Town Meeting should prioritize inclusion

April 24, 2024

The Town Meeting’s decision not to offer a general remote attendance option serves to maintain the traditions of the meeting over better serving the citizens of Concord. The remote exception for disability seems to indicate the Town Meeting values including all citizens. 

However, the definition of the disability exception does not clarify what qualifies. Is someone with social anxiety disorder allowed to attend remotely or is the exception limited to limited physical ableness? What we need for better inclusion is equity, where all citizens get the town government process that allows them to participate in the best way for them. The current in-person format of the Town Meeting is more difficult for caregivers and working professionals to attend. One could logically argue that a government process that places a higher burden to participate on a specific demographic is discriminatory.

I do not find the reservations expressed compelling enough to warrant delaying the adoption of a remote option. I also find it a bit ironic that the question of scale is raised as a concern. Can the current Town Meeting accommodate all 13,000 registered voters in person?

The issue of making participants listen feels more like a philosophical concern. The Town Meeting seems to take great pleasure in forcing concerned citizens to suffer through an education before being allowed to vote. This was clearly evident when parents, many of whom paid for childcare to attend the meeting, sat through hours of process with the threat of a second night of meetings before being allowed to vote on the middle school. I don’t find this attitude to be in the best interests of the citizens of Concord. The government should serve the needs of the people, not the other way around.

Peter Dempsey

MacArthur Road