Town Meeting is one of the most time-tested and storied traditions in New England. That said, things aren't quite what they used to be for this venerable institution.
In Wakefield, as long as one resident apparently shows up at a town meeting, there's a quorum. At Thursday's Fall town meeting, approximately 152 of them showed up, based on the number of votes counted on the medical marijuana zoning bylaw. This is a stark contrast to the 14,576 people who showed up to cast ballots in Wakefield a couple of weeks ago on Election Night - which marked an 85% turnout. Granted, that was a presidential election that drew heavy interest from partisans and independents of all stripes.
A look at the calculator finds that there was about a 96-1 difference in the number of people who showed up on Election Night compared to Town Meeting night. And the situation does not affect just Wakefield. In neighboring Lynnfield, few enough residents showed up for the spring town meeting that it was canceled and its business put aside until the more attended fall one.
And to think that at least two of Norman Rockwell's iconic paintings were set at a New England town meeting. It's been called the purest form of democracy in some quarters, and it had its role in securing this nation's independence. But admittedly, that was more than 230 years ago.
Some may blame it on what these days seems to be a fairly arcane and obscure nature of the system, others perhaps on a decline in overall civic involvement in society.
That invites the question - From a practical standpoint, where do you stand on the tradition of town meeting in the year 2012? Vote in the poll below - or even better, share your thoughts in the comment box. For those who are really interested in the topic, this Wikipedia page has about all the info you will need.
Also - there's two polls on the website this morning - how would you have voted on the medical marijuana zoning bylaw that town meeting voters approved Thursday night?