Londonderry Town Meeting “It’s Worked for 200 Years, so why change it”, well thats what we hear some people repeating every time the question of changing Town government surfaces. Normally the topic comes up during election season, but this year several members of the Town Council have brought the issue up early. The firs rumblings began in April and the Council will address the question again on august 31st.
If it has worked for 200 years why the question of change now?
Well, Town Meeting has not worked for 200 years here in Londonderry. You see Londonderry was incorporated in 1722, by my math that 287 years. If Town Meeting was working for 200+ years what happened for the first 87 years? Although we are told it’s been this way for hundreds of years Londonderry, that is an incorrect statement. Londonderry does not have a ‘traditional’ New England Town Meeting.
The traditional New England Town Meeting used to be held annually on the second Tuesday of March to choose town officers and the transact ALL other town and school business. Everything took place at Town Meeting, but that changed, not so long ago.
In the mid 90’s someone, or a group of people, decided a change was needed in Londonderry. Both the Town and School district changed their forms of government. Each of them abandoned the traditional Town Meeting but chose two different forms of government.
The School District adopted a modified version of SB2. Under this version of government all decisions were to be made at the ballot box on Tuesday. The only opportunity to make a change requires a minimum of 500 citizen to attend the Deliberative session held prior to the vote in late February. The deliberative session is similar to today’s Saturday Town meeting where changes can be made if enough people show up. I’m not sure if there have ever been 500 in attendance, I guess that’s a question for the Londonderry historians or a trip to the Library archives. It is also notable to mention that the required 500 people is not set by state law, the School District sets the number. It could be less, but for years it has remained at the unattainable 500.
The Town, on the other hand, adopted a different version of government. The Town chose to keep part of Town Meeting, but replace the Selectmen with a Town Council and add a Town Manager. Zoning decision were removed from the hands of voter at Town Meeting and granted to the 5 sitting Councilors. I’ve heard there were also a few other changes too. Town Meeting now became two parts. Tuesday was voting for Bond’s and elected officials. Saturday remained to debate and vote the Town Budget and smaller ticket items. Unlike the School Deliberative session Town meeting has no minimum number required to make changes, if 10,000 show up then 10,000 vote, but if 10 show up they can make any adjustments to the budget they see fit.
In the late 90’s two branches of government took two decidedly different approaches in how futures generations would be governed. The Town changed in 1996 while the School District voted for change several years later. Since those change every year we hear how one form is better than the other, and yet two forms remain.
Now years later three members of the Town want a change or at least a review of the Towns government. Should the Town adopt a modified version of SB as the School did? Some say yes other say no. Some just want a review of the current system. A Charter Commission could be formed to study the question and present it’s findings to the voters.
So what is your point of view? Leave a coment of vote in on of the side bar polls.
In the end the you, the Londonderry voter, will decide as they did in the 90’s.