be placed at pleasing angles.

2. I’ve heard about a town-government special at Ikea; I’ll explore this and get back to you.

3. I would utilize the considerable fly space above the stage, and have our venerable selectmen dramatically lowered into their seats as Town Meeting begins. (Just before the Pledge of Allegiance.)

And finally: There is a breathtakingly beautiful ecclesiastical throne, for the most part unused, sitting in a quiet corner of Ascension Church. I would rent that gaudy monster for Town Meetings, just for the Moderator.

Doug Brendel lives and breathes for Town Meetings, and waits glumly between them in his outer Linebrook home. Follow this blog and get The Outsidah delivered automatically to your inbox, most Wednesdays.


One thought on “Town Meeting Travesty

  1. Although going all the way there didn’t work, going just half way there might be a good solution: Put one mic on each table, and make the participants pick it up and pass it around as necessary. Retain the “no traipsing” part (which seems to have been a good idea), and change those screeches (awful, yuck!) for clunks (just annoying).

    (Or maybe the auditorium sound guy has a better idea. Anybody ask him?)

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