Town Meeting Survival Guide
If you have never been to Town Meeting before, you may not know what to expect. As such, we decided to compile this “survival guide” to help you know what to expect.
You do not need to bring anything to Town Meeting. However, many people find that bringing a notebook and pen or pencil is helpful to make notes during the discussions. No food or drink is allowed in the HHS Athletic Center. There is a drinking fountain outside the gym or bring some change to get something from the vending machine (minimal selection). Many people also find that something to occupy one’s hands is helpful. If you are a knitter, for example, bring a small project. There will be folding chairs on the gym floor with additional seating in the bleachers. It is not comfortable. Bring a cushion or stadium seat if you have one. Wear comfortable clothes. Babysitting will be provided by the HPTA, but space is limited. Babysitting reservations are required by 12:00 noon, you must contact Beth D’Alleva at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-435-7393 with the ages and number of children attending.
Town Meeting begins at 7:00pm at the HHS Athletic Center. Parking will be tight, please allow time to park and walk to the building. (For the Legacy Farms vote many people had to park on the Loop Road or in the back parking lots by the fields; consider bringing a flashlight.) Arrive early to find a good seat. As you enter the high school, head downstairs to the cafeteria to sign in. There is an elevator for handicapped access. To actually vote in the gym, you must be a Hopkinton resident registered to vote and you must sign in at the voter table. Your name will be checked off and you’ll be given a piece of paper. Hold on to this piece of paper; you will need it when it is time for the votes to be counted! You’ll see a table of handouts and fact sheets regarding the proposed new school from both the town boards and committees, as well as the groups in favor of and opposed to the proposed new school. There is some terrific information here that may answer many of your questions. Listening devices for the hearing impaired will be available, please ask when you check in.
You do not have to be present for the entire town meeting to vote, though the more that participate in whole, the more balanced the democratic process. A quorum of 100 people is required to open the meeting. There is no set time to check in. The meeting will be broadcast live via HCAM TV (Comcast 8/Verizon 30), but you MUST be present to vote. You just need to check in prior to the vote, whenever you arrive. You only have to check in once, and you can come and go from the gym as you please. You can text (with phone switched to silent mode) from within the gym, although there is minimal cell coverage. Step outside to make a phone call.
The Board of Selectmen (RJ Dourney, Chair) presides over the meeting, which is facilitated by the Town Moderator (Dr. Bruce Karlin) and recorded by the Town Clerk (Ann M. Click). The format of the meeting itself follows Robert’s Rules of Order. Articles are presented, motions made, discussions ensue. Sometimes it can be a little confusing if an amendment comes up, so keep your ears open. Listen carefully — and you’ll learn a lot. There are two questions on the warrant (agenda) for Hopkinton’s Special Town Meeting on March 21.
A presentation will be made by the Hopkinton Elementary School Building Committee (Rebecca Robak, Chair) regarding the request for funding a new PreK-5 neighborhood school on the Fruit Street property. The Town Moderator, Dr. Karlin, will facilitate a question and answer period for registered residents. If you choose to ask a question or comment on an article, step up to one of the microphones located on the gym floor. Wait for the moderator, to recognize you, then state your name and address, and keep your comments brief, civil, and to the point. Passion is absolutely allowed. The comment, question and answer period will end when either #1 the moderator sees that no one else is waiting at the microphone to speak or #2 a voter comes to the microphone, is recognized by the moderator, and says “I move the question” or “I call the question.” The motion to end debate must then be seconded and then adopted by a ⅔ vote.
As for the actual voting, most votes start as a voice vote. The moderator asks all in favor and all opposed. If the voice vote sounds close, it will go to a standing count. The moderator will ask all in favor to stand up. Now is the time to get out that piece of paper! Hold out your paper and remain standing until the counters for your section have indicated that your vote has been recorded.
Although you can leave at any time, we recommend you do NOT leave until both questions on the warrant have been voted and the meeting is officially adjourned. Someone may ask for a recount, and if a large group has already left, the outcome could be different, especially if the original vote was close. If you have any other questions about Town Meeting, please ask!
(Thank you to the folks at DuxburyCares for giving us the Survival Guide idea!)