Five Town Meetings today. I work for one of those nonprofits that derive funding in part from a line item in the budget or a specific article. Not surprising, then, that from time to time questions arise at Town Meeting about what we do and why the voters should support us. I am happy to oblige, because I am truly grateful, but even I could only manage five Town Meetings today representing half of of the Towns that support us.
Johnson is the most polite and orderly. Cambridge is civilized enough to take a break at mid-day for chicken and biscuits. Morristown has the biggest turnout in person, but strangely almost no food--dry muffins and watery coffee. Stowe has the best food (chicken pie and carrot cake, yum!)
But Hyde Park is home. I see the same neighbors on the same spots in the bleachers, and when someone calls for a paper ballot, we all enjoy the opportunity to stretch and jabber for a few minutes. Then it's back to the bleachers to knit, nod and whisper as neighbors opine, and solemnly intone "Aye" or "Nay."
As a Vermont transplant, I love Town Meeting Day. My first year I was amazed at the tolerance of diversity of views and the highly developed skills of social discourse. By now, I have come to recognize that what I once saw as politeness is sometimes the Yankee economy of not spending much energy on a fight you can't win or on a fight that has already been held many times over in generations past.
Today in Stowe, for example, the Town decided not to go to Australian ballot to vote on the budget. Recapping the argments, one Selectboard member pulled out an almost identical proposal from the 1976 Town Meeting notes.
Most towns are done by early afternoon, even contentious Stowe. Then it's off for a romp in the sunshine, an afternoon free to play in the snow, spring's advent teased into our consciousness by another Town Meeting Day. It may not be spring yet, but surely it is coming.