Association’s concerns ‘disregarded, ignored’
Like every year past, the budget process in Jamestown concludes when the Town Council presents a proposed budget to the voters of Jamestown for approval, modifications and public discussion – also known as the Financial Town Meeting.
While there is a process that governs this meeting, the basic idea is that if you are a registered voter, you have a say. Unlike the way the budget was presented this year, whereby the town would have you think that the budget is a done deal, for all intents and purposes, it is not complete until the consent of voters has been reached. In a perfect union, all voters would participate in the budgeting workshops and such – but it is not necessary.
As a voter, we have a legal right to attend this meeting, to persuade voters, and to decline the town budget as proposed. If the budget had been rejected, the town would continue to function until producing a budget that voters could agree on.
If you attended the FTM, you would know that the budget was approved by 36 votes. What you would not have taken away from this meeting is that the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown, as an entity, is not a voter. It does not have any rights at the FTM. Again this year, it was not appropriate for the town to address them in that forum.
It is correct to describe this entity as a collection of taxpayers and voters who live and vote in Jamestown. By this, they have every right to use freedoms of speech, the press and to assemble, and generally participate in the public discourse.
Throughout the year, members of the association participated in bringing constructive change and transparency to local government through democratic processes available via town meetings, budget workshops and through public and private relations. Any of the information presented by us is thoroughly researched and painstakingly controlled.
Fortunately, we have been able to provided usable recommendations to the town, which has had measurable savings to us all. Unfortunately like voters, many times our recommendations, comments and participation in these democratic processes have been disregarded, ignored or distorted – particularly during the annual FTM.
On the brighter side, taxpayers and voters of Jamestown were able to use a paper ballot. As it should be, it gave everyone the right to vote their conscience, regardless of this fear, intimidation and other social pressure that exists in an open meeting like the FTM.
Blake Dickinson Mount Hope Avenue Jamestown