Column: Civics 101

Towns, though often magical, aren’t magical entities. They are run according to rules, many of which were designed in colonial times.

Our lovely town of Easton, CT is run by an executive board called the Board of Selectmen. Our legislative body is known as Town Meeting. There are also numerous boards, commissioners, full-time employees, and others who participate in the daily and annual running of our town.

Welcome to my column, Civics 101. In it, I will attempt to  explain how our magical town of Easton, CT is run so that, perhaps, you, capable resident, will suddenly wish to participate or further engage in civic life.

Over the course of the next few months, you will be able to read up on how each of our boards, offices, and meetings are run. Maybe one will appeal to you and you will join in the wonderful national tradition of serving your community through civic engagement.

You are our greatest resource. And, towns simply couldn’t function without you.

One of the biggest misconceptions about small town governments is that they are corrupt or that they operate under cover of darkness. This is not the case. What is true, however, is that often ordinances pass, and people don’t find out until afterward.

Why? Because most of us are too busy to habitually follow the comings and goings of town government. And, once folks do find out that something has been adopted, it’s often too late to change the outcome. So, they feel angry or deceived.

I can assure you that nobody is trying to deceive us. Every meeting is posted on the town website. And, so are the minutes (minutes are a record of what occurred at a meeting). So, whether you attend or not, you can find out what is on the agenda before the meeting and see what transpired at it, if you weren’t there.

It is important to realize that the onus to be informed is on each of us.

There is no greater gift than Democracy. And, there is no vote more important to your daily life than your local vote. The presidential election is a lot of fun, but there won’t be much that a president can do for your street, your schools, your emergency responders, the look and feel of your town, or your local taxes.

Not only do you live among the people you elect, they are also neighbors with skin in the game. They are accessible, real people who often dedicate long hours and time away from their families so that they can make our town a better place.

They are also trying their best. So, sometimes, when things don’t get resolved the way you might have done it, remember: Those who did volunteer the time and did make those decisions are real people who live among us all. It’s never wrong to remind everyone that being polite is a terrific policy. And, if you take issue with how things are run, offer up yourself as a solution.

These volunteers are local, they are present, and it is through relationships with them and by becoming civically engaged that you can help increase the quality of life in your town, preserve its natural splendor, and develop it in thoughtful ways.

There are few callings higher than being involved in your community. Thank you for reading this. I hope that you will find this column useful and illuminating.

Next time we will take a look at Selectman Boards.

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