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Between last night and this morning pretty much all I did was bake (and of course clean up from baking). The end result 4 loaves of potato bread and three trays of big crumb coffee cake for the bake sale at town meeting tonight.
The first Tuesday in March is Town Meeting Day. It is a Vermont holiday. This is a Vermont tradition that dates back to before Vermont was even a state. The first town meeting was held in Bennington in 1762 – 15 years before Vermont was created.
In the late 1700s, as today, town citizens in Vermont held meetings so that they could address the problems and issues they faced collectively. Popular matters of legislation in earlier town meetings included whether or not to let pigs run free or whether smallpox vaccinations should be allowed in the town (some thought vaccinations were dangerous). Voters also decided what goods or labor could be used as payment for taxes.
Our town meeting is held today and the actual voting occurs on Town Meeting Day or Tuesday, March 2nd by Australian ballot. Fittingly, the meeting is held at the elementary school and is preceded by a bake sale by the school children to raise money for their 6th grade trip. This meeting presents the opportunity for all the residents of a town to gather, as a community, meet each other and discuss the issues that concern us all. Everyone is encouraged to speak their mind. Some towns conduct the meeting, discussion and floor elections all at the same time; while other towns, like ours, have Australian ballot voting on the issues that require a vote.
Before the meeting everyone in town receives the Town Report. This is a booklet which contains all sort of nifty information about what transpired in our town since the last town meeting including the minutes of that meeting. The town meeting is only for registered voters and this will be the first year that Tom and I can attend and voice our opinion if we want. I am excited to attend and witness this piece of history. This is truly different from anything that we had in New Jersey.
Over the past 200 years little has changed about what actually happens at town meeting. The meeting begins with each town electing a moderator who runs the town meeting. The town clerk keeps minutes of the discussion and records the votes.
Every town begins its meetings in its own way. After the moderator “calls the meeting to order” (by banging the gavel and asking everyone to quiet down so the meeting can start), many towns begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. Some introduce the selectboard or school board, some thank the volunteers who are providing food or displays at the meeting, some welcome and recognize the oldest or newest members of the community, and some simply get down to the business of the day.
This is yet another example of the sense of community in our little corner of the world.
Quotes and general information are courtesy of the Vermont Secretary of State’s website: http://www.sec.state.vt.us/TownMeeting/index.html