Town Meeting Members Assoc. up and running
By Tara Hughes Nov. 4, 2023
Just in time for Monday’s start of Fall Town Meeting, the independent, resident-run Winchester Town Meeting Members Association (www.winchestertmma.org) is up and running, allowing members to discuss the warrant articles. Despite the hard work of residents Carol Savage and Lance Grenzeback, so far there are only twelve “discussions” and a handful of members commenting.
Town meeting members are exempt from the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law which prohibits discussions among a quorum of government committee members outside of a public meeting. The association was formed after the town’s Communications Study Committee met for a year to research how communication about town government matters could be improved.
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Non-members can read, but not comment, on the discussions, and should note that the association is not a government body.
The purpose of the association, according to its founders, is to allow members to discuss warrant articles before or during town meeting and to share facts, background and opinions before voting. The association is independent and impartial, governed by an executive board elected annually. Members may post questions, information and statements relating to town meeting articles and town issues on the discussion board, which must comply with its Communications Policy (which can be found here www.winchestertmma.org/
The website also provides helpful information such as the town meeting member directory (found here www.winchester.us/DocumentCenter/
View/9355/Town-Meeting-Members-List), dates and times of the Town Manager’s Public Hearing and Town Meeting, and links to the official web pages for the Town of Winchester and Winchester Town Meeting.
Currently, there are discussions and comments regarding Article 5 Capital Projects, specifically around a presentation on capital planning that was presented to the Finance Committee on October 24, and Winchester Historical Commission’s unanimous endorsement of Motion 16 for the Packer Ellis Tennis Courts engineering. Article 7 on the increased appropriation and borrowing authorization request for the Muraco Elementary Culvert Project is indirectly discussed noting a missed opportunity regarding the project.
Articles 18 and 19 regarding the Lynch solar panels direct purchase, or in the alternative, the power purchase agreement received the most discussion. Some confusion and questions were noted and a good deal of information and background resources were provided by other members in the discussion. Some questions may remain.
Articles 29 and 30, regarding amendments to town bylaws as they relate to Finance Committee appointments and reappointments, also received some discussion. While some wondered what problem the articles were trying to fix, others provided additional background on the issue and a study conducted by the Town of Wayland. One member pointed out that Article 30 seemed clearer and went to the heart of the issue; another pointed out that Article 30 is not an improvement over the current appointment process. He pointed out that Article 30 could create a self-perpetuating committee that is not accountable to town meeting and not well constituted to provide balanced recommendations to town meeting.
Finally, Article 31 (Permanent Street Tree Committee) and Article 22 (Employee Healthcare and Health Insurance Stabilization Fund) received a comment each. A member provided some background on Article 31 from the Sustainability Director Ken Pruitt’s Winchester Sustainability Newsletter. Another member provided some facts and comments regarding Article 22.
While residents who are not town meeting members have read-only access to the Discussion Board, they may view discussions and ask town meeting members to repost their questions and comments about town meeting articles and town issues. The debates can be viewed at https://forum.winchestertmma.org/vanilla/.
Fall Town Meeting begins Monday, November 6 at 6:30. If anyone needs assistance signing up or using the discussion board, they can contact WebManager@WinchesterTMMA.org.
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