My photo
I been a professional photographer since I worked for the US Government documenting Test and Evaluation of Research and Development projects for the US Army and US Navy in the later half of the 1980s. I came home to Maine to finish my Marketing Degree at USM and began to work full time in Market Research and Marketing for many years while documenting weddings and occasional photojournalist and commercial jobs on the weekends. In 2001 I again returned to photography as a full time trade and have never been a happier man. I love working with creative individuals, couples, small businesses and select Non-Profits and can’t imagine working in any other trade. In 1987 I was lucky enough to wed my high school sweetheart and we now live in a cozy little solar powered, recycled bungalow a mile deep in our woods in the Western Hills of Maine with our two brilliant home-schooled teenage daughters and our three cats.


The Art of a Town Meeting

"Greetings: In the name of the State of Maine, you are hereby required to notify and warn the Inhabitants of said Town of Denmark, qualified by law to vote in town affairs, to assemble at the municipal Building in said town on Friday, the 11th day of March, A.D., 2005 at 3:00PM to open the Town Meeting, then and there act on Article 1 to elect a moderator then proceed with Article 2 to elect all necessary officers as required by law. The polls will close at 8:00PM and the business portion of the Town Meeting will open at 9:00AM on Saturday, the 12th day of March, 2005 to vote on the other Articles in the Warrant beginning with Article 3."
This year a pretty bad snowstorm on March 12th, postponed the 'business portion' of our annual Town Meeting until the 2nd of April.

The Town Clerk, Cherlene Booker reads the Warrant to open the meeting...

And so continues (as it has for over 300 years) one of the last vestiges of Direct Democratic Governance in these United States...The New England Town Meeting. "Democracy" is a term that the Western world bandies about a lot these days without giving too much thought as to what it actually is. In most cases when a politician in the US speaks of "Democracy" they are discussing our nation's Constitutional Republican form of government wherein the citizens (theoretically) choose representatives who will govern in their stead making all decisions for them. Every Spring or early Summer, the citizens of the Town of Denmark (and hundreds of towns just like it throughout Maine and New England) gather together to participate in a much more directly Democratic form of government. We gather and address by vocal declaration, show of hands or written ballot (when requested) each and every article of business that the town will address for the next 12 months. We elect and appoint all of the officers of the Town and empower the Board of Selectmen to carry out our decisions for the next year.

If you are a student of human nature at all, a Town Meeting is one of the most fascinating spectacles that you could ever experience.

Here are the major players in this pageant and the basic flow of a town meeting. Ironically, most of the photographs below were taken during discussion on Article 9 of this year's warrant: "To see if the Town will vote to raise a sum of $57,000 toward hiring the position of Town Manager on or about June 2006." It was requested and voted that this Article be voted on by secret (written) ballot. It proved a bit more contentious than many Articles do because it basically sets up the staging to hire (not elect) someone from
outside the Town to run the day to day functions under the direction of the Selectmen who are elected. A lot of Mainers don't relish any change at all, especially when it removes what many of them see as a set of checks and balances to the smooth management of our Town Government.

After reading the Warrant, Cherylene turns the meeting over to our elected moderator. This is almost always Jim Stacy because he is good at it and as he owns Cardinal Printing in the center of town, he has lived here all his life (so far) and he knows everyone in town by name...Jim asks for everyone's cooperation and patience for the day, leads us in the Pledge of allegiance and we begin...

The Board of Selectmen are seated at the front to help answer any questions that may come up...The man in the middle here is Richard Snow. He has served the town well for 9 years (and one month because of the delay in the meeting) and this Town Meeting is his last official act as Selectman.

These are the concerned Citizens of Denmark, Maine. Though Maine usually leads the US in voter turn out for all elections, this is a pretty good turn out for a very wet Saturday morning and a delayed Town Meeting. The Article in question had a lot to do with the turn out.

Selectman Sean Watson had headed a committee to look into the hiring of a Town Manager and our moving to that form of Government. After the Article is moved to be accepted and seconded,the Article is opened to discussion. Sean presents the committee's findings and recommendations to the Town.

Citizens ask challenging questions through the Moderator....

The Selectmen respond...

Alex Stevens is actually Selectman Elect and will take over for Richard (above), so he responded with his own statements on the Article as well so folks would know where he stands on the issue that he is inheriting...

Selectman Ralph Sarty, Jr. also explains his position on the Article...and discussion is concluded when the Article is "Moved to Question" by vocal declaration.

As it was determined that voting on this contentious Article would be via secret (written) ballot, our venerable ballot box is brought out from storage. This is a box that is actually owned by the State of Maine. It was provided for the town decades ago and as we still use a number two pencil and hand count every vote from Town Warrant to presidential Popular Election votes, it is what works best for us. No 'dangling chads' are ever found in Denmark.

The people vote.

The sworn ballot officers of the town count the vote...

The Article passes 76 to 42 and the fight will continue at Public hearings and a Special Town Meeting to specifically discuss the details later in the Summer. This Article was only to appropriate money that will be needed IF the Town decides to move to a Town Manager system.

We move on to the other 62 Articles on the Warrant for the day and finish up just past 1pm...

When we can buy the remainder of the bakesale goods to benefit the Library!

Well, there it is. I've said it before and I'll likely say it again...I LOVE the Smell of Democracy, banana bread and coffee in the morning!
(All photos taken available darkness, D2H, 24-120VR or 10.5 1/45 @5.6. ISO640. TriToned in PhotoshopCS)

1 comment:

jkirlin said...

This is a VERY sweet series. Nicely done. I'm even a little jealous of it. Heh heh.