Published in the May 16, 2019 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
Bad ideas seem to be finding their way to Wakefield with some regularity of late, which is why you should always be aware of what’s going on in nearby communities.
Forewarned is forearmed as they say, and in Massachusetts there’s never a shortage of “initiatives” to be forewarned about.
Let’s start with the least dubious (which isn’t saying much) idea and work our way down.
In the Town of North Andover, they’re experimenting with a kind of “virtual Town Meeting,” where citizens watching the meeting from home but unable (or more likely, unwilling) to attend will be allowed to send in questions and weigh in on articles via a new innovation called “email.” After proper “vetting” for redundancy and voter identity, these emailed questions will be posed to the meeting.
Who will be vetting the emailed questions? Don’t you worry. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters will be handling that task. And if you’ve ever worked with the LWV, you know just how “nonpartisan” they are.
Those participating remotely won’t be able to vote on articles before Town Meeting. That right is still reserved for those who actually show up. (How quaint.)
North Andover’s experiment sounds like a lot of other proposals to make voter “participation” easier, disguised as a technological advancement. Participating in self-government is not hard. But like anything worthwhile, it requires a minimal amount of effort. Showing up is about as minimal as it gets.
But this proposal is likely to have the opposite of its intended effect of “expanding the awareness of and interest in Town Meeting.” It seems more likely to expand interest in staying home, where you can enjoy your favorite beverage or herbal refreshment, while sharing your profound insights via the internet.
Several people in Wakefield, including at least one elected official, have expressed interest in trying this here. Those individuals may want to think about whether they really want to emulate a town that still has a Board of Selectmen.
Next, we visit Marblehead, which as far as we know still requires people to show up at Town Meeting. But that is no guarantee against foolishness.
Earlier this month, Marblehead Town Meeting voted that the community will henceforth celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day” instead of Columbus Day every October.
Columbus Day is of course the national holiday that was signed into law in 1937 by that great oppressor Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
And with a median household income of $107,535, Marblehead can identify with oppressed peoples, even as 95 percent of its residents enjoy white privilege. Only 0.06 percent of Marblehead residents are native American, but I’m sure they appreciate any pat on the head that guilt-ridden, pale-faced Town Meeting voters bestow on them.
Finally, we visit Somerville. The former “All-American City” now wants to extend voting to 16-year-olds in city elections. The City Council passed the measure and it has been sent to the state Legislature for approval.
“It’s their future and they should have a right to shape it,” advocates for lowering the voting age argue. What about 8-year-olds? It’s their future too. Should they be allowed to vote?
Imagine if North Andover were to adopt a 16-year-old voting age. Picture scores of newly legal voters on their laptops and smartphones vaping God-knows-what and messing with the League of Women Voters on Town Meeting night.
Now, that’s what I call entertainment.