FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
Citizen’s Petition Articles for ATM Due January 30
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Our open town meeting form of government not only affords each registered voter the opportunity to debate and cast their vote for an array of town issues – budgets, local bylaws, etc. – it also allows citizens the option of submitting their own proposals for voter consideration. The process is fairly simple and guidance is available if you need assistance.
Our Town By-law stipulates that citizen petition articles are to be submitted 60 days prior to the Annual Town Meeting, and 28 days prior to a Special Town Meeting. Our Annual Town Meeting is held the first Monday in April which is April 1st this year. Thus citizen articles need to be submitted to the Town Clerk’s Office by January 30th to be included in the upcoming meeting. A citizen article needs the signature of at least 10 registered voters in order to be placed on the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting, that is, the list of articles (topics) to be voted. (100 signatures are required for a petition article that is to go on a special town meeting warrant.)
The Town Clerk has a template that citizens can use in crafting their proposed article and in obtaining the requisite signatures. If you are unsure about how best to word the article you wish to have voters consider, Town Moderator Alan Wilson and I are available to assist as well as Town Clerk Christina St. Pierre.
Citizen articles have covered a wide array of topics in the past. Of course, proposals must fall within the scope of what a town can do legally. We have Town Counsel review proposed articles for compliance with state laws. Articles must be approved by voters at the Town Meeting and, if the article proposes a new general bylaw, the state’s Attorney General must approve it as well. Any article that proposes a change to our zoning or subdivision regulations must first be reviewed and reported on by the Planning Board before voters decide.
The citizen petition provides yet another avenue for all residents to engage in the process of governing our local affairs. You can also ask your Selectmen to advance a town meeting article instead of going the petition route. Either way, you have direct access to putting issues before your fellow citizens, thus playing a vital role in shaping the character and future of our town.