Stopwatch Democracy

February 15, 2021

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Consider long-time resident Andy Snyder’s experience.  After initially struggling with his technology – who hasn’t? – Snyder was making his point only to be interrupted by Teich, our highly-paid timekeeper, intoning “Thirty seconds.”  

When Haney later warned, “Ten seconds,” a frustrated Snyder replied, “I mean, gee whiz, I’ve been in this town since 1971.  This is the first time I’ve really spoken.”  After the way he was treated, it would not be surprising if it were the last

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If Selectboard Chair Haney and Town Manager Teich had been in-charge,  they would have halted Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the two-minute mark, and these words would never have been spoken: “ … government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

Fortunately, they weren’t there; unfortunately, though, they’re here. Haney and Teich rule the roost at Selectboard hearings, enforcing Haney’s hierarchical version of “stopwatch democracy,” where citizens are largely to be seen and not heard.

 

Consider the February 1st public hearing on the merger plan.  Haney handed down her dictate: no resident could speak more than two minutes; each resident could speak only once; and no one, but no one, could cede their time to someone else.  It was the political equivalent of lecturing grade-schoolers on a field trip.

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None of this is new. Running for the Selectboard in 2009, I wrote in my campaign material, “If you live in a town our size, you need networks and systems of governance that can get the best out of our people and not dismiss their creativity and commitment to our community.

 

"Sometimes, though, I believe our governmental leadership thinks of us voters as the enemy ….” 

Twelve years later, little has changed.

For all of us, then, this is the important lesson:

You don’t need a mob using battering rams to undermine democracy; sometimes, it only takes two people.  And, all they need is a stopwatch.

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Bruce S. Post, a former Selectboard member, was chief of staff for 1980 presidential candidate U.S. Congressman John B. Anderson

Courtesy: OpenClipart