Voter Jeff Suarez speaks against a Finance Committee amendment to reduce the regional school budget. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

Spirited debates mark three-night Town Meeting

By Caitlin V. Reidy, Laurie O’Neill, and Celeste Katz Marston

Impassioned overflow crowds clamored to be heard at Annual Town Meeting this week, with sometimes intense debates over the middle school naming, education spending, and, Tuesday and Wednesday, Town Meeting itself. 

When the meeting began Monday, the Concord-Carlisle High School gym was crowded with people shoulder to shoulder. “Could you please open the auditorium?” a woman asked Moderator Carmin Reiss. “The bleachers are just torture for three hours. Please?” 

Reiss replied, “We’ll open it when we run out of space in here.”

That’s just what happened shortly after. 

The official count on Monday was 1,131 voters. On Tuesday, that fell to 977 — both nights still drawing more voters than in recent years.

On Wednesday, which also included a Special Town Meeting on solar storage, 439 voters checked in, according to Town Clerk Kaari Mai Tari.

A proposal to adjourn at 10 p.m. on Tuesday didn’t come to fruition — those who came to the meeting with their water bottles, knitting, and childcare concerns, were there to do business and wanted to continue. 

Some voters stuck it out until about 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when outgoing Select Board Chair Henry Dane officially moved to adjourn this year’s deliberations.  

Voter David Garrod speaks during discussion of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District Budget. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

No secret ballot

Before Town Meeting even began Monday, members of Stand Up For Ellen, a group that supports naming the new school for Civil War-era racial justice and education advocate Garrison, held signs outside CCHS. 

Article 22, in support of a Garrison school, passed Tuesday with clear support. 

Outside CCHS Monday, Joe Zellner called Garrison “Concord’s Rosa Parks.” In a town that names buildings after white men, he said, “This is an opportunity to get a Black female into a pantheon of important figures.”

One man entering Monday’s meeting said he thought perhaps a street should be named for Garrison, not a school, but wouldn’t identify himself.

“I’m scared to put my name out there,” he said. “People are intimidated and scared to be accused of being racist.”  

Carol Ann Boughrum holds a sign in support of naming the new middle school for Ellen Garrison as voters file into CCHS for Town Meeting. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

If those fears did exist, they didn’t stop a stream of people from speaking in favor of the School Committee process that led to the choice of “Concord Middle School” — nor did Article 22 end up going to an anonymous paper ballot, a case for which the town had prepared. 

Wednesday’s proceedings also featured moments of high intensity. 

Those included a back and forth on a citizen-sponsored motion to put Town Meeting articles on a special election ballot to a late-night tussle over funds for planting 250 trees in honor of the upcoming 250th anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War.

Check back with The Concord Bridge online soon for more details on Wednesday’s proceedings, which took place after print deadlines for Friday’s edition.

Plus: Review our live coverage of all Town Meeting debates and votes from Monday night, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night.