Town Meeting is a nice take. There you have education, enrichment, entertainment, an opportunity to have your voice heard and to make a difference – and you don’t get charged admission.
For the “people watching” alone it is worth the trip. Our present form of government – Town Meeting – is lacking in some ways, and with the rapid and robust population growth Easton has undergone in the past 25 years, maybe our form of government needs to be tweaked and modified a bit to ensure that it is truly and reliably representative of the people.
But there is much about Town Meeting I recommend, and you can’t help but get a warm feeling at Town Meeting when you understand it to be a coming together of people sharing an identity and concerns. Opinions and differing perspectives are invited.
(By the way, how cool are the online updates of Easton Town Meeting that Easton Patch provides?)
When I am at Town Meeting, I think of the famous Norman Rockwell painting, Freedom of Speech, which is one of the paintings in the Four Freedoms series that he created for the Saturday Evening Post, and which were inspired by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address, in which he proposed the following four freedoms that everyone, everywhere, should enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
In the Freedom of Speech painting, a lanky man is standing and speaking at a municipal meeting; he is surrounded by other meeting attendees, all sitting; almost all the people are looking at him. I presume the speaker to be a farmer, with his plaid shirt and rumpled, well-worn barn jacket. Sticking out of his coat pocket is a rolled document; I am thinking it is the meeting agenda. The man’s hands, rough, weathered, a bit gnarly, rest on the back of a bench.
An appeal for me of this painting is that sitting alongside the man, this man depicted as a laborer, are two men in jackets and collars and ties; I presume them to be of the professional class. And both the men in jacket and tie are looking closely and intently and attentively to the speaker.
Yes, the painting describes one of the “Four Freedoms” – but it also shows us the warmth and healthiness of a tight and engaged citizenry – and of strong community.
Norman Rockwell understood America and people – and he had the extraordinary gift to be able to transmit that understanding to canvas.
Don’t underestimate the healing, nurturing, and enriching value of getting out in the community and participating and volunteering. Easton has a vibrant civic organization culture – and that culture is fundamental to the high “livability” quotient we enjoy in town.
You can find study after study that supports that staying involved and volunteering and being part of something important is good for physical and mental health.
The other night at Town Meeting you had the fairly affluent, upper middle class, lower middle class, and maybe a bohemian or two living on the edge. But in the Oliver Ames High School auditorium, every voice could be heard – and all issues on the docket were available for discussion.
On Monday night at OA, townies and the newly arrived voiced their opinions.
People in far off lands are dying to have such access to public speech.
Sure, with this form of town government, there is the argument that it is too easy to, as they say, “stack the deck” to get items and projects voted up or down. But if you believe that – and you think it is a problem – then can either work to stack your own deck, work to modify and change town government – or you can do a bit of both.
Elections and votes will never please everyone.
Also, let’s get back to the entertainment factor of Town Meeting. People do get emotional. I remember one meeting when Gus Arns, a staunch fiscal conservative, who was standing at the front of the auditorium, threw up his arms in disgust and bellowed at the attendees, “You’re throwing your town away!” – and with that he stormed out of the hall.
There was another meeting in which a very large man – actually a former pro football player – was lumbering up to the stage where the various town officials were gathered; he was intent on speaking to the crowd, even though he didn’t have the “floor.” He didn’t make it to the microphone because Easton Police Officer Freddy Gladstone tackled him before he got there.
Stelle Marsan had it right. One night she was leaving Town Meeting, and with a smile on her face she said, “Best show in town.”
Town Meeting is an example of what I like about Easton. It is an example of community – and it is ultimately positive and healthy – and we have some chuckles and fun as well.
I hope we can hold on to it – in one form or another.
Editor's Note: To view the painting that Ross is referring to, click on Freedom of Speech (in blue) above, which is the website of the Norman Rockwell Museum.