ABOUT TOWN: ATBM

About-Town-Margaret-WirtenbergWho runs the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) in Weston?

The answer: A member of the Panel of Moderators, an appointed group of four trained meeting moderators, who take turns presiding at town meetings. They operate based on a moderator’s handbook, originally written by panel members and updated from time to time. The procedures it specifies are not the same as those in the strict Robert’s Rules of Order. The handbook is more “user friendly,” and encourages clear explanations to the attending public of each step that is taken during the meeting.

We have a Panel of Moderators in part to eliminate the possibility of a Town Meeting being manipulated by one political entity or another. To prevent the politically powerful from being able to run the show and call the shots. This independent panel has served that purpose well.

The new Town Charter requires that a quorum comprising at least 2% of eligible Town Meeting voters be present before a budget reduction vote can be taken at ATBM. The charter is silent, however, about exactly how and when during the meeting the presence of a quorum should be determined.

A basic reason for the quorum requirement is to eliminate the possibility that a tiny minority might upend the wishes of a not-present majority. A relevant consideration, it seems to me, is that communication technologies seem to be in place that can almost instantly swell the numbers present at ATBM, if members of the public holding one viewpoint or another find it necessary. Sort of like Paul Revere with an iPad. Which makes the question of how to handle changes in turnout that may occur during the course of the meeting especially significant.

I say give the new charter a chance for a year or so before tinkering with it. The Panel of Moderators will address issues in the new system as they arise, make changes of their own in their handbook, and everything will work out.

May

Here in the month of May, the pale green leaves are budding, and on a sunny day I can’t imagine there being any other place that looks much better than Weston!

What else happens this month? Our 2013 Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day occurred in April, on the 27th. What was interesting to me is that almost as many people from nearby towns came to this event as did Westonites.

If those out-of-towners could find the Weston DPW, you can surely locate at least one of the seven other communities that will host similar events during the remainder of 2013!

Greenwich High School on May 11 is next, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. That’s this Saturday.

Then comes Darien on June 1, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Noroton Heights railroad station.

Stamford, on July 13 at the Rippowam Middle School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., will close out the spring-summer season.

Norwalk, New Canaan, Westport, and Wilton will host similar events during the fall.

Is our Department of Public Works on Old Hyde Road finished serving us this year? No! For one thing, thanks to actions taken by the selectmen just the other year, we now have our own annual “Shredding Day.” When I say “our own,” I mean this. It is for Weston residents only.

What do we bring to this event? Let’s see. Perhaps you have legal documents that are no longer applicable or useful. Perhaps old bank statements, financial records, and other documents containing personal information that you wouldn’t want to have fall into the wrong hands — things that might lead to identity theft, for example.

I won’t visit this event this year, but if a new Charter Revision Commission is formed, I and others may ultimately be doing some shredding of the town charter that was approved three-to-one at the polls last November.

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88.

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