I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in Massachusetts for over 20 years (how is that possible?!) and I’ve NEVER been to a Town Meeting until this week.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about let me fill you in.
What is Town Meeting?
Participating in a Town Meeting is democracy at its best. Registered voters gather together to voice opinions and directly effect change in the community. The Annual Town Meeting is generally held in the spring to enact the following year’s budget, plus whatever other matters are placed on the Town Meeting warrant, either by the Selectmen or by citizen petition. Cities and towns throughout the US each have their own form of democracy and it could look very different from what we have here.
After the election this past November I decided to make an effort to become more involved on a local level. After all, that’s where it all begins.
I kicked off my involvement by marching in Boston with thousands and became truly inspired to do more. I wrote a political post which is pretty out of character for me. One of the suggestions I shared was to “get to work on a local level and elect/appoint those who are like-minded and care.”
So I decided to heed my own advice and off I went to my first Town Meeting.
Sitting down beside a friend I took a look around at the full house and couldn’t help but think that every one of these people had taken time out of their busy schedules to be there.
They knew something that I was just discovering: that their voice mattered. Coming to Town Meeting was a simple way to voice opinions, listen to others and vote on matters that would help shape our community.
Wow. How had I missed this opportunity for so many years?
Vote to Ban Plastic Bags
Aside from my general interest in participating in the process there were a few articles up for discussion and a vote that caught my attention. I was most interested in the proposed plastic bag ban. From water bottles to plastic wrap, I’ve been writing about the detrimental effects of plastic for years.
There’s no denying that plastic bags are polluting our environment. It’s hard to miss the enormous number of plastic bags swirling around in local parking lots and water ways. The bags never fully decompose and remain a significant threat to marine animals and other wild life.
Over 40 other communities in Massachusetts have passed bylaws to reduce the use of thin-film plastic bags.
I’m proud to share that after a lengthy discussion the bylaw passed and plastic bags are now banned. The bylaw doesn’t alleviate all plastic bags from circulation, but it’s a great start. The ban applies to those thin plastic bags we receive at the grocery check-out.
What you can do
Now we all need to do two things:
- Focus on remembering reusable bags when we shop.
- Add your community’s Town Meeting (or whatever form of democracy your city or town subscribes to) to your calendar.
Given that there’s been a tremendous amount of municipal support, it’s my hope that Massachusetts will enact a statewide plastic bag ban in the near future.
The plastic bag ban is a baby step, but a step in the right direction and I’m proud to have been a small part of the process.
What form of government is there in your city or town? Is there a Mayor? City Council? Town Meeting? How do you participate?