The League of Women Voters of Westford supports a town meeting process that:
- Educates voters about the town meeting process
- Encourages voters to become active participants in the process.
- Ensures that voters are well informed about issues facing town meeting
- Allows town meeting to act as efficiently as possible.
As noted in the town’s Master Plan (1995), we recognize that open town meeting, so much a part of Westford’s tradition, is also very much part of the town’s character. Statistically, an open town meeting is representative of the town’s voters and gives all voters the opportunity to participate directly in the democratic process. We believe that the town should consider a change to representative town meeting only if all those who wish to attend, speak and vote at an open town meeting can no longer be accommodated in that forum.
The League supports the investigation of options that will encourage more voters to attend town meeting.
We believe that low attendance at town meetings is not necessarily cause for a switch to representative town meeting. Steps should be taken to address the problem before a shift to another form of government is considered.
The League supports efforts that will make it more convenient for voters to attend town meeting . Town departments and community organizations should work together to provide the services necessary to facilitate attendance at town meeting. To the extent that it is feasible, the town and other organizations should also work to minimize scheduling conflicts, so voters do not have to choose between attending town meeting and participating in other activities.
The League supports holding annual town meeting on a day and date that encourages and allows as many voters as possible to attend and that fosters efficient town meeting action. Voters’ needs and preferences should be considered when scheduling town meeting. However, town meeting’s efficiency is greatly affected by the quality and timeliness of the information provided by town departments and boards, so the day and date of town meeting must also give town officials sufficient time and resources to prepare and present town meeting with the most current and relevant data available.
In researching whether the date and day of annual town meeting should be changed, we found that: the trend in area towns is toward later dates due to timing of financial data from the state; a survey of voters was not conclusive as to a preferred date for the meeting; many town department heads were opposed to a change due to the extra burden which would be placed on them; the many volunteers who serve on the various town boards would be adversely affected by a shift to an earlier meeting; and there is not data to prove that the current date (the first Saturday after the first Tuesday in May) of town meeting causes low voter participation.