Tag Archives: town meeting

Looking back on Saturday

I was pretty wiped out by the end of our meeting on Saturday. Another 9 hour day with a 45 minute break for lunch. I was elected to be moderator, for which I was prepared, but I still have so much to learn and many areas where I can improve.

A moderator’s main job is to keep the meeting moving along and to make sure procedure is followed. Things usually start out just fine, though I am at my most nervous in that first hour of settling in to the meeting. As we go along, things get a little more complicated with questions about the school budget. Fortunately we have the school board members and the school superintendent on hand to answer questions.

A nice bit of excitement, and the most well mannered discussion of the whole meeting was for school article 17: “Shall we change the name of the Islesford Elementary School to the Ashley Bryan Elementary School?”  The article passed by a wide majority. It was lovely tribute to someone who has been  nationally recognized so many times, but to someone who, for the islands, is just part of our family.  Ashley and the students were thrilled. He has been receiving congratulations from all over the world!

The school issues took up the whole morning. We recessed at 12:30 for an incredibly delicious lunch of lasagna, salad, bread and desserts. At 1:20 it was back to work. The more discussion there is on an article, the harder it is to keep track of whose turn it is to talk. I write down the names of people as soon as I see their hands go up, causing my copy of the warrant to look like this:

The proposal to borrow $190,000 to build a new town office merited plenty of discussion. In the end it did not pass. Right away I know one of the things I would change as to how I would run a meeting the next time. That would be to stop people from commenting further after they have made two remarks or questions.  Really, they are supposed to only make one remark at a time, and then wait for their turn to speak again (or be called on again to speak) until after others have had a chance to speak. I announce this at the beginning of the meeting every time, but people forget. There were several times in the meeting where an exchange took place that could almost be called an interrogation. It was uncomfortable for everyone and it was awkward for the moderator. However, I would have been in the clear right to have rapped the gavel lightly and said “I need to stop you here. A prolonged exchange does not allow for other people to get into the discussion, and we seem to be getting away from the nature of the article that is on the floor.” There were about three times I wish I had done it. Alas. There is always something to be learned from my mistakes. Learning to run a meeting well is an ongoing process. It’s something I am still eager to learn. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be willing to be elected to do it.

At 5:45, just before we had a motion to adjourn, our AMAZING town clerk gave me the final figures to announce; the total budget for the year and the amount we need to raise from taxes.

Town meeting takes a long time, I am totally burnt out by the end of the day, my ears get so full of numbers that my brain is fried and I stop being an effective moderator in the last hour. At that moment I am annoyed with more people than I care to admit and it’s all I can do to get to the finish line. But you know what? I still love every bit of it.


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Getting ready for Saturday

If you live in New England, chances are very good that you know what an annual town meeting is.  If you don’t, suffice it to say that it’s a pretty cool form of local government where the whole town comes together to vote on the year’s upcoming budget, selectmen, school board members, and whatever else has come up. Ordinances are passed or turned down at these meetings and most of the items merit a fair amount of discussion. Click here if you are interested in our Town Warrant. (It’s hard to believe that the proposed appropriations for our small town amount to $2,022,556!)

In our town of five islands, with two year round communities, we alternate between Great Cranberry and Little Cranberry (Islesford) for hosting the annual meeting. The host town provides a noontime meal which makes for a little friendly competition between the islands as to which island has the better cooks.  One year, Great Cranberry served wild rice and cornish game hens, earning a place in the history books as far as I’m concerned! I don’t think either island has been able to top that lunch. On Islesford, tomorrow, two dedicated volunteers will be making lasagna and salad to serve to about 130 people. The rest of us have been asked to supply bread and dessert.

I’ve been making a lot of sourdough bread lately, so it was a nice change to make a yeast bread. A double batch of sundried tomato and cheese bread provided us with a loaf to serve at dinner, two for tomorrow’s lunch, and one for the freezer.

I also made two fresh pineapple almond crunch pies for tomorrow’s dessert, with an extra half pie for us to have tomorrow night when all of the hooplah is over.

Many hands made work go quickly when people showed up at the Neighborhood House at 1 p.m. to help set up chairs for the meeting.  The students from the Islesford School were responsible for setting up tables for lunch.

The last thing left to do is to read the town report and go over my Maine Moderator’s Manual so I’ll be ready for the 8:30 meeting. Last year, the meeting lasted for a record 9 hours! Yeesh. I hope we don’t repeat that schedule! There is always something for a moderator to learn about keeping the meeting flowing. It’s a balance to make sure everyone  gets a chance to participate in the discussions, without letting the same person talk 3 or 4 times, saying the same thing over and over.

I started looking over my town report on Monday while I was waiting for the mailboat.

I have my fingers crossed that everything will go smoothly tomorrow, and that we’ll be finished with the meeting by 3 p.m.

If you’re interested in the tomato cheese bread, I’ve included the recipe below. I would call it practically foolproof.

Sundried Tomato Cheese Bread
1 Tablespoon dry yeast
2 Tablespoons nonfat dry milk.
I Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
4 to 5 cups all purpose flour, approximately
2 cups hot water (120º – 130º)
1/2  of an 8 oz jar of julienne cut sundried tomatoes in oil.
1 cup or more of shredded cheese. Parmesan, cheddar, whatever you like.

In a large mixing bowl stir together the yeast, dry milk, sugar, salt, and 2 cups flour. Pour in the hot water and add the tomatoes in oil. Blend 100 strokes with a wooden spoon. Stir in the balance of the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Dough will be shaggy; elastic but not sticky. If it is still too moist, sprinkle on additional flour.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and leave at room temperature until it doubles in volume. About an hour or more.

Punch the dough down and turn it  onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into two pieces, forming into 2 balls. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Roll one ball into a rectangle. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Roll up tightly like a jelly-roll. Pinch the seam closed, pinch the ends closed. Place the roll, seam side down onto a greased baking sheet, tucking the ends under. Do the same with the other ball of dough. Cover the loaves with a damp towel and let them rise for about 45 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 450º. When the oven has reached temperature, make diagonal slashes across the top of the loaves and put them on a middle rack in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and trun the oven temperature down to 375º. Bake for another 12 minutes. If they’re done, loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove loaves from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is adapted from a French Bread recipe in Bernard Clayton’s “New Complete Book of Breads.” It is pretty fool-proof for experimenting. If you want a plain bread, substitute 1 TBSP oil or butter for the tomatoes and leave out the cheese. Try substituting oatmeal or any whole grain flour for some of the white flour.


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More Town Meeting photos….

….taken by Henry Isaacs, artist citizen. I almost never have photos of myself on my blog. (Probably because I don’t take them.)  But Henry put these up on his FaceBook page, so I thought I would put them up here for my post. I missed the day yesterday due to a writing deadline and another migraine. After 14 hours of sleep, and completion of the column just one day after deadline, I had a quiet afternoon at home and I’m looking forward to a fabulous day in the studio tomorrow.

I am proud to swear in Denise McCormick, who was just re-elected to the position of Town Clerk. She is fabulous at her job. High five!

Responsible citizens and students from the Islesford School:

“Is there a motion to put article 17c on the floor for discussion?”

Denise and Barb at 6:15. Relieved that the meeting was finally finished!


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