Episode #1 of an unscripted, original news/commentary Vermont Daily Chronicle podcast on Substack
In the interests of public health and safety, access to state and local decisionmakers is diminishing. Episode #1 of the unscripted, original Vermont Daily Chronicle Substack podcast.
Why I made this podcast……Goodness [that’s Felicity Goodness, a reader in Canaan VT] knows, as does every other Vermont Daily Chronicle reader, I’m no big fan of House Speaker Jill Krowinski. But Goodness and I agree that she deserves be kept safe from the man stalking her. The other lawmakers also should enjoy safe working conditions. Town Meeting shouldn’t be a risk to anyone’s health.
Vermont Daily Chronicle editor Guy Page
Thank you to Jessica Brumsted for being at the Shelburne Pierson library on the 15th of each month in 2022 while the legislature was not in session. I went and spoke with Representative Jessica twice. Jessica was very amazed that more people did not come by to speak with her.
Thank you to Keisha Ram Hinsdale, Jessica Brumsted, Kate Lalley and Ginny Lyons for being at the Pierson Library this evening 4pm to 6 pm Monday January 23 and meeting with Shelburne residents. Though we see little in common, it was good to have you make the time for the residents of Shelburne.
Thank you to all the representatives who take the time to speak with me when I show up at the state house. I will be there each week starting in February. I really appreciate the time each one of you takes to share your thoughts on issues. I do see the ones who run away from me too.
oops – i should have listened to the podcast first
No, you were right to applaud good faith efforts to connect with citizens.
Yet, a suspect can spit in a police officer’s face and the police officer is disciplined? A public health threat according to the law and State orders? On January 12, 2023, I posed this question to nine individuals who should answer or at least attempt to defend the actions of the State prosecutor. I received not one reply from any of them (including the Health Dept!) Therefore, ipso facto, there is no health risk. If those with authority fail to respond to an obvious incident of public health risk, they prove their rules are fraudulent. Their silence and failure to address a legitimate legal and public health question, in accordance to their rules, proves the deception.
Vermont Town Meetings are legendary. Unfortunately, the myth, most notably characterized in Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom of Speech’ painting, is indeed, more often an illusion. The history of New England Town Meetings is a more sordid affair, based on the Puritan culture that created it.
“Perhaps no state guards its prerogative of direct democracy more jealously than Vermont, which held its first Town Meeting in Bennington in 1762.”
The key descriptor here is, of course, ‘direct democracy’. The proverbial ‘two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch’.
“It has been observed by an honorable gentleman, that a pure [i.e., direct] democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved, that no position in politics is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.” Alexander Hamilton
“There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.” John Adams
This is why the United States is a Constitutional Republic. The word ‘democracy’ is nowhere to be found in its Constitution. And, most importantly, the Bill of Rights (amendments 1 thru 10) were included for the very purpose of protecting the ‘inalienable rights’ of the individual from the tyranny of the majority.
Yes, Town Meeting is an important ingredient in the ‘American Experiment’. But elections are the core of our liberty and freedom. And Australian Ballot initiatives – those articles voted in writing, by secret ballot, on election day, as opposed to those voice-voted openly on the floor of a Town Meeting – are a case in point.
Town tyrants despise Australian Ballot initiatives. The elected and appointed among them prefer to know what their neighbors are thinking lest they fall prey to some satanic worship. How else can they assign their scarlet letters to the offenders of the faith? How else can they shun the unruly, those who dare to take the road less traveled, with public ridicule and economic prohibition?
Town Meeting is but a side show – “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies… those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C. S. Lewis
I fear we are losing sight of the fact that it is the United States Constitution that is the most elegant form of governance ever contrived by rational human beings. And it is a confidential and verifiable election process that is critical to its continued success.
Mr Eshelman I complement you on your choice of pertinent quotes!
Nice job, Guy, for your initial podcast! I disagree with Mr. Eshelman about the role and importance of town meeting. A “town meeting” that decides issues by Australian ballot isn’t really a town meeting. When we lose in-person town meetings, we lose local democracy. For a few thoughts on the importance of in-person town meetings, see this blog post that I wrote in 2019 (i.e., pre-pandemic):
Two years ago, Erica Heilman did an excellent podcast on Rumble Strip on what we lose when we don’t have in-person town meetings. I wrote about it on Vermont Daily Chronicle:
No, Mr. Putnam, local democracy is not lost because of Australian Ballot. Voting is not mutually exclusive to Town Meeting. Nor does it preclude ‘in-person’ or ‘face-to-face’ discussion. Certainly, some warned articles require only perfunctory consideration. Others, not so much.
If anything, Australian Balloting facilitates the democratic process. That it may diminish attendance is a debatably efficacious outcome. With today’s social media, lively debate takes many forms. And smaller towns are reported to have higher attendance as a rule.
Australian Balloting allows members more time to consider what they learn, be it at Town Meeting, or the myriad other pre-meeting and discussion forums available. Members make better-informed decisions on election day.
All too often, for example, complex multi-million-dollar school budgets are presented with insufficient consideration. Not only is it folly to expect several hundred people to have sufficient input into such a profound question in one sitting, to require attendance at a meeting in order to cast a vote is the first step toward tyranny. After all, being in attendance does not guaranty an informed or sensible vote. Never mind the double standard now prevalent in Vermont – the mail-in ballot.
There is, however, the prospect, under typical rules of order, to call for a paper ballot at Town Meeting. Unfortunately, a motion for paper ballot requires several seconds and then a majority vote. Special interest factions all too often control the process.
The primary reason to call for a paper ballot is to assure voter integrity and afford voting secrecy, especially when the question is of such a nature that some members might hesitate to vote publicly their true sentiments. Conversely, the only reason to oppose the paper ballot is to publicly expose a member’s sentiments in order to intimidate the member.
Speaking of serving food at town meeting in the name of civility, it is only the wolves who require the lamb’s attendance when determining the lunch menu.
The problem with direct Democracy in a town meeting is the size of the facility only accommodates a small fraction of the population and it is usually packed with citizens who have a vested interest in passing big budgets. Mostly teachers and their spouses and supporters, aka Leftists.
There are 12 months in the year; Selectboards meet usually in most towns at least twice per month. The biggest successes in getting things changed in local government are done with constant steady, and appropriate pressure on the Selectboards, at their meetings throughout the year.