Other Comments

If you have comments about something that doesn’t fit in the “Pro” or “Con” pages, feel free to post them here.

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4 responses

18 03 2008
DonC

This was sent to me by Matthew Killen and his letter appeared in the Epping Cost. http://www.theeppingcost.com
Good morning,

Your post was forwarded to me, I think because of an article
and letter to the editor I’d written. Don’t know if it would be useful to you or not,
but please feel free to use / post it, if you think it is.

SB2, or no SB2 – is that really the question?
2008-02-29

On this year’s ballot residents will find (town) article 21 and (school) article 4, both asking the same question – shall we rescind the provisions of SB2?

What exactly is SB2? This is a hybrid system, under RSA 40:13, which in some communities has replaced the traditional town meeting form of government. In the town meeting form of government, voters come together and, during one or several sessions, revise and / or decide all the articles for that year as well as any other business that might come before them. This system of government worked successfully for literally hundreds of years but became increasingly difficult to manage in some communities as explosive population growth, increasing taxes, and a breakdown in the traditional American value of finding shared solutions to shared problems took their toll.

SB2, the hybrid mentioned above, attempts to combine elements of the traditional town meeting with the type of balloting used in a state or federal election. SB2 became a local government option in 1996, and created deliberative sessions (one each, school and town) at which the various articles may be discussed and to some extent revised or amended, but not decided. The decisions are deferred to another, full day of voting about one month after these deliberative sessions.

How broadly is SB2 used? Approximately sixty of the 221 New Hampshire communities have adopted this form of government in the last twelve years, or about 27%. Clearly SB2 has not been broadly adopted and in some cases has been rescinded. Why?

For the same reasons this issue has been brought forward now, in Epping, which adopted SB2 in 2001 and has had ample opportunity to evaluate its impact. Having attended both of this year’s deliberative sessions, and having heard the arguments for keeping or rescinding SB2, I have to say I heard common ground: both sides of the issue agree that the system is flawed, but differ as to what should be done about it.

The proponents of SB2 suggest that while the system is flawed, that is not our problem and we should take it up with the legislature. If this were not a local government issue, but had to do with say.. the issuance of drivers licenses, I would agree. However, this is very much a local government issue. It is further argued that SB2 has substantially increased voter turn out and participation, and that benefit outweighs the flaws. I see cracks in that argument as well – from a significantly increased local population, which may account for a significant portion of any increase, to regular and incredibly low voter turn out. For example, last year about 1,200 residents voted out of about 4,300 voters: about 28%. This means that issues were decided by about 14% of voters! After six years SB2 is clearly not getting folks in the door in a substantive way.

The opponents of SB2 also suggest that the system is flawed and that we should return to the traditional town meeting. For various reasons, from our modern lifestyle to the changing population and demographics of the town, this may be impractical although it can and maybe should be argued that the rights, privileges and advantages we enjoy as Americans should demand some level of participation, and even sacrifice, on our part. I won’t argue that one here though. It is also suggested that SB2 lends itself, perhaps, to more voters than a town meeting might but those voters are less (or even mis) informed voters. This may or may not be accurate; however we are all familiar with the so-called October surprise of national politics and have seen similar things in our own town. It is something to be concerned about.

So, what to do? We have a system in place which, after twelve years, has not been broadly adopted in the state, which, after six years in our own town, has been acknowledged by both sides in the debate as flawed, and which has failed to achieve its primary purpose. We can continue the debate about keeping this system, or we can address the real issue: Epping needs to examine its form of government, and make a better and more informed choice. How?

Under the provisions of RSA 49-B the town may choose to create a charter commission. This may be done thru petition or act of the selectmen: in either case, it becomes a question for the voters to decide. If created, the role of the commission is to investigate options, develop recommendations and report back to the people on their findings. These are then voted on as with any other item. The advantages here are significant – a broad range of options exist, and within those options additional opportunities exist to create a flexible, responsible and reasonable government. There is no down side to pursuing this for, at most, it creates the real opportunity for discussion and consideration with nothing adopted unless ultimately being approved by the voters.

Therefore, I urge the residents of Epping to give careful thought to finding a shared solution to our shared problem of local government and discuss this matter with the selectman. I urge the selectman to consider placing this issue on the ballot for the next municipal election, regardless of how the SB2 issue is decided in March.

19 03 2008
keith

Tonight, March 19th, I attended the School District meeting, I was very disappointed in the amount of voters that attended. anyway, 49 minutes later, and with the blessing on the 65/70 people that attended, an 11million dollar was passed. It comes out to be about .80 out of every tax dollar. This is why the SB2 question will be on the ballot in May 2008. Adopting SB2 version will allow people to do the following: 1. Vote from when the town polls open, until they close. 2. Have the ability to vote in private, 3. Allow people that will be unable to attend, to vote, if out of town, or on military callup.
4. Make it easier for our Senior citizens to vote. 5. Make it easier for people with young children. Yes, I do agree, that there are some issues with the SB2 system, but there would be a improvement on the amount of people that would be voting, showing a better representation of the town..

19 03 2008
DonC

Thank you for your input Keith. It is greatly appreciated!!

It would be helpful to know what town you are from, if you don’t mind telling us.

Thanks Again

16 05 2008
Keith

I forget to put my the town I am from, it is Chester, and since then as of, May 14th, SB2 was passed in Chester, not by much, but it did pass. they initially had an issue in counting the votes, but it passed..you can check out Nutfield publications (tri town section) , for results..

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