SB2 proponents outnumbered at Deerfield public hearing
DEERFIELD — Of the two dozen or so residents who filled the town’s Board of Selectmen chambers for a public hearing, roughly three-quarters raised their hands in support of rescinding Senate Bill 2 and returning to the traditional Town Meeting and School District Meeting.
In 2005, the final year for Town Meeting, 339 people attended the voting session. The next year, 1,313 residents cast their ballots at the polls.
“I think we’re trying to do democracy light,” said Town Moderator Jack Hutchinson. “We’re trying to have the right to voting, and not the responsibility of the citizenship, and that’s what’s making Deerfield a much more difficult place to run.
“I don’t expect SB2 to be rescinded. I’d love to see that happen, I don’t think it will happen because this is the easy route,” Hutchinson continued, “but it’s amazing that in the days when you had to cut 15 cord of wood every year for your house and cooking, and you had no chain saw or tractor, and you had to take a horse and a sleigh to Town Meeting, and when you got home you had to hang the harness and water the horse and milk your cows, and people still came, but now people can’t do it because they’re too busy.”
Patrice Kilham was in the minority at the hearing.
“I enjoy Town Meeting. I (attended) Town Meeting for many years, in Auburn and here, but the current flavor, and the current enthusiasm for participation in the town, in general, is very weak, and I don’t think that many people want to spend that time in a meeting, and I don’t think they’ll get the turnout they used to get in the old days,” she said. “It’s just modern life is too hectic and people don’t have time, and people with kids can’t come out. … I just don’t think the participation is there. I think people are too involved in other things.”
While some of the traditional Town Meeting supporters were nostalgic in opposition of Senate Bill 2, most, like Fred McGarry, were more concerned about the knowledge of the electorate.
“I’ve seen how Town Meeting works and how it’s suppose to work, and you certainly end up having an opportunity to take and hear both sides of the issue, or at times you had multiple sides, it wasn’t just necessarily two, and then you could make your decision based on that,” he said. “You also had the opportunity to take and amend articles and budgets, and then vote on that and … people voting under Senate Bill 2 really don’t have that opportunity, and they form their own decisions based on their own context they have, and they may not have sufficient information from the other side.”
Harriet Cady, on the other hand, said her priority is providing the opportunity for as many residents as possible to have a say in town and school district decisions.
“Those Town Meetings did not give freedom of expression. You’d have 300 people, and by the end 179 were voting the total budget and tax bill of the people of this town,” said Cady, who for for five years petitioned with others for SB2 in Deerfield before it was adopted. “Am I completely pleased with Senate Bill 2? … No, I’m not completely pleased, but I am much happier that all the population get a chance to vote on their tax bill, and that’s what it comes down to. And if you had to put the total checklist in any building, you’d never fit them in any buildings in this town.”
Deerfield residents will once again have their say on the issue when they place check marks next to Article 10 of the town warrant and Article 5 on the school district warrants on Election Day, March 11.