Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't Like Our Town Meeting? It Could Always Be a Lot Worse

I recently mentioned a new rubric, entitled, "it could always be worse."

Well, it could. This is not to say that we should stop trying to make things better—but some perspective can come in handy.

For example, Town Meeting recently considered a proposal to restore a small funding line for social services. There was a heated debate, and two such amendments to the draft budget were defeated. But those voting "no" did so on grounds of budgetary process and moreover argued that the Town had in fact increased its overall expenditure on social services, for example, through the funding of a new homeless shelter. This was a narrow disagreement among people with shared values.

Just contrast that with the policies of our Puritan/Congregationalist ancestors.  As Mass Moments reminds us,
Town Meeting Auctions Poor Woman to Lowest Bidder
October 18, 1786

... Malden's selectmen put up for "vendue" Mary Degresha, who was unable to support herself. They auctioned her off to the lowest bidder, who agreed to accept payment of six dollars a week for housing and "taking proper care" of her. For two centuries, Massachusetts towns were responsible for supporting those who could not support themselves. Sometimes this meant providing necessities, such as clothing, firewood, or food. Other times, a household was compensated for taking in an indigent man, woman, or child. In the 1820s, a gradual shift began toward institutionalizing the poor in almshouses or workhouses. (read the rest)
It could be a lot worse.

Some propose "charter reform": get rid of that Select Board and Town Meeting, and give us a mayor and city council.

That would certainly streamline the political process, but if anyone thinks it could eliminate lunacy and obnoxiousness, well, . . . just watch the wonders of this video from the Lincoln City Council, in which a "Nebraska Woman Gives the Most Amazingly Anti-Gay Rant Ever" (h.t. Snoopy the Goon)

Yeah, it could be a hell of a lot worse. (Think of it as a sort of negative corollary to "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music.")

I expect that we'll go through the usual cycle: people will complain and vent a lot in the wake of Town Meeting, summer temperatures will rise, emotional temperatures will cool, and . . . nothing much will change. Then we'll start all over again in the fall.

Stupidity is a fact of life, no matter what the form of government.

Deal with it. In the meantime we've got plenty of work to do.

No comments: