Monday’s Special Town Meeting was an unusual and interesting piece of business right from the start. Actually, the uniqueness of the evening began well before the meeting even got underway.
For starters, can anyone in town recall a time when voters were greeted outside the meeting by a group of high schoolers protesting?
They were part of an effort to pass a petition article calling for a ban on single-use plastic bottles on town properties and at town-sponsored events. They held protest signs, shouted slogans and urged meeting-goers to vote to save the planet.
It was invigorating. And in the end, successful. The ban passed.
Then there was the wait to get into the building. That doesn’t happen often. Soon, every seat in the auditorium was filled, and then some.
Some folks ended up sitting on the floor or standing along the walls. It was a packed house.
A trio of young Sandwich Soul singers performed an inspiring and harmonizing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Sandwich Little League All-Star team, all in uniform, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. The meeting was just getting underway when someone on stage remembered the opening prayer—or invocation—had been skipped.
The fire department’s chaplain had been left waiting in the wings, quite literally. The error was rectified and the meeting got back down to business.
As discussion about Article 1 got underway—an article that sought $20 million to build a senior center and renovate the existing town library—finance committee chairman Mark Snyder stepped to the microphone and said that even though he thought it was a bad idea, he was going to make a motion to split the article into two pieces, so the library project and the senior center project could be debated separately.
He said he didn’t like the idea of splitting the article, and said he would be voting against his own motion, but he said he had heard from many people on the social media site he moderates who wanted the article split. So he felt it was his duty to split it.
Why? And where were these people? Why couldn’t one of them step up and do it for themselves? It was an odd scene.
His motion failed.
When the intact Article 1 was finally voted on, the “yeas” clearly carried it. Moderator Garry Blank declared the vote unanimous, but we certainly heard a scattering of “nays” in the audience.
The crowd slowly began to thin as discussion moved on to other business.
That’s when selectman chairman Dave Sampson made a motion to reconsider the vote on Article 1.
Mr. Sampson has been an advocate of Article 1 all along. So presumably, he made his motion to avoid disaster later in the evening. It was completely plausible that someone who was opposed to Article 1 could have called for a revote late in the meeting, after most of the supporters had gone home.
Since there can only be one motion to reconsider, what Mr. Sampson was doing, we think, was to preemptively call for a revote while there were still plenty of supporters left in their seats.
It was a clever strategy. But Mr. Blank shot it down.
He said not enough time had passed since the original vote for there to be any kind of mood shift within the room on Article 1. To Mr. Sampson’s chagrin, Mr. Blank ruled the motion invalid.
As the crowd inside the auditorium continued to thin, we’re sure we were not alone on the edge of our seat for the rest of the night, waiting for another motion to reconsider. But luck was with Article 1 supporters Monday. No such motions were made.
By the time Special Town Meeting came to a close, the original vote on Article 1 remained intact.