Town Meeting shows Concord must do better on self-governance

May 12, 2024

As Concord prepares to revel in the 250th anniversary of the shot heard around the world, it should reflect on its woeful town governance as displayed at Town Meeting.

There was no respect for governance bodies’ authorities. The Finance Committee was (again) at war with the School Committee. The Select Committee voted against the School Committee’s sole right to name schools. The DEIB Committee seemed to have harassed citizens and officials over months to get their way.

Fiscal responsibility was non-existent. Over several days, we greenlit millions of expenditures. Yet, while we could isolate items putting the $40 million CCHS budget over by $140,000, we rushed over warrants giving approval to (incredibly vague) $10-$50 million projects. The result: real estate taxes will go up 10% ad infinitum and, in fact, it’ll be much higher (we’ll hide the rest as electric and water bill increases). That only 5% of voters are approving these expenditures is shocking.

But what was most striking was the tone. The animosity was palpable. Anyone standing near a ‘con’ mic was positioned as barking mad as King George. Many warrant sponsors explicitly put citizens in such light — “Do you want clean or dirty water?” “Don’t you support music classes?” “Are you for the climate or not?” “Do you know you’re displaying unconscious bias?” No, citizens were exercising their right to ask questions, challenge proposals or, simply, express a personal viewpoint.

The moderator asked for civility. I wish she had tallied how many warrant sponsors or citizens started their remarks with the purposefully rude and condescending, “With all due respect.” There was little, if any, respect in the room.

We need to do much better. Otherwise, any visitors to the 250th anniversary who sit through our 2025 Town Meeting may leave ruing the day that shot was fired.

Mark Watson

Dana Road