Something unusual seems to be happening. Through an odd combination of circumstances, what amounts to an open town meeting on the FY15 budget is breaking out.
How? A necessary number of Town Meeting representatives petitioned to have a town-wide referendum on the budget. Informational meetings prior to the vote had low turnout. The budget was voted down.
The Selectboard then held a special meeting and proposed cuts that provoked the citizenry into turning out in great number at a second special meeting, causing one of the best attended Selectboard meetings in years.
So many people tried to attend that the meeting was shut down and postponed in order to find a large enough meeting space to accomodate all who wanted to attend. By some counts, more tried to attend this meeting than attend a typical Representative Town Meeting.
And so, with a large enough space, there will be a town-wide meeting to discuss the budget. If the same number, or more, citizens attend, it's almost the same as an open town meeting on the budget. All that's missing is an accompanying ballot.
Brattleboro hasn’t held an official open town meeting since 1960, when a million dollar budget seemed large and open town meeting attendance was often large. We chose the new system in part so that voters would be better represented.
To see the form of an open town meeting on the budget emerge from our current budget issues is a fascinating historical turn. It gives us a chance, for a moment, at least, to get a partial glimpse at what Brattleboro government was like before 1960.