Town Meeting Through The Years

April 12, 2007 The Wayland/Weston Town Crier

A lot of things have changed since the third revision of the Handbook for Wayland Town Meeting was published in 1980. Among them:



• Time limits for those who wish to address the meeting as well as for debates.

• Microphones at the front of the room, duly designated for either the pro or con positions. This replaces the system of students running up and down the aisles with traveling mikes and allows the moderator to orchestrate a more interesting and balanced debate.

• A requirement that those offering a main motion that differs by 25 words or more from the article must offer a printed copy for everyone in attendance.

• Live broadcast on the Wayland cable station.

• As a result of some of these changes, and others, the average amount of time spent per article has been reduced from 21 minutes in 1982 to 11 minutes in 2006. Average attendance has remained around the same, hovering at about 300, except when highly controversial issues are being discussed. This was the case last year, when the contentious Town Center issue brought out 2,313 voters (!).

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Town Moderator Peter Gossels. When he ascends to the podium on Sunday, April 29 at 1 p.m., Gossels will be marking his 26th consecutive year of chairing the Wayland Town Meeting. Impeccably.

Gossels has recently compiled and made available "The Moderator's Handbook for Wayland Town Meeting," an update on the 1980 publication.

The booklet is divided into seven main sections – introduction, Wayland's town government, Wayland's executive officers, Wayland's legislature, exhortation, statistics concerning Wayland's annual town meetings, and statistics concerning Wayland's special town meetings.

Since Wayland's legislature is the town meeting, this section – predictably – is the most voluminous, accounting for about 18 of the 24 pages. It covers a number of related matters, including the call for town meeting, the warrant, the authority of town meeting, the moderator's rules and regulations, the debate, the vote, reconsideration, and adjournment.

Through this publication, Gossels and others in town government hope to demystify town meeting and stimulate attendance and participation.

As he says in the exhortation section, "As registered voters living in Wayland, we have the unusual opportunity to help make the political decisions that affect our property, bank accounts, and freedoms by participating fully in Wayland's open town meetings, instead of delegating that power to an elected representative .... We even have the right on town meeting floor personally to question the conduct of our elected leaders and the officials they appoint about how Wayland spends the money it raises from our taxes and any other subject in the warrant. This is a right that residents of

towns with representative town meetings, like Natick and Framingham, and cities like Newton do not have."

All of this pretty much echoes the sentiments of longtime town resident and volunteer par excellence Jo Wilson. Before she died earlier this year, Wilson told me that, when she arrived in Wayland in the 1950s, she was blown away by the opportunity for citizens to participate directly in the political process through
town meeting.

"I came from a place in New York where this wasn't the case. So I got involved in town meeting then and I've stayed involved ever since."

The new handbook is available at the Board of Selectmen's Office in the Town Building as well as online at:

Susan L Wagner is the features
reporter for The Wayland Town Crier. She can be reached at ""



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