Annual Town Meeting Prep, Part 3: What Are They Talking About?

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

With thanks to the Town of Bedford, The Bedford Citizen is sharing their Annual Town Meeting FAQ via daily excerpts. Today: Talking about the decisions under consideration, and the rules/guidelines that support my active participation. For additional ATM information, click this link to download and read A Guide to Open Town Meeting.

What is the Warrant? Why is the motion made at Town Meeting sometimes different from what is published in the Warrant?

The Warrant is a notice to all voters of the town as to the time and location of the TM.  The warrant must state the subjects to be acted upon so that every voter knows what is being proposed. No action can be taken by TM unless the subject matter is contained in the Warrant. Click this link to read the 2018 Warrant for Town Meeting online.

The wording of the warrant does not have to be the exact wording of the motion at TM, but it must contain a sufficient description of what is proposed so that voters are aware of the subject matter.

So why would it be different?  The Warrant has to be finalized to be sent to the printer more than one month before TM begins.  In the intervening month, motions are fine-tuned for proper wording and dollar amounts are made most accurate, based on up-to-the-minute data in some cases.

And, in some cases, boards and committees concerned with the content of the warrant article have not come to a decision as to what they will recommend at TM.  In this case, at the end of the Article you will see the words “Recommendation to be given at Town Meeting.”

Where can I read the rules?

The rules for the Town Meeting are in State law and also, in order of precedence, Bedford Town Charter, These Bylaws, Rules adopted by the Town Meeting, Town Meeting Time published by the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and custom of the Bedford Town Meeting.”

To read the Bylaws of the Town of Bedford, go to Bedford’s Charter and Bylaws where you will find the laws that govern Town Meeting.

  • Article 3.6 of the By-laws of the Town of Bedford states that “In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, the Town Moderator shall have complete jurisdiction over any Town Meeting held for the transaction of the Town’s business.  The Moderator runs the meeting and enforces the rules of Town Meeting.
  • Article 4 of the Bedford Bylaws lists Town Meeting Procedure in detail.  These procedures outline in detail motions that can be made and action that can be taken by TM.

These procedures have been included in “A Guide to Open Town Meeting” that was written by Betsey Anderson, former Moderator and now Deputy Moderator for Bedford. You can download this excellent guide here https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/bedfordma/files/file/file/guide_to_town_meeting.pdf

To read an even more complete great guide on Bedford that includes Town Meeting info, download “Know Your Town”, published by the Bedford League of Women Voters.  https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/bedfordma/files/file/file/know_your_town_2014.pdf

Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law is available from the Bedford Free Public Library, or you can order a copy from the Massachusetts Moderators Association. https://massmoderators.org/tmt.html


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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