Town Meeting 101

Hopkinton Annual Town Meeting Day 1
Monday, May 2, 2011
7:00 – 11:00 p.m.
Middle School Auditorium
To reconvene for Day 2 at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3 in the Middle School Auditorium. Annual Town Meeting typically lasts at least two evenings.

Town Meeting 101

If you have never been to Town Meeting before, you may not know what to expect. As such, we decided to compile this guide to help you know what to expect.

You do not need to bring anything to Town Meeting. However, many people find that bringing a notebook and pen or pencil is helpful to make notes during the discussions. No food or drink is allowed in the Middle School Auditorium. There is a drinking fountain outside the auditorium. Many people also find that something to occupy one’s hands is helpful. If you are a knitter, for example, bring a small project. There are plenty of padded stationary folding auditorium style chairs, which are reasonably comfortable. But remember you’ll be there for a long time, so wear comfortable clothes.

Town Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Middle School Auditorium. Enter by Grove Street and please allow time to park and walk to the building. As you enter the Middle School, head to the left to the cafeteria to sign in. To actually vote in the auditorium, you must be a Hopkinton resident registered to vote and you must sign in at the voter table. Your name will be checked off and you’ll be given a piece of paper. Hold on to this piece of paper; you will need it when it is time for the votes to be counted! You’ll see a table of handouts and fact sheets regarding all the proposed article to be voted on from both the town boards and committees. There is some terrific information here that may answer many of your questions. Listening devices for the hearing impaired will be available, please ask when you check in.

You do not have to be present for the entire town meeting to vote, though the more that participate in whole, the more balanced the democratic process. A quorum of 100 people is required to open the meeting. There is no set time to check in. The meeting will be broadcast live via HCAM TV (Comcast 8/Verizon 30), but you MUST be present to vote. You just need to check in prior to the vote, whenever you arrive. You only have to check in once, and you can come and go from the auditorium as you please. You can text (with phone switched to silent mode) from within the auditorium, although there is minimal cell coverage. Step outside to make a phone call.

The Board of Selectmen (RJ Dourney, Chair) presides over the meeting, which is facilitated by the Town Moderator (Dr. Bruce Karlin) and recorded by the Town Clerk (Ann M. Click). The format of the meeting itself follows Robert’s Rules of Order. Articles are presented, motions made, discussions ensue. Sometimes it can be a little confusing if an amendment comes up, so keep your ears open. Listen carefully — and you’ll learn a lot. There are 58 articles on the warrant (agenda) for Hopkinton’s Annual Town Meeting.

NEW THIS YEAR! As one of the first orders of business at this year’s Annual Town Meeting, there will be a single motion to take “no action” on all of the articles listed on the Consent Calendar (Articles #2, 19, 27, 30, 50, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58). After the motion is made, the Moderator will call out the numbers of the articles, one by one. Any voter who would like to ask a question about one of the articles or wishes to hold a debate on one of the articles should say the word “hold” in a loud voice when the article number is called by the Moderator. The Moderator will inquire as to whether the request is for a question or for debate. If the purpose of the request is to ask a question, an attempt will be made to quickly obtain a satisfactory answer. If the purpose is to hold the article for debate, the article will be removed from the Consent Calendar and restored to its original place in the Warrant to be moved, debated and voted in the usual manner. It is hoped that voters will remove articles from the Consent Calendar only in cases of genuine concern. After calling the individual articles on the Consent Calendar, the Moderator will ask for a vote to take “no action” on all of the articles remaining on the Consent Calendar.

The committee or board presenting each article may make a brief presentation before each article. The Town Moderator, Dr. Karlin, will facilitate a question and answer period for registered residents. If you choose to ask a question or comment on an article, step up to one of the microphones located in the auditorium aisles. Wait for the moderator, to recognize you, then state your name and address, and keep your comments brief, civil, and to the point. Passion is absolutely allowed. The comment, question and answer period will end when either #1 the moderator sees that no one else is waiting at the microphone to speak or #2 a voter comes to the microphone, is recognized by the moderator, and says “I move the question” or “I call the question.” The motion to end debate must then be seconded and then adopted by a ⅔ vote.

As for the actual voting, most votes start as a voice vote. The moderator asks all in favor and all opposed. If the voice vote sounds close, it will go to a standing count. The moderator will ask all in favor to stand up. Now is the time to get out that piece of paper! Hold out your paper and remain standing until the counters for your section have indicated that your vote has been recorded.

Although you can leave at any time, we recommend you do NOT leave until the meeting is officially adjourned. Someone may ask for a recount, and if a large group has already left, the outcome could be different, especially if the original vote was close. The meeting is typically adjourned at 11:00 p.m. and reconvened at 7:00 p.m. the next day. Town Meeting typically lasts at least two evenings, although in some years it has gone as long as three or four evenings in a row. If you have any other questions about Town Meeting, please ask!

(Thank you to the folks at DuxburyCares for giving us the Survival Guide idea!)