A Moderator’s job and responsibility, first and foremost, is to promote discussion that is orderly and fair. “Fair” means exactly that, plain and simple: Everyone has the right to speak and vote, but must do so within the rules, and especially in a responsible way. I am not there to eject any member from Town Meeting, however if the member is so disorderly or refuses to cooperate with the Town Meeting rules in such a way that it is disruptive to the other members of the meeting, then that individual can be subject to a variety of sanctions by the Moderator.
During this election I have been asked several times about Special Town Meeting: October 22, 2015. “What happened during that Town Meeting? You threw someone out??”
Since it has come up repeatedly, I thought it was best to address it in writing so it reaches a broader audience, and also helps to clarify an aspect of Town Meeting process.
During the Article 12: Capital Purchases discussion, a Finance and Advisory Board member had made a motion to amend the article. As part of the process, discussion about that motion ensued. Mr. McCabe was given leeway by me when he asked permission to mention the main motion, even though the main motion was not the pending question since an Amendment was proposed and was the discussion in-progress. Here’s the video clip of what took place:
The motion before the assembly was not whether we needed a new bucket truck, but rather the amount of money to be spent when the Amendment was made by the Finance and Advisory Board. I overlooked many indiscretions by Mr. McCabe (again the Amendment was about the cost ), especially when he started off by bringing up Mr. Towse, followed by then attempting to take a poll by having the members raise their hand. I tried to get him back on track with a tap of the gavel (a very universal rule at any Town Meeting in the State, which is that when the Moderator taps the gavel, the debater immediately halts his debate). Again, the Town Meeting was discussing the Amendment, not the Main Motion, and that is where some of the confusion seems to be in terms of responses that I have been hearing.
Mr. McCabe refused to stop talking and here I will quote what he said after I tapped the gavel: “Larry I’m going to talk alright!!!” “Listen I’ve seen how Larry won’t let people talk who disagrees with him” … “I don’t want to sit down” … “I’ve seen Larry do this to many people.” No Moderator– not me, not a future Moderator, or any other Town Moderator– would allow that type of disdain in a speaker’s voice towards the Moderator in front of the entire assembly. What he was really saying was, ‘I’m running this show and not you.’
Again, the Motion on the floor was not the bucket truck, but rather the Amendment on spending less from $74,000 instead of the $284,000 in the Main Motion. Unfortunately, many erroneously thought he was on subject because he was talking about the uses of the bucket truck, but rather he was off-topic from the pending question which was the Amendment of a lesser amount.
I hope this information is helpful, and I thank those of you who asked about this. I am always more than happy to discuss process and decisions at any time. I know the rules and processes can be confusing, which is especially why I enjoy hosting “Town Meeting 101” how-to sessions.
Please remember to get out and vote THIS Tuesday, April 4th. Like Town Meeting, the election works best with as many votes as possible!