EPISODE 21 – TOWN MEETING DAY

Town Meetings are a longtime tradition in New England, though a seemingly dying one in recent years. At its core, Town Meeting is democracy in its purest form – people gather to decide the direction their town will take in the coming year. Most votes wins. However 18th-century democracy has been met with increasing apathy in the 21st century. Furthermore, many towns have adopted a council-style government and dispatched with town meetings altogether. It’s a different story in Vermont, however. Not only are town meetings going strong, they are so strong that the day earns capital letters: Town Meeting Day is a de facto holiday in this state. State Government is closed, and many businesses give employees the day off to attend the meetings in their towns. We live in Montpelier, which is a city rather than a town and, as such, most of the governance is handled by the council. We don’t have a meeting on Town Meeting Day. We do have municipal elections though, in which we are entrusted to vote for councilors, school board representatives, and the annual budget. So on our first Town Meeting Day in Montpelier, Doreen and I headed to the polls to vote. Though the citizens of the city came to the polls in dribs rathe than droves. However there was a lot of energy on the front steps, with folks holding up placards and stumping for their preferred candidates. Inside City Hall, local Girl Scouts had stacked a table high with cookies for sale, and long-time State Senator Bill Doyle set out his annual constituent survey. Upstairs a handful of neighbors were filling out ballots. Overall, it’s a bit of a non-event compared to the meetings in other towns. But it’s definitely a step up from a random municipal election in early June, as we used to have in Brunswick. People get excited about Town Meeting Day here. I like it.

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