Town meeting

A town meeting is a form of direct democratic rule, used primarily in portions of the United States – principally in New England – since the 17th century, in which most or all the members of a community come together to legislate policy and budgets for local government. This is a town- or city-level meeting where decisions are made, in contrast with town hall meetings held by state and national politicians to answer questions from their constituents, which have no decision-making power.

Huntington town meeting
A town meeting in Huntington, Vermont

In the United States

Town meeting is a form of local government practiced in the U.S. region of New England since colonial times, and in some western states since at least the late 19th century.[1] Typically conducted by New England towns, town meeting can also refer to meetings of other governmental bodies, such as school districts or water districts. While the uses and laws vary from state to state, the general form is for residents of the town or school district to gather once a year and act as a legislative body, voting on operating budgets, laws, and other matters for the community's operation over the following 12 months.

In 1854, Henry David Thoreau said, in a speech entitled "Slavery in Massachusetts":

When, in some obscure country town, the farmers come together to a special town-meeting, to express their opinion on some subject which is vexing the land, that, I think, is the true Congress, and the most respectable one that is ever assembled in the United States.[2]

The painting Freedom of Speech depicts a scene from a town meeting.

The Puritans, whose churches used the Congregationalist church governance sysytem, established town meetings when they established the various New England colonies.

Its usage in the English language can also cause confusion, since it is both an event, as in "Freetown had its town meeting last Tuesday", and an entity, as in "Last Tuesday, Town Meeting decided to repave Howland Road."

In modern times, "town meeting" has also been used by political groups and political candidates as a label for moderated discussion group in which a large audience is invited. To avoid confusion, this sort of event is often called a "town hall meeting."

Connecticut

Connecticut town meetings are bound to a published agenda. For example, in Connecticut, a Town Meeting may discuss, but not alter, an article placed before them, nor may they place new items on the agenda. If a Town Meeting rejects a budget, a new Town Meeting must be called to consider the next proposed budget. State Law allows the Board of Selectmen to adopt an estimated tax rate and continue operating based on the previous budget in the event a Town Meeting has not adopted a new budget in time.

They also do not exercise the scope of legislative powers as is typically seen in Massachusetts; for example, while many Massachusetts towns adopt and modify land-use and building zoning regulations at Town Meeting, in Connecticut the Town Meeting would have "adopted zoning" as a concept for the town, however the actual writing and adopting of specific regulations fall to an elected Planning & Zoning Board created by the adoption of zoning.

A moderator is chosen at each meeting. Meetings are typically held in school auditoriums, however they may be moved to larger venues as needed. Town meetings can physically meet in another town if necessary to find a proper space to host the attendance. Votes are taken by voice, and if close by show of hands. Meetings on controversial topics are often adjourned to a referendum conducted by machine vote on a date in the future. Such adjournment may come from the floor of the meeting, or by a petition for a paper or machine ballot filed before the meeting.

In towns with an Open Town Meeting, all registered voters of a town, and all persons owning at least $1,000 of taxable property, are eligible to participate in and vote at Town Meetings, with the exception of the election of officials. Representative Town Meetings used by some larger towns consist solely of a large number of members elected to office. Some towns utilize a so-called Financial Town Meeting, where an Open Town Meeting exists with limited jurisdiction to only vote on financial affairs and the town's legislative powers have been vested in a Town Council.

Maine

In Maine, the town meeting system originated during the period when Maine was a district of Massachusetts. Most cities and towns operate under the town meeting form of government or a modified version of it. Maine annual town meetings traditionally are held in March. Special town meetings also may be called from time to time.

The executive agency of town government is an elected, part-time board, known as the Board of Selectmen or Select Board, having three, five, or seven members. Between sessions, the board of selectmen interprets the policy set at Town Meeting and is assigned numerous duties including: approving all town non-school expenditures, authorizing highway construction and repair, serving as town purchasing agent for non-school items, issuing licenses, and overseeing the conduct of all town activities. Often the part-time selectmen also serve as town assessors, overseers of the poor, and as road commissioners. Generally, there are other elected town officers whose duties are specified by law. These may include clerks, assessors, tax collector, treasurer, school committee, constables, and others.

In 1927 the town of Camden adopted a special charter, and became the first Maine town to apply the manager concept to the town meeting-selectmen framework. Under this system, the manager is administrative head of town government, responsible to the select board for the administration of all departments under its control. The manager's duties include acting as purchasing agent, seeing that laws and ordinances are enforced, making appointments and removals, and fixing the compensation of appointees. (See also: Council-manager government)

From 1927 to 1939, eleven other Maine towns adopted special act town meeting-selectmen-manager charters similar to the Camden charter. Today, 135 Maine towns have the town meeting-selectmen-manager system, while 209 use the town meeting-selectman system.

Massachusetts

Faneuil Hall Boston Massachusetts
Faneuil Hall in Boston

I am more and more convinced that, with reference to any public question, it is more important to know what the country thinks of it than what the city thinks. The city does not think much. On any moral question, I would rather have the opinion of Boxboro than of Boston and New York put together. When the former speaks, I feel as if somebody had spoken, as if humanity was yet, and a reasonable being had asserted its rights — as if some unprejudiced men among the country's hills had at length turned their attention to the subject, and by a few sensible words redeemed the reputation of the race. When, in some obscure country town, the farmers come together to a special town-meeting, to express their opinion on some subject which is vexing the land, that, I think, is the true Congress, and the most respectable one that is ever assembled in the United States.

— Henry David Thoreau, [3]

Two forms of town meeting government

An open town meeting is a form of town meeting in which all registered voters of a town are eligible to vote, acting together as the town's legislature. Town Meeting is typically held annually in the spring, often over the course of several evenings, but there is also provision for additional special meetings. Open town meeting is direct democracy, while its alternatives, representative town meeting and town council, are representative democracy. It is a form of government typical of smaller municipalities in the New England region of the United States.

In Massachusetts, all towns with fewer than 6,000 residents must adopt an open town meeting form of government.[4] Massachusetts towns with 6,000 or more residents may optionally adopt a representative town meeting form of government.[5] The Board of Selectmen summons the town meeting into existence by issuing the warrant, which is the list of items—known as articles—to be voted on, with descriptions of each article. The Moderator officiates the meeting making sure that rules of parliamentary procedure are followed, interpreting voice votes or shows of hands, and counting other votes. The Finance Committee, often called the Advisory Committee, makes recommendations on articles dealing with money and often drafts the proposed budget. The Town Clerk serves as the clerk of the meeting by recording its results. Town Counsel may make legal recommendations on any articles of the warrant, to ensure town meeting is acting lawfully.

Massachusetts Towns having at least 6,000 residents may adopt a Representative Town Meeting system through the normal charter-change process. Representative Town Meetings function largely the same as an Open Town Meeting, except that not all registered voters can vote. The townspeople instead elect Town Meeting Members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them. Depending on population, a town may have anywhere from 50 to 240 Town Meeting Members. Before it became a city in 2018, Framingham, which was the largest town in the Commonwealth by population, had 216 representatives in Town Meeting, twelve from each precinct.

Annual town meetings

Annual town meetings are held in the spring, and may also be known as the annual budget meeting. They were required to be held between February 1 and May 31, but Chapter 85 of the Acts of 2008 extended this window of time to June 30. (Town fiscal years start on July 1.) At this meeting, the town takes care of any outstanding housekeeping items it has remaining before the end of the current fiscal year, and prepares to enter the new fiscal year by approving the new fiscal year's budget. It may also vote on non-budgetary issues on the warrant, including the town's general and zoning bylaws.

An article may be placed on the warrant by the Selectmen, sometimes at the request of town departments, or by a petition signed by at least ten registered voters of the town.

Special town meetings

Special town meetings are held whenever necessary, usually to deal with financial or other pertinent issues that develop between Annual Town Meetings. They function the same as an annual town meeting, only the number of signatures required on a petition rises to 100. While the Selectmen generally call such a meeting, voters may call one through petition, and the number of signatures required on a petition to call a Special Town Meeting is 200 or 20% of the registered voters, whichever number is lower. The selectmen have 45 days from the date of receiving such a petition to hold a Special Town Meeting.

Joint/regional town meetings

Joint Town Meetings are an extremely rare form of town meeting. When two or more towns share an operating budget for district activity that includes those towns, for example, a multi-town regional school district, the governing body of that regional district will typically issue each town an assessment for its operation. The town then includes its assessment as part of its budget.

If Town Meeting in one town votes to approve its assessment based on the figures provided, and Town Meeting in another town votes a lesser figure than it was assessed, the disagreement becomes problematic. If the issue cannot be resolved by a revised budget submitted to subsequent additional individual town meetings, the regional entity's governing body has the authority to call a meeting of all registered voters from all towns in the district: a Joint Town Meeting. The action of the Joint Town Meeting is binding upon all communities of the regional district. When three or more towns are involved, the name often changes from Joint Town Meeting to Regional Town Meeting.

In 2003, the Massachusetts communities of Freetown and Lakeville held their annual town meetings and voted on the budget for the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District as part of those meetings. Freetown voters approved a budget that reduced their contribution by $100,000 from what the Regional School Committee asked for, thus requiring Lakeville to lower their contribution proportionally. Lakeville voters instead approved the amount the Regional School Committee asked for, which would require Freetown to go back and approve the extra $100,000.

When the towns could not agree, the Regional School Committee, as governing body of the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District, called a joint town meeting of voters from Freetown and Lakeville to agree on a single regional school budget. The joint meeting voted in favor of the amount originally requested, which committed Freetown to appropriate additional funds in the amount of $100,000 for the regional school district's operations.[6]

Cities calling themselves towns

The Massachusetts Constitution (in Amendment LXXXIX, which governs the respective powers of municipalities and the state legislature) makes a distinction between a "city form of government" and a "town form of government". In recent years, a number of communities have chosen to adopt a home-rule charter under this Amendment which specifies a city form of government while retaining the style "Town of X", calling their legislative bodies "Town Council", and so on. (The Constitution does not require any specific nomenclature.) In special legislation, these places are sometimes described as "the city known as the town of X".

The Town Meeting legislative body and form of government is a mandatory part of being a town under state municipal law. Massachusetts cities do not have town meetings, because the legislative body is the elected city council, also sometimes called the board of aldermen or, in the case of cities styled as "Town of _____", the town council. However, as noted, the official style of a city or town is defined in its charter, and there is no legal barrier to cities calling themselves "town" or vice versa. As a result, not all of the municipalities that entitled Town of _____ have a Town Meeting legislative body. (Only communities with a population of at least 12,000 are allowed to adopt a city form of government.)

Common practice distinguishes between a "town meeting" (with an article), which may refer to any such gathering, even if municipal business is not the subject, and "Town Meeting" (never an article), which always refers to the legislative governing body of a town.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, towns, village districts (which can deal with various government activities but usually concern public water supplies)[7] and school districts have the option of choosing one of two types of annual meeting: Traditional meetings, and ballot-vote meetings that are known informally as "SB 2" or "Senate Bill 2". A variation of SB 2 and representative town meeting are also allowed under state law but as of 2015 are not in use by any community.[8]

Traditional town meetings

Traditional town meeting is held annually on the second Tuesday of March to choose town officers, approve a town budget, and approve large contracts. Town selectmen can call special town meetings throughout the year as needed, although these must be approved by a judge if they affect the budget. State law prohibits town meetings from being held on the biennial election day in November.

State law lets the town moderator adjourn a long-running meeting and reconvene it at a later date to finish the town's business.

Any town meeting or adournment thereof must have its time and place published with three days' notice, along with the warrant specifying each issue to be decided. Town meeting can amend the warrant articles before voting on them, and can conduct non-binding discussions of other issues, but cannot make other binding votes without this notice to town voters.

Attendance wanes over the course of a town meeting, and a traditional tactic was to re-vote after many on the opposite side had gone home. In 1991, the state enacted RSA 40:10, giving town meeting members the right to bar reconsideration of a specified vote (or any "action...which involves the same subject matter"). If a town meeting does not bar reconsideration and later does vote to reconsider a decision, the issue can only be taken up at an adjourned session at least one week later.

Official ballot referenda (SB 2)

Official ballot referenda, or the SB 2[9] format, provides that town voters make binding decisions not at town meeting but by secret ballot in the municipal election. To adopt SB 2, or to revert to traditional town meetings, a question to that effect on the municipal ballot must win a three-fifths majority. This format was instituted by the state legislature in 1995 because of concerns that modern lifestyles had made it difficult for people to attend traditional town meetings.

Under SB 2, a first session, called a "Deliberative Session", is held about a month prior to the town election. This session is similar in many ways to the traditional town meeting. However, unlike the town meeting, while the wording and dollar amounts of proposed ballot measures may be amended, no actual voting on the merits of the proposals takes place.

Deliberative sessions are less well attended, in bodies that have adopted SB 2, than are plenary town meetings in bodies that have not adopted SB 2, as their decisions are not final. However, the final vote by secret ballot attracts more voters than town meetings do because of the shorter time requirement, and absentees can vote.

Deliberative sessions have been charged with "sabotaging" the intent of a ballot question; for example, changing a warrant article, "To see if the Town will raise and appropriate (amount) for (purpose)" to merely read, "To see." A 2011 law[10] barred deliberative sessions from deleting the subject matter of a warrant article. In 2016, petitioners in Exeter submitted an article to place on the ballot an advisory "vote of no confidence" in a school official, and the deliberative session removed the word "no".[11]

The second session, held on a set election day, is when issues such as the town's budget and other measures, known as warrant articles, are voted upon. When adopting SB 2, towns or school districts may hold elections on the second Tuesday in March, the second Tuesday in April, or the second Tuesday in May. The election dates may be changed by majority vote. If a vote is taken to approve the change of the local elections, the date becomes effective the following year.

In 2002, according to the University of New Hampshire Center for Public Policy studies, 171 towns in New Hampshire had traditional town meeting, while 48 had SB 2. Another 15 municipalities, most of them incorporated cities, had no annual meeting. The study found that 102 school districts had traditional town meeting, 64 had SB 2 meeting and 10 had no annual meeting.

Because traditional-meeting communities tend to be smaller, only one-third of the state's population was governed by traditional town meetings in 2002, and only 22 percent by traditional school-district meetings.

Official ballot town council

The Official Ballot Town Council is a variant form of the Town Council, in which certain items are to be placed on the ballot to be voted on by the registered voters. This process mimics the SB 2 process, except that the Town Council makes the determination of what items will go on the ballot.

Budgetary town meeting

The Budgetary Town Meeting is a variation of the Open Meeting, but only the annual town operating budget as presented by the governing body can be voted on by the registered voters. When a town charter provides for a Budgetary Town Meeting it also must establish the procedures for the transfer of funds among various departments, funds, accounts and agencies as may be necessary during the year.

Representative town meeting

State law (RSA 49-D:3 (paragraph III)) gives the alternative of a representative town meeting, similar to that of a town council, in which voters elect a small number of residents to act as the legislative body in their stead. Representative town meeting follows the same procedure as traditional town meetings, except they cannot decide matters that state law requires to be placed on the official town ballot. Representative town meeting is selected by a town charter, which may require additional matters to go onto the town ballot.

As of 2006, this form of government is not used in any town or school district in New Hampshire.

Moderator

Moderators are elected to two-year terms on even years in towns and are elected in city wards at every other city election. The moderator presides over town meetings, regulates their business, prescribes rules of procedure, decides questions of order, and declares the outcome of each vote. Town meeting voters can override the moderator's procedural rulings.

The moderator also has the authority to postpone and reschedule the town meeting (or deliberative session, if SB 2 is in effect) to another reasonable date, place, and time certain in the case of a weather emergency in which the moderator reasonably believes the roads to be hazardous or unsafe.

The 2017 municipal election was preceded by a large snowstorm, and the Secretary of State clarified that this statutory authority does not extend to postponing elections, but moderators in several towns did so anyway.[12] The two houses of the 2018 legislature could not agree on a procedure to postpone elections, but in 2019, SB 104 seemed headed for passage. It would empower the moderator based on National Weather Service reports and after consultations with other officials and the Secretary of State. It also envisages a method of postponing elections in cities.[13]

New York

Town meetings were the rule in New York from the colonial period into the 20th century. They were typically held between February 1 and May 1 of each year primarily for the election of town officials but were also empowered to set "rules for fences and for impounding animals," supporting the poor, raising taxes, and to "determine any other question lawfully submitted to them". In the late 1890s the state legislature shifted the meetings – by this time no more than town elections – to biennial to conform to the pattern of federal, state, and municipal elections in the state's cities.[14] It also permitted, and later directed, town meetings to be held in November. That process was not complete until the 1920s. Laws adopted in 1932 for the first time refer to "Biennial town elections", stating that these were "a substitute for a town meeting...and a reference in any law to a town meeting or special town meeting shall be construed as reference to a town election".[15] The state's school districts (independent units with taxing powers) voted on budgets and capital levies and elected school board members in town-meeting style until the late 1950s.

Rhode Island

Due to a change in the state's constitution, Rhode Island municipalities have a greater degree of home rule compared to the other New England states. Like Connecticut, a few towns utilize a so-called Financial Town Meeting, where an Open Town Meeting exists with limited jurisdiction to only vote on financial affairs and the town's legislative powers have been vested in a Town Council. The direct democracy tradition is now uncommon in Rhode Island.

Vermont

Marlboro Town House side view
The Town House of Marlboro, Vermont, was built in 1822 to be used for town meetings, which had previously been held in private homes. It is still in use today.

Town Meeting Day (the first Tuesday in March) is a state holiday. Most organized towns operate under the general statutes requiring an annual town meeting on that day or, optionally, on preceding days if the voters so choose. The purpose of town meeting is to elect municipal officers, approve annual budgets and conduct any other business. All cities and some towns in Vermont operate under charters instead of general legislation (see special legislation). The cities and chartered towns, except for South Burlington, are required by the terms of their charters to hold an annual town meeting, on Town Meeting Day. Many towns vote on matters of substance (e.g., budgets, elected officials, etc.) by secret ballot (also known as Australian ballot). However, there is no state law that requires towns to vote by Australian ballot; several towns still conduct all business "from the floor".

Cities and towns are governed by either a city council or a selectboard. They are fully empowered to act on most issues and are generally referred to as the municipality's legislative body. But all town budgets (and those of other independent taxing authorities) must be approved by plebiscite; explaining the local government's budget request to the voters is the principal business of Town Meeting. Voters at Town Meeting may also vote on non-binding resolutions, and may place items on the ballot for the following year's meeting.

There is no general requirement for chartered municipalities to observe town meeting or to put their budgets to plebiscite. When the Town of South Burlington was re-chartered as the City of South Burlington in 1971, the new charter provided for city elections in April and required only budget increases of 10% or more per annum to be placed before voters. No other municipality has been granted such a charter by the legislature, and there is strong sentiment against making future exceptions.

According to the Vermont Secretary of State's Citizen's Guide to Town Meeting, Vermont gives state employees the day off on town meeting day. Vermont "law also gives a private employee the right to take unpaid leave from work to attend his or her annual town meeting, subject to the essential operation of the business or government. An employee must give the employer at least seven days notice if he or she wants to take advantage of this right to attend town meeting. Students who are over 18 also have the right to attend town meeting" and not be declared truant.[16][17]

Moderator

Moderators are elected to one-year terms in towns. The moderator's duties include reviewing the "warning" (published agenda) for the town meeting, presiding over town meetings, deciding questions of order, making public declarations of each vote passed, and prescribing rules of proceeding.[18]

Other states

Towns in several western states and counties also practice town meeting, though generally with more limited powers. Michigan was the first western state to adopt the town meeting system, but it was initially very restricted in its function.

Minnesota has had town meetings as the policy-setting bodies of townships. They were required once the voting population of a township reached 25 persons.[19] Townships still hold town meetings.[20]

Europe

Basque Country

The best-known example of the town meeting system of government was to be found in the Basque Country of northern Spain in the Middle Ages. Known as the anteiglesia (literally "in front of the church" from the Latin ante - and not anti) all the residents of a town would meet outside the door of the largest church and vote on local matters. They would also elect a sindico to represent them in the regional assembly. The village or town was divided into cofradías, which dealt with day-to-day administration in each of the town's parishes.

The system was revived in the municipality of Iurreta, Biscay in 1990.

Switzerland

Town meetings are the usual legislative body of the smaller municipalities of Switzerland, that is of approximately 90% of all Swiss municipalities. The meetings are usually held twice a year. At the cantonal level, some regions also hold Landsgemeinde, annual meetings for deciding on legislative referenda. In the 17th century this was common across the region, but in the 21st century the meetings continue to exist only in two cantons of Switzerland.

Within religious communities

The Bahá'í Faith has a Nineteen Day Feast which encourages all members of the geographic community in good standing to attend for prayers, administrative discussion, and socializing. This meeting is one component of the Bahá'í Administrative Order (which is held up as a model for secular society to consider implementing some of its features), and the meeting is considered by Bahá'ís to be an example of grass-roots democracy.

See also

References

  1. ^ Sullivan, James William (1893). Direct Legislation Through the Initiative and Referendum. True Nationalist Publishing Company.
  2. ^ Thoreau, Henry David. "Slavery in Massachusetts". Retrieved 2011-05-20.
  3. ^ Thoreau, Henry David (July 4, 1854). "Slavery in Massachusetts". Archived from the original on November 8, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
  4. ^ "Massachusetts Constitution, Article LXXXIX". General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  5. ^ See amendment LXXXIX of the Massachusetts Constitution.
  6. ^ Barnes, Jennette (2003-08-08). "Lakeville demands more Freetown funding". The Standard-Times. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  7. ^ Law establishing village districts
  8. ^ Forms of Town Government - NH.gov
  9. ^ SB 2 means "Senate Bill 2" of the 1995 legislature. The term in context is always understood to mean the referendum option for town government. The statute is RSA 40:13.
  10. ^ "hb 0077". www.gencourt.state.nh.us. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  11. ^ "SAU 16 officials make their case". Seacoast Online. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  12. ^ Casey McDermott (March 29, 2018). "Statehouse Debate Over Town Election Scheduling Bill Draws Packed Crowd". N.H. Public Radio.
  13. ^ Dave Solomon (March 9, 2019). "Moderators likely to gain authority to postpone town election day". Manchester Union-Leader.
  14. ^ Chapter 481, Laws of 1897
  15. ^ McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York State Annotated (Chapter 634, Laws of 1932); Jewett's Manual for Election Officers and Voters in the State of New York (1893-1918)
  16. ^ Markowitz, Deborah (July 2008). "A Citizen's Guide to Vermont Town Meeting". Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  17. ^ 21 V.S.A.§472b
  18. ^ Vermont Moderator statutes Archived 2008-06-26 at the Wayback Machine accessed February 9, 2008
  19. ^ Niles, Sanford (1897). "The Town". History and Civil Government of Minnesota. Werner School Book Company. pp. 107–115.
  20. ^ "Town Meetings". Minnesota Association of Townships. Retrieved 19 June 2015.

Further reading

  • Bryan, Frank M., Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How it Works, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Fiske, John (1904). Civil Government in the United States: Considered with Some Reference to Its Origins. Houghton, Mifflin Company.
  • Mansbridge, Jane, Beyond Adversary Democracy, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1980, provides an in-depth account of the dynamics in one Vermont town of about 500 people.
  • Porter, Kirk Harold (1922). County and Township Government in the United States. Macmillan.
  • Robinson, Donald. Town Meeting: Practicing Democracy in Rural New England (University of Massachusetts Press; 2011) 344 pages; analyzes the rocky but productive process of town-meeting democracy in Ashfield, Mass., a community of just under 2,000 in the Berkshires.
  • Zuckerman, Michael. "The Social Context of Democracy in Massachusetts," William and Mary Quarterly (1968) 25:523-544 in JSTOR
  • Town meeting time: A handbook of parliamentary law (ISBN 0971167907)

External links

Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
2006 Vermont elections

The Vermont Election in 2006 consisted of elections for federal, state, and local elections. All state offices were for two years; all terms expired in 2006. Elections included the gubernatorial, all state offices, including all state senators and representatives, the federal Congress and the U.S. Senate.

A primary election in August determined which candidates parties would choose to run in the general election in November.

Local elections occurred during the town meeting in March.

Board of selectmen

The board of selectmen or select board is commonly the executive arm of the government of New England towns in the United States. The board typically consists of three or five members, with or without staggered terms. Three is the most common number, historically. In some places, a first selectman is appointed to head the board, often by election.

Canaan, Vermont

Canaan is a town in Essex County, Vermont, United States. The population was 972 at the 2010 census, down from 1,078 at the 2000 census. Canaan contains the village of Beecher Falls, located at the confluence of the Connecticut River and Halls Stream. It is part of the Berlin, NH–VT Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Dedham, Massachusetts

Dedham DED-əm is a town in and the county seat of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 24,729 at the 2010 census. It is located on Boston's southwest border. On the northwest it is bordered by Needham, on the southwest by Westwood, and on the southeast by Canton. The town was first settled by Europeans in 1635.

Elections in Vermont

Elections in Vermont are authorized under Chapter II of the Vermont State Constitution, articles 43–49, which establishes elections for the state level officers, cabinet, and legislature. Articles 50–53 establish the election of county-level officers.

Elections are regulated under state statute, Title 17. The office of the Vermont Secretary of State has an Elections Division that oversees the execution of elections under state law.

List of cities and towns in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a state located in the Northeastern United States. This is a list of the 221 towns and 13 cities in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. New Hampshire is organized along the New England town model, where the state is nearly completely incorporated and divided into towns, some of which the state has designated as "cities". For each town/city, the table lists the county to which it belongs, its date of incorporation, its population according to the 2010 census, its form of government, and its principal villages. Cities are indicated in boldface. Cities and towns are treated identically under state law. Cities are just towns that dropped the town meeting form of government in favor of a city form by special act of the New Hampshire General Court. However, since 1979, changing the form of governance no longer confers city status. Towns may drop the town meeting by local vote and adopt a new charter for a representative government, such as a council-manager form, and retain their status as a town. Several of the higher-population towns have already done so.

Generally, government forms come in several varieties:

The standard form has a board of selectmen acting as the town executive, while the entire voting population of the town acts as the town legislature in a form known as a town meeting.

Some towns have adopted a town manager to act as the town executive, in those cases the board of selectmen acts as the town legislature, while town meetings are advisory in nature. This form functions as the council-manager municipal form

Other towns have abolished their boards of selectmen and replaced it with a town council, to form a council-manager system

Prior to 1979, to abolish the board of selectmen and open town meeting required the town to be rechartered by the state legislature as a city, whereby the city charter would establish a representative government for the town, usually a board of aldermen or city council and led by a mayor and/or city manager.Regardless of which form of government a municipality uses, and whether it calls itself a city or town, all cities and towns are treated identically by the state law.

New Hampshire also has a small number of townships, grants, gores and other unincorporated areas which are not part of any municipality. These are small and rare, and cover a small amount of the land and population of the state.

List of municipalities in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a state located in the Northeastern United States. Municipalities in the state are classified as either towns or cities, distinguished by their form of government under state law. Towns have an open town meeting or representative town meeting form of government; the Census Bureau classifies towns as "minor civil divisions". Cities, on the other hand, use a mayor-council or council-manager form, and are classified by the Census as "populated places". Based on the form of government, there are 295 towns and 56 cities in Massachusetts. Some municipalities, however, still refer to themselves as "towns" even though they have a city form of government.

There is no unincorporated land in Massachusetts; the land area of the state is completely divided up among the 351 municipalities.

List of municipalities in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a state located in the Northeastern United States. According to the 2010 United States Census, Rhode Island is the 8th least populous state with 1,052,567 inhabitants and the smallest by land area spanning 1,033.81 square miles (2,677.6 km2) of land.

It is divided into 39 incorporated municipalities, including 8 cities and 31 towns, grouped into 5 historical counties that have no municipal functions as the state has no county level of government. The entire area of the state is governed by town administrations except for areas within the boundaries of cities.Municipalities in Rhode Island can incorporate as a town or city by a special act of the state legislature and there is no minimum population requirement. Eight municipalities were re-incorporated as cities operating under a charter, while the other 31 remain as towns which perform similar services. Since Rhode Island has no county level of government, cities and towns provide services commonly performed by county governments in other states. The state's cities and towns may adopt one of four forms of government: council–manager, mayor–council, town council–town meeting, or administrator–council. The primary difference between these forms of government is how the chief executive is selected. The Council–manager system involves an elected council who exercise overall control of the local government and a chief executive termed city or town manager who is generally appointed by and responsible to the council for the administration of local policies. Council–manager systems may elect a mayor but they have no formal administrative functions with the potential exception of a degree of veto power. Mayor–council systems have a similarly elected council however the mayor is elected and yields administrative power. In the town council–town meeting system, there is no full-time chief executive. There are no towns or cities in Rhode Island that use the administrator–council form of government.

The largest municipality by population in Rhode Island is the state capital of Providence, with 178,042 residents. The smallest municipality by population is New Shoreham on Block Island, with 1,051 year-round residents. The largest municipality by land area is Coventry which spans 59.05 sq mi (152.9 km2), while Central Falls is the smallest at 1.20 sq mi (3.1 km2). Rhode Island and Hawaii are the only two states in which all of the incorporated municipalities have a population greater than 1,000 people.

List of towns in Connecticut

This is a list of towns in Connecticut. The U.S. state of Connecticut is divided into 169 towns, which are grouped into eight counties.

Towns traditionally have a town meeting form of government; under the Home Rule Act; however, towns are free to choose their own government structure. Nineteen of the towns in Connecticut are consolidated city-towns, and one (Naugatuck) is a consolidated borough-town.

Reading, Massachusetts

Reading ( (listen) RED-ing) is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, 16 miles (26 km) north of central Boston. The population was 24,747 at the 2010 census.

Representative town meeting

A representative town meeting, also called "limited town meeting", is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and permitted in Maine and New Hampshire.

Representative town meetings function largely the same as open town meetings, except that not all registered voters can participate or vote. The townspeople instead elect town meeting members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them, much like a U.S. Representative votes on behalf of their constituents in Congress.

Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams (September 27 [O.S. September 16] 1722 – October 2, 1803) was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a politician in colonial Massachusetts, a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States. He was a second cousin to his fellow Founding Father, President John Adams.

Adams was born in Boston, brought up in a religious and politically active family. A graduate of Harvard College, he was an unsuccessful businessman and tax collector before concentrating on politics. He was an influential official of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Boston Town Meeting in the 1760s, and he became a part of a movement opposed to the British Parliament's efforts to tax the British American colonies without their consent. His 1768 Massachusetts Circular Letter calling for colonial non-cooperation prompted the occupation of Boston by British soldiers, eventually resulting in the Boston Massacre of 1770. Adams and his colleagues devised a committee of correspondence system in 1772 to help coordinate resistance to what he saw as the British government's attempts to violate the British Constitution at the expense of the colonies, which linked like-minded Patriots throughout the Thirteen Colonies. Continued resistance to British policy resulted in the 1773 Boston Tea Party and the coming of the American Revolution.

Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774, at which time Adams attended the Continental Congress in Philadelphia which was convened to coordinate a colonial response. He helped guide Congress towards issuing the Continental Association in 1774 and the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and he helped draft the Articles of Confederation and the Massachusetts Constitution. Adams returned to Massachusetts after the American Revolution, where he served in the state senate and was eventually elected governor.

Samuel Adams later became a controversial figure in American history. Accounts written in the 19th century praised him as someone who had been steering his fellow colonists towards independence long before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. This view gave way to negative assessments of Adams in the first half of the 20th century, in which he was portrayed as a master of propaganda who provoked mob violence to achieve his goals. Both of these interpretations have been challenged by some modern scholars, who argue that these traditional depictions of Adams are myths contradicted by the historical record.

Saugus, Massachusetts

Saugus is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. The population was 26,628 at the 2010 census.

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Shrewsbury is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Shrewsbury, unlike surrounding towns like Grafton, Millbury, Westborough, and Northborough, did not become a mill town or farming village; most of its 19th-century growth was due to its proximity to Worcester and visitors to Lake Quinsigamond. The population was 35,608 according to the 2010 US Census, in nearly 12,400 households.

Incorporated in 1727, the town is governed now under the New England representative town meeting system, headed by the Town Manager and five-member elected Board of Selectmen whose duties include licensing, appointing various administrative positions, and calling a town meeting of citizens annually or whenever the need arises.

Southeastern Massachusetts

Southeastern Massachusetts consists of those portions of Massachusetts that are, by their proximity, economically and culturally linked to Providence, Rhode Island as well as Boston. Despite the location of Cape Cod and the islands to its south, which are the southeasternmost parts of the state, they are not always grouped in this designation. At its broadest definition, it includes all of Massachusetts south of Boston and southeast of Worcester.

The Town Hall (New York City)

The Town Hall is a performance space, located at 123 West 43rd Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, in midtown Manhattan New York City. It opened on January 12, 1921, and seats approximately 1,500 people.

In the 1930s, the first public-affairs media programming originated there with the America's Town Meeting of the Air radio programs. In recognition of this the National Park Service placed the building on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, and designated it a National Historic Landmark in 2013.

Town hall meeting

Town hall meetings, also referred to as town halls or town hall forums, are a way for local and national politicians to meet with their constituents, either to hear from them on topics of interest or to discuss specific upcoming legislation or regulation. During periods of active political debate, town halls can be a locus for protest and more active debate.Despite their name, town hall meetings need not take place in a town hall. They are commonly held in a range of venues, including schools, libraries, municipal buildings, and churches. A number of officials have also experimented with digital formats for town halls. Town hall meetings organized by national politicians are often held in a variety of locations distributed across a voting district so that elected representatives can receive feedback from a larger proportion of constituents.

Historically, no specific rules or guidelines have defined a town hall meeting. Any event that allows constituent participation with a politician may be called a town hall, including gatherings in person, group phone calls, or events on Internet platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Attendees use town halls to voice their opinions and question elected officials, political candidates, and public figures. In contrast to town meetings, a type of direct democratic rule that originated in colonial New England, attendees do not vote on issues during town hall meetings.

In the United States, town halls are a common way for national politicians to connect or reconnect with their constituents during recesses, when they are in their home districts away from Washington, D.C.

Waterford, Connecticut

Waterford is a town in New London County, Connecticut, United States. It is named after Waterford, Ireland. The population was 19,517 at the 2010 census.

The town center is listed as a census-designated place (CDP) and had a population of 2,887 at the 2010 census.

Westborough, Massachusetts

For geographic and demographic information on the census-designated place Westborough, please see the article Westborough (CDP), Massachusetts.

Westborough is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 18,272 at the 2010 Census, in nearly 6,900 households. Incorporated in 1717, the town is governed under the New England open town meeting system, headed by a five-member elected Board of Selectmen whose duties include licensing, appointing various administrative positions, and calling a town meeting of citizens annually or whenever the need arises.

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