Articles of choice – Town Meeting

As usual, the Charlotte Selectboard presented articles to the Town Meeting audience that showed the board had looked into them thoroughly and had a clear understanding of their impact on townspeople. Much of the discussion, with the exception of two failed articles, centered on changes in language that did not alter the nature of the article significantly. As came about with the change in Town Charter last year, however, the general budget and trails fund approvals will not become final until April 11 when they will be voted on by Australian ballot.

The two articles that failed at the meeting were Article 4, to exempt the Masonic Order from paying property taxes on the Friendship Lodge on Churchill Road for the next five years, and Article 8, to allow the Selectboard to borrow up to $85,000 from the town’s Housing Trust Fund to construct an extension to the Thompson’s Point wastewater system to Lane’s Lane.

The Masonic Order exemption was voted down. In speaking against the exemption, Nancy Menard said she called a Masonic Lodge member and asked whether she would be permitted in the lodge and was told, no, because she was a woman. She said that devoting public money in the form of tax exemptions for the lodge should not continue. The audience members apparently agreed with her, and the exemption was voted down on a paper ballot.

Article 8 focused on whether the last seven lots on Thompson’s Point that are not served by the Thompson’s Point community wastewater system necessarily need to connect to that system. One lot is occupied year round, whereas the Thompson’s Point system operates only for half the year based on state permit.

The discussion quickly turned into a dialogue between two experts in the field: Fritz Tegatz of the Selectboard and former board member Winslow Ladue. Winslow said shortness of excess capacity was mentioned as a possible concern during his time on the board. Fritz said the system was designed and permitted to serve the Lane’s Lane lots. Another board member, Matt Krasnow, pointed out that the proposed use of the Housing Trust Fund would be temporary since the lessees would pay back the cost of the extension as each lot became connected to the system, to which Winslow responded that he understood that town funds may be available to finance such wastewater projects. Therefore, he felt that the article to have Charlotte pay upfront for the wastewater extension should be voted down. The audience agreed, and the article failed by paper ballot, 69 in favor and 75 against.

Emoluments were the basis for Susan Ohanian’s advisory motion to impeach Donald Trump. Emoluments are fees or financial awards, stipends, honoraria, premiums as a result of a person’s office. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution says that “… no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Susan argued that our new president has received foreign emoluments through his international business holdings and, therefore, should be impeached. Her motion stated originally that a letter to Peter Welch recommending impeachment be sent by the town clerk. Clerk Mary Mead amended that to say it should come from the chair of the Selectboard. The amended motion passed.

“So Jerry Schwarz, what do you plan to do now without a podium to lean on during an early March Tuesday? How does Florida, Aruba, Chicago sound?

This was the first Town Meeting I have missed in a long time, and it was Jerry’s last as the moderator, and I think we both might have been going at it together for the last 22 years. Jerry replaced Fred Anderson in 1996—as a write-in candidate no less.

He feels his most memorable meeting came in the 90s when Bunkie Bernstein moved to drop the school budget by $100,000. Hot debate followed, and a paper ballot won the move by a close vote. Robert Mack and Charlie Russell led his two most fun-filled Selectboards. A certain amount of controversy seemed to head in their direction, giving life to the meetings.

Without breathing a sigh of relief, he again this year seemed particularly comfortable at the lectern—knowledgeable about the process, of course, common spoken in his explanations so that even the least “lawyerly” of us could understand what was happening, throwing in a tinge of humor when someone in the audience got a tad long-winded. Jerry said he felt humor from the podium worked well for him. It worked for him as a lawyer and it worked for him as a moderator.

Speaking for myself, I’ll miss Jerry next year. But then—hmm, the college hockey Frozen Four, eh? You don’t need to entice me.”