Tabling chokes the voices of democracy

To the Editor:

I share Normand Bleau’s disappointment to read the misrepresentations and accusations Representative Levesque makes in her letter to the editor in the April 4 issue of The Journal.

I am also disappointed that at the recent three-night, record-turnout Hollis Brookline High School Co-op meeting and other public venues, few elected representatives of Hollis and Brookline, if any, have provided wisdom, guidance, and a voice of reason on the important topic of apportionment of HBHS Co-op expenses between Hollis and Brookline. The silence of our elected officials is truly deafening.

I want to address one widespread ambiguity restated in Mr. Bleau’s April 11 letter to the Journal editor, namely: “A two-thirds vote is required to curtail discussion.” I believe this is Mr. Bleau’s restatement of a remark made by Representative Levesque.

While technically true, discussion is much more easily curtailed by tabling an article, a more powerful tactic used several times during the HBHS Co-op meeting. Be it known to all: Tabling an article currently requires only a simple majority (502 versus 501), not the two-thirds majority (668 versus 334) required for curtailing discussion.

Tabling an article can curtail discussion before a single word is expressed and tabling also halts any further consideration and action on the article, effectively killing it. Tabling squashes attempts to have a minority viewpoint discussed. I hope those in a minority and the many in a majority who are not afraid of open, honest, comprehensive and considerate debate will demand that tabling an article requires a two-thirds majority vote.

Do not let your voices be choked! And shame on you if you choose to be the choker! Regardless of the eventual outcome on a given article, in a democracy, it is important for all sides to have the opportunity to present their case and to be heard and understood.

Finally, just because the simple majority can table articles and curtail discussions on Brookline-Hollis apportionment of co-op expenses does not solve this growing problem. It is a sign of the majority’s weakness and inability to deal with problems in a responsible, considerate way. Unsolved problems tend to return with even worse negative consequences for all.

As responsible adults, we can and must shape the rules by which we live and work with others and shape our own expectations of how to treat others with dignity and respect and to be treated in kind.