I’m running for Halifax Selectboard and I’m also the person who initiated the petition that placed Article 8 (concerning the size of the selectboard) on the warning. The newly published The Deerfield Valley News report (“Summer Celebration on Warning”) mischaracterizes Article 8, and so I want to take this opportunity to discuss the article and, in the process, correct the record.
Article 8 reads, “Shall the voters of Halifax vote on changes to the size of the selectboard by Australian ballot rather than by voice or floor vote?”
Contrary to the DVN report, Article 8 does not present the substantive question of whether to expand the board from three to five members. Article 8 merely presents the procedural question of how the town should decide that substantive question in the future.
Currently, questions about the size of the board are placed on the warning and are adopted or defeated by those Halifax voters who are able to go to Town Meeting. If adopted, this article would simply mean that in the future, questions about the size of the board would appear on the Australian ballot that all Halifax voters receive when the polls are open (or when they vote by absentee ballot).
Here’s why it matters.
We get terrific turnout at state and local elections – of roughly 580 registered voters, 225 to 285 regularly cast Australian ballots on the days that the polls are open, whether it’s a local, state or national election. But only about 75 voters typically come (and stay) at Town Meeting to cast voice or floor votes.
The substantive question of whether to expand the board has been put to the voters at Town Meeting three times in the last five years. The first time, the article was defeated; the second and third times, the article was passed over without discussion. Maybe the subset of voters who come to Town Meeting are representative of the town as a whole, but then again, maybe they’re not. The only way to know is to let everyone weigh in. And the only way to let everyone weigh in is for us to change the way the issue is decided -- from floor vote to Australian ballot – and that will require the support of the folks at Town Meeting.
If it’s approved, and if the substantive question appears on an Australian ballot at some point in the future, I will support it. I’m happy to discuss why I support it, as well as some ideas I have about how such a change could be implemented at little or no cost to the town. But that substantive question – and hence my answer to that question -- will have to wait till another day.
For now, I hope people will come to Town Meeting and vote in favor of Article 8 so that next year or the year after, everyone, including those for whom health, family or work obligations prevent them from spending the better part of the day at Town Meeting, can decide this important question.
Cara Cheyette, Halifax