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Author Topic: LT - Residents to Have Their Say on Town's SB2 Proposal  (Read 979 times)
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« on: March 05, 2011, 08:39:09 PM »

From the Londonderry Times

Residents to Have Their Say on Town's SB2 Proposal
Chris Caesar
Londonderry Times

On top of other articles brought before residents at this year's town meeting, Article 2 - whether to "establish official ballot voting" following the town Charter Commission's recommendation to that effect several months ago - could radically change the way town elections are held.

The commission, which was formed by voters at an earlier town meeting, examined whether to maintain the current model, in which residents vote on the budget during a town meeting the Saturday after town elections, or to replace it with official ballot voting, which includes a deliberative session on warrant articles prior to a final ballot vote on Election Day.

Charter commissioners recommended making the change, known as the SB 2 (Senate Bill 2) form of government, in a 6-3 vote last October.

A yes vote on the charter question would change the Londonderry Town Charter by adopting amendments to establish a deliberative session of the budgetary town meeting, to debate, discuss and amend budgetary articles, between the first and second Saturdays following the last Monday in January. All articles, as amended, would then be placed on the official ballot for vote on the second Tuesday in March. Bond articles would require a three-fifths majority for passage. In the event the proposed operating budget fails, a default budget would control unless a special town meeting were held to consider a revised operating budget.

Proponents of the change say SB 2 would allow residents who are unable to attend a traditional New England town meeting to still participate in the political process, including students away at college, local service men and women stationed away from home, and those who must work on Saturdays.

"Many people commute during the week and the weekends are a family time," commission member and State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said at the commission's first public hearing. "The end result (of changing to SB 2) is the people will vote and absentee ballots would be counted."

Opponents say the bill would alter the political process by ending the hours of discussion and deliberation that typically accompany votes at a town meeting, replacing it with a few private minutes in a ballot box.

"By going into a booth and spending five minutes making checkmarks, you may not have heard both sides of an issue," resident Reed Clark said. "There's a difference from being in an enclosed room hearing both sides than reading the news - or not reading at all - and then going for five minutes in the voting booth, not really knowing the other side."

Others, like town councilor Tom Dolan, have said the proposal represents a "a dramatic shift in power from the general public to a small number of politicians," by allowing residents to vote only on the default budget or proposed budget, without the ability to make amendments as allowed during a deliberative session.

Should voters choose to adopt SB 2, the change would take effect in 2012. The charter question faces Londonderry voters March 8.

Glenn Douglas
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