Editorial misconstrued statement made at deliberative session

To the Editor:

I would like to point out the mistaken assumption that the editor made in calling me out in the editorial for Feb 12. I did not say, intend to say, or intend to imply that amendments to articles should not be made at deliberative sessions. Indeed, as town moderator, I am more aware than most of the value of discussion, debate, and amendments in the deliberative session prior to voting, as well as the interplay between deliberating and voting.

What I carefully tried to say was that the particular amendment being offered would obscure the will of the voters. Setting the proposed budget equal to the default budget expresses the will of the deliberative session attendees to minimize the tax impact of the budget, but at the expense of removing all choice from the voters on voting day, and reducing the ability of administrators and boards to understand the will of the large voting community. If the amendment had been adopted, then on voting day we (the board) would have no input from the voters: A vote of 0-1 would have the same effect as a vote of 100-2000 or 2000-1900, or any other split. In any voting scenario, the same budget would be adopted, and no useful information would be provided by the thousands of voters who turned out to take time to exercise their will… we would only know the will of the 126 voters who attended the deliberative session. Which is exactly the argument used by SB2 proponents to remove decision making power from traditional school meetings, and instead to give it to all who come out on voting day.

It was perfectly within the right of those attending the deliberative session to make the proposed amendment, and I would never deny that. I was asking for their consideration in making an amendment that could also allow all the voters a real decision come March 10, by making a deliberate and wise choice in how to amend.

Steve Coughlan

Amherst