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Brookline Town Meeting: Live the Controversy!

Well, this should prove interesting.

As many of you know, I'm an elected member of Brookline Town Meeting. I've represented precinct 9 since 2001. I'm up for re-election this year, but since there are five incumbents running for five slots with no challengers, I'm pretty sure I'll be in Town Meeting again when we meet in May.

Brookline Town Meeting has a tradition of passing resolutions on national issues. While serving in Town Meeting, I have voted on issues such as the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. There are some in town who feel that Town Meeting has no business voting on such resolutions, but there are many others who feel we have a right to do so. In fact, Brookline is not unique in passing such resolutions. During the build up to the Iraq war over three years ago, many towns all over the country passed resolutions against the invasion. And it got to the point where even the Chicago and New York City Councils passed similar resolutions. (In the end, of course, the federal government did not listen to those resolutions, and we have recently passed the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.)

But getting back to Town Meeting. The warrant for the Annual Town Meeting that starts on May 23 has just been posted, so naturally I went to take a look. I was curious to know what we'd be voting on this time around.

So I'm scrolling down the page, past the usual stuff about funds, special appropriations, the budget, off-leash areas for dogs...when I reach the penultimate article and stop short:


ARTICLE 31
To see if the Town will adopt the following resolution:

A Resolution in Support of the Impeachment of President George W. Bush

Whereas, President George W. Bush has repeatedly violated his oath of office by failing to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, in particular by directing and countenancing numerous violations of the Constitution and Laws of the United States, and by purposely misleading the citizens of the nation so as to cause the United States to commence war in Iraq; therefore be it

Resolved, that this Town Meeting urges our Representative in Congress to introduce and/or support a resolution impeaching President George W. Bush; and be it further

Resolved, that the Town Clerk send notice of the adoption of this resolution to all members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation within two weeks of its adoption.

or act on anything relative thereto.


As I said above, this is going to be interesting. Five towns in Vermont -- Newfane, Marlboro, Putney, Dummerston, and Brookfield -- have already passed resolutions calling for Bush's impeachment, and Brattleboro, Vermont is planning to vote on impeachment this Saturday. I can't help but wonder how far this is going to go.

Final note: I am NOT inviting debate on this article here in my blog. But feel free to discuss the meta-issue if you so wish.

Comments

Wow. Um. Wow. All I'll say is that I hope you'll post about the meeting and what transpired once the event takes place. I'm curious to hear about how events eventually unfold.
Personally, this is Awesome! Let's see if we can drop Bush's approval rating to single digits!

It's Brookline's conservative minority that probably disagrees with these resolutions because, well, they're in the minority and it doesn't represent them.

That really is the heart of the issue, isn't it? We have representatives in the U.S. Congress. They represent the majority vote of their constitutuents which is not based on town divisions but on states and precincts. Shouldn't individuals contact their representatives directly?
But would this actually drop his approval rating or raise it in that "look at the alternative" way?
Please note -- I asked specifically that we not discuss the proposal itself, just the fact that towns pass resolutions such as these. Your comment about dropping Bush's approval ratings skirts that request.

It's true that the conservative minority tends to disagree with the resolutions because of their content, but actually many of them feel that Town Meeting shouldn't be making any sort of resolutions of this sort, even if it's a resolution they'd be in favor of. A lot of people tend to abstain during these votes to make that point.

As for individuals contacting their representatives directly, I most certainly agree, but not a lot of people seem to do that. Personally, though, I've written to or called my reps quite a few times.
I often wish that there was a way to edit links. But now we have a thread. Sorry about that - just got caught up in the excitement.

Conservatives might justify their disagreement. The bigger test of the Brookline constituents is, what percentage of liberals, who really want Bush impeached, think that this is the wrong forum for pushing their agenda. I'm sure that if the tables were turned, you would see similar numbers for conservatives.

Maybe a resolution should be passed that people use their respresentatives to represent them? Novel idea, huh?
Actually, these resolutions do sometimes make a point of asking people to contact their appropriate reps.

As it is, now I wait to hear from my constituents. I usually get two or three phone calls from people when issues like this come up. Given that I'm one of fifteen representing approximately 2000, I'm not sure if that's a lot of people or too few.

On the issue itself, I contacted Rep. Barney Frank to ask him about the resolutions that John Conyers was putting forward. Frank presented some good arguments against calling for impeachment. Perhaps I'll bring those up in a separate post.
There are some in town who feel that Town Meeting has no business voting on such resolutions, but there are many others who feel we have a right to do so.

I think towns have a right to vote on whatever resolutions they want, but I think most of the time making resolutions that aren't in the town's power to enforce is pointless. For the same reason I wasn't real happy to see the Reform movement spend convention time on a resolution about Iraq this past fall. If a body wants to show broad support for a position among those it represents, the only way to really do that is to gather signatures or letters and send them to whomever can make a difference. That the Reform movement passed a resolution says nothing about the hundreds of thousands of Reform Jews in the country, only the few thousand who voted for that. That Brookline town council votes to impeach the president (or not) says nothing about the feelings of most residents of Brookline. Yeah, you're a little more directly accountable to your constituents, but at best they can replace you in the next election. I guess the only time you can assume a council speaks for the voters is in looking back after the next election.
If I were a Town Meeting Member, I would move to amend the preamble: "Whereas, there is probable cause to believe that President George W. Bush has repeatedly violated his oath of office..."

An impeachment is like an indictment; the trial to decide whether or not to remove the defendant from office comes after the articles of impeachment are passed. The standard for an indictment is probable cause.
Interesting. I'll pass your suggestion along to the appropriate people.

(Anonymous)

Our city wouldn't go for it...

In my California town, our city council wouldn't adopt a resolution calling to bring the troups home, some councilmembers and townsfolk in the letters to the editor claiming it wasn't appropriate for a City council to be voting on national issues. Ironically, though, this resolution was less about what people in our town think about what's going on in Washington than a plea to bring back the national guard. We live in Earthquake country, and having the national guard out of town is not exactly something that makes us feel safe....

I think that cities have been passing such resolutions for a long time, what should stop them from doing it now? And if a city in Kansas wants to pass a resolution about how great a job Bush is doing, more power to them!

-- Dan Wood

Re: Our city wouldn't go for it...

I'd be curious to see if any towns pass resolutions supporting Bush. Back when many towns passed resolutions against the Iraq war, I can't recall any towns passing resolutions in favor. Of course, often the same people who would have favored the war are also opposed to town resolutions on principle, so it doesn't necessarily mean that there weren't town councils that would have come out in support if pushed to do so.
I just tend to regard these resolutions as one of the charming remnants of direct democracy, a grand old New England tradition. Town meetings, maple sugaring, meddling in the affairs of their betters - it must be New England. :>)
It's got a good beat. You can dance to it. I give it a 10.
interesting. i wonder how many towns have to add up before this makes the national news. good luck!
Well, when the Iraq war resolutions passed, it didn't really make much of an impact on the national news until Chicago and New York joined in.
In other federalism-related news, a man running for Attorney General of New York State says that if he's elected, he will file a complaint in Federal court demanding that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program be stopped.

Pointless and Diversionary

Here in Chicago, there's a law that citizens can place up to three referendum issues on the ballot. A few years back, when a citizen's group finally managed to put a substantive question on the ballot — about the City Council elections — the Council immediately knocked if off the ballot and replaced it with some fluff. Which we get to this day; every election has an utterly pointless resolution on it.

Whenever I see a City Council pass a resolution of this nature, it's pretty clear to me that it's either (a) an act of pointless political pandering to some sub-segment of the population or (b) an act meant to draw attention away from some really atrocious action. (As in the woman who sent email out on September 11th in NYC, to her fellow city bureaucrats, that it was a good day to dump some "stinker" into the press queue..)
Interesting... I wonder whether anything will come of it.
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