Letter: Town Meeting only expresses the ‘will’ of those who show up

Posted 6/13/21

To the editor:

At the June 5 Annual Town Meeting, Westport approved changes to zoning bylaws to allow non-medical marijuana establishments in specifically defined areas of town.  In public …

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Letter: Town Meeting only expresses the ‘will’ of those who show up

Posted

To the editor:

At the June 5 Annual Town Meeting, Westport approved changes to zoning bylaws to allow non-medical marijuana establishments in specifically defined areas of town.  In public discussion in newspapers and on social media leading up to that meeting, I saw several references to “the will of the voters.”  

The writers reviewed the several votes on marijuana related issues taken at town meeting and elections over the years. It was suggested that the number of voters participating meant some of those votes were more valid than others, that one expressed the “will of the town” better than another. 

I cringe when I hear politicians talk about “the will of the American people.”  It is self evident that no one knows the will of the 330 some million people who are Americans.  Likewise, no one knows the will of the roughly 16,000 people who live in Westport.  

Until we get 100 percent participation, neither elections nor town meeting votes will express the will of the town. They will continue to, as they always have, express the will of those who show up. The largest turnout for town meeting in my 17-year tenure as moderator was some 1,300. That was about 12 percent of registered voters at the time. A more typical attendance is about 275 or between 2 and 3 percent of registered voters. Those who show up make our by-laws and decide how our money is spent. Their decisions are just as “valid” and, more importantly, just as legal if there are three of them as if there are 3,000.

Steven Fors

Westport Town Moderator

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.