By Steve Kelman

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Town Meeting in Concord Massachusetts

Our family has lived in Concord ever since we returned from Washington almost a decade ago, after many many years "in the city" in Cambridge. Concord, site of the first battle of the American Revolution (if you read the histories, Lexington was a massacre where the British shot into a crowd of people at the Town Green, while marching towards Concord looking for arms), and home of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott, is understandably proud of its history and traditions.

One of our traditions is that we still have old-style, direct-democracy New England town meeting (most though not all Massachusetts towns have eliminated this tradition). Once a year in April, several hundred residents come to the high school for a week of evenings worth of votes on sundry resolutions and proposals.

Every once in a while, a town meeting proposal really divides the town. This year it has been -- no, not Iraq, Concord is pretty much united against the Administration's policy there -- the question of building new and expanded athletic playing fields in the area near the high school.

The problem is that the land where the fields would be built abuts (although to be sure partly separated by a major highway!) the so-called Walden Woods, the area near Walden Pond where Henry David Thoreau spent his year close to nature. (Separate issue: where Thoreau stayed was actually only a mile from Concord Center, so he was never very far from "civilization.") At any rate, the local Friends of the Thoreau Country have mobilized in opposition.

At April town meeting, the resolution for the playing fields fell short of a two-thirds majority, though it got a simple majority. Then, in a tactic that reminded me of how student radical groups used to behave when I was in college, late in the meeting, after most people had left, a pro-playing fields person, on cue, made a motion to reconsider. The pro-fields people had stayed, and this time the resolution was passed.

That in turn produced another uproar in the town over foul play, and now tomorrow night (Wednesday) a special town meeting has been called just to deal with this issue. On our street there are two pro-playing fields yard signs (parents with school-aged kids), none against.

I missed April town meeting because I was in England. I will attend Wednesday's meeting. Check out the blog Thursday morning for hot results from the polls.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jun 12, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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