There were few surprises at last Saturday’s Special Town Meeting, other than the fact that the start was delayed 45 minutes to allow several hundred people to stroll in fashionably late. 

Who could have known that this much-anticipated and highly promoted Special Town Meeting would attract such a crowd? And you can hardly blame people for not knowing about the check-in process when they’ve never been to a Town Meeting before.  

You mean we can’t just sashay in and sit down? 

The Special Town Meeting to vote on a new high school was advertised far and wide to start at 9 a.m., and there were several hundred people seated in the Field House on time. But then they were informed that the meeting would be delayed “in fairness” to those who were in line to check in at 9 a.m. 

Where was the fairness to those hundreds who were somehow able to figure out how to get checked in and seated by 9 o’clock? Oh well, at least they got to be serenaded by Steely Dan tunes and other ‘80’s hits played over the PA system while they waited for the leisure class to drift in. Punctuality has its rewards. 

After the nearly 45-minute delay, a sufficient number of young parents who care deeply about schools but not about clocks were finally seated in the Field House. One wonders how they get their kids to school on time.  

Once the meeting got underway, it went pretty much as expected. 

A series of teachers, school administrators and other town officials repeated the by now familiar litany of horrors endured daily by students and faculty in the current 63-year-old high school building. They did their best to downplay the long-term tax impact of building a new high school – about $1,300 a year for the average homeowner. 

After the formal presentations were finished, the voters got to have their say – briefly. After about 10 people stood up and spoke for and against the project, former School Committee chairman Anthony Guardia decided he’d had heard quite enough from the hoi polloi. He moved to end discussion and put the matter immediately to a vote. A chorus of “Second!” was shouted by many of those who, having arrived late, couldn’t wait to leave. 

When the votes were counted, 1,231 voted “Yes” for the new high school project, with 42 voting “No.” 

If you left feeling discouraged by the lopsided vote, that was precisely the intent. Leaving nothing to chance is one thing. This was overkill calculated to demoralize the opposition. That was why the “Yes” organizers marshalled many times more bodies to the meeting than they would need to secure the required two-thirds majority. 

Given the 42 “No” votes, the Yes People could have won with just 84 votes. Even if there had been double the number of “No” voters, the Yes People would have needed fewer than 200 to prevail. They had over six times that many. 

“Look at how many we are,” was the message. “You might as well give up.” 

On the flip side, many who oppose the new high school plan didn’t bother showing up for the Town Meeting. They had seen this movie before and already knew the ending. Why risk getting booed like the disabled senior citizen who spoke about the financial hardship that more taxes would mean for her? 

And what senior citizen scraping by on social security needs to be lectured by a 30-something to “Remember your children and grandchildren. If you vote ‘No’ today, you are choosing a worse future for them.” 


Kudos to those brave souls who did stand up and speak on behalf of the beleaguered taxpayers, knowing they were outnumbered by a ratio of nearly 30-1. As it was, Moderator Bill Carroll had to castigate the crowd several times for its rowdy behavior. 

“You’re a legislative body,” he admonished. “This isn’t a pep rally.” He probably should have explained what a legislative body is. I’m pretty sure they were familiar with pep rallies. 

So, now it’s on to a Special Election on March 11.  

Many taxpayers who wouldn’t subject themselves to Town Meeting are champing at the bit to vote by secret ballot, safe from the judgmental eyes of the mob. 

The question is, how many will show up?