Town Meeting is Monday, April 24, 2017. Voters are asked to check in by 6:30 p.m., so that the meeting can begin promptly at 7:00 p.m.
For updates to the Town Meeting process, please visit the Advisory Committee page on the Town of Hingham website. http://hingham-ma.gov/778/Town-Meeting-Documents
In order to engage voters early in the Annual Town Meeting legislative process, The League of Women Voters of Hingham hosted a public review of the content of the 2013 Annual Town Meeting Warrant facilitated by Karen Johnson, Chairman of the Advisory Committee.
The League of Women Voters of Hingham supports the principle that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation of its citizens. This requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen's right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions and making public records accessible.
In 2011, Hingham voters voted to have the Annual Town Meeting Warrant made available to the public 10 days after the January 20 deadline for article submission, as stated in the Town's by-laws. Citizens can access a preliminary 2013 warrant by visiting http://www.hingham-ma.com/selectmen/town_meeting_working_articles.html
The forum will give citizens the opportunity to review Articles and ask questions. They can then follow up by attending Advisory Committee meetings at which the Advisory Committee will discuss its recommendations for the particular articles in which the citizens are interested.
As of February 1, the Board of Selectmen has made the 2011 Town Meeting Warrant Articles available for voters on the town's website http://www.hingham-ma.gov/townclerk/warrant_articles.html. Public access to these articles is also available in the Selectmen's office. The League of Women Voters of Hingham has proposed a Warrant Article this year that will formalize this process in the General By-Laws of the Town.
The League is supporting the Selectmen's effort by submitting an article that requires all petitioners to provide: the complete warrant article text and the sponsor's name and contact information by the January 20th deadline, and the Selectmen to make the warrant publicly available no later than ten days after the warrant's closing, (rather than the existing practice of two weeks before Town Meeting). These actions are intended to encourage increased voter involvement.
Early dissemination of the warrant provides an excellent opportunity for all voters to obtain information and contribute to the discussion earlier in the hearing process leading up to town meeting scheduled this year for April 25. You are also encouraged to view the Board of Selectmen's and Advisory Board's hearing dates for this year's articles on the town clerk's web page http://www.hingham-ma.gov/townclerk/warrant_articles.html. For new attendees to town meeting there is "A Citizen's Guide to Town Meeting" at http://www.hingham.ma.lwvnet.org/Localgovernment.html . These practices are designed to promote stronger attendance at Town Meeting and a better informed voter.
Kate Boland, Chair
Town Meeting Committee
League of Women Voters of Hingham
March 1, 2011
How are these articles in the best interest of the Town?
During the past two and a half years, the League of Women Voters of Hingham has studied successful Town Meeting practices employed by the communities Hingham uses for benchmarking purposes. Research has shown that when Boards and voters have earlier access to the Warrant, they are better informed and make better decisions. This conclusion, supported by responses from our Hingham Citizen Questionnaire, confirms that early access to clear information lays the foundation for a more effective and collaborative review process for all Open Town Meeting participants--Board of Selectmen, Advisory Board, town boards, staff and voters.
The benefits from this article are:
While the membership of the League of Women Voters of Hingham has received favorable feedback from many Town boards, committees, staff, and citizens, we feel that a bylaw will ensure a consistent process for the long term.
Article________. Will the Town for the purpose of better disseminating to citizens information concerning warrant articles for annual and special Town meetings, amend the General By-Laws of the Town of Hingham as heretofore amended as follows:
1. Delete entirely the current text of Section 6, Article 2 and substitute the following:
" SECTION 6- In connection with each article made a part of the warrant for a town meeting, there shall be inserted in the warrant, the name of the town board, department or other town entity proposing the article, and in the case of an article inserted pursuant to a petition to the Selectmen, the name of the first person signing such petition and the words "and others";" and,
2. Delete entirely the current text of Section 8 of Article 2 and substitute the following:
"SECTION 8 + (a) Each matter produced for insertion in a warrant for an annual or special town meeting, whether by a Town board or by petition, shall be submitted to the Selectmen in the form of the complete text of the proposed article accompanied by the full name and contact information of a knowledgeable representative of the proponent. In the case of an article submitted by petition, the submission also shall include the required signatures of at least ten registered voters of the Town.
"SECTION 8- (b) The Selectmen no later than ten days after any of the following: the January 20th date described in SECTION 7, the closing date of a re-opened warrant described in SECTION 7 or the closing date of the warrant for a special town meeting shall: (i) cause to be posted in a clearly identified position on the Town's website, a complete copy of each submission described in 8(a) above; and, (ii) transmit a copy of such submissions to the Advisory Committee; and (iii) make available for viewing or purchase a paper copy of such submissions ", or act on anything related thereto?"
(Inserted at the request of Mary Boland and other members of the League of Women Voters of Hingham)
Submitted October 14, 2010
Position Statement for Town Meeting Study
To encourage informed, active citizen participation in Town government, The League of Women Voters of Hingham (LWVH) supports measures and opportunities to increase educational practices and facilitate more inclusive Town Meeting processes. Toward that end, we propose the following including but not limited to:
1) The LWVH supports disseminating the content of the "working warrant" upon the closing date of the warrant each year to help voters follow articles through various boards' vetting processes. This includes but is not limited to making the working warrant a public document and having full disclosure of all articles being considered.
2) The LWVH supports measures to improve the efficiency of Town Meeting and an equitable speaking process which includes but is not limited to:
a) Eliminating a Town Meeting quorum thereby allowing a timely start.
b) After a welcome to all voters, an introduction by the Town Moderator of all officials on the dais and recognition of the Advisory Committee as a whole.
c) Establishing a set procedural process on the floor of Town Meeting where voters can either make statements or ask questions in a timely manner. (i.e. + having designated microphones for speakers including procedural and informational questions or clarifications)
d) Reducing the speaking time to less than 10 minutes the first time and less than 5 minutes the second time.
Town Meeting Information & Resources
3) The LWVH supports measures to publicize and post pertinent Town Meeting information to keep the public well informed. This includes but is not limited to:
a) A Town Meeting link on the Hingham Town Website Homepage that provides a section on the full spectrum of information needed to educate voters in Town Meeting practices and procedures; a flow chart of how to submit an article from inception through acceptance as Warrant Article; and information regarding the date, time and location of Town Meeting.
b) Posting Town Meeting information on the LWVH website to supplement the Town's website if necessary.
The study's goal was to address best practices to encourage voter participation and informed decision making at Town Meeting. After examining the complexities of the legislative process in 12 of the 20 towns Hingham uses for benchmarking purposes, they felt it was most prudent to address our town's educational and informational practices first, before addressing what they referred to as the conduct or mechanics of Town Meeting.
After investigating Town Meeting using the following four methods...
-An initial questionnaire providing an overview of 12 communities' Town Meeting practices
-Further questioning into practices addressing Town Meeting conduct such as: speaking time; microphone usage; quorum; Warrant development process, and whether articles are voted as listed in the Warrant or by lottery
-Hingham voters' responses to the following questions: What changes would encourage you to attend Town Meeting? What resources would be helpful for you to be a better informed voter at Town Meeting?
-Extensive note taking during the 2010 Town Meeting addressing areas such as the time when quorum was reached and lost; number of citizens who spoke vs. elected or committee members, redundancy in comments, and demonstrated need for clarification
...it became apparent that the following practices would facilitate increased vetting and understanding of the Articles brought forward:
1. "A Citizen's Guide to Town Meeting"
2. A permanent Town Meeting link on Hingham's website
3. A planning calendar for citizens, boards and administration leading up to Town Meeting
4. Firmly closing the Warrant on January 20th
5. Posting the Warrant publicly on the Town website ten days after closing
When Boards and voters have earlier access to the Warrant, they are better informed and make better decisions. Earlier information allows for a more effective and collaborative reviewing process for Selectmen, Advisory Board, town boards, town staff, and voters. As the former chairman of the Massachusetts Moderators Association observed, "Voters will come if they feel Town Meeting is efficient. Otherwise they lose faith."
The Committee's recommendations have been favorably received by Board of Selectmen, Advisory Board, Town Account, Betty Foley, Tom O'Donnell, and the town's Govt. Study Committee. With the continued support from the League's Board the final step in this phase of the process is sponsorship of an Article by LWV of Hingham to amend the Town By-Laws to encourage earlier and more efficient information dissemination concerning Warrant articles.