Letter: ATBM Quorum a Success

To the Editor:

For the first time in more years than anyone has been able to tell me, last week we successfully reached a quorum in both ATBM sessions, by far. We marked our calendars, got off our couches, out of our offices, fed the kids dinner, hired babysitters and engaged as a community in New England democracy. Like any birth it wasn’t easy or pretty but beautiful in the end.

But much more valuable than the dollar savings (about $1.3M or 2% but who’s counting), is the spirit of the charter’s intent for checks-and-balances coming to life and the first signal of party irrelevance I’ve seen so far in town. I wasn’t counting the Republicans and the Democrats in the room last week, even if I could, and who had the ‘bare majority’ which too often dominates the mindsets of our boards and commissions. When it comes down to smart spending, growing our community in the right ways while stabilizing our taxes, it was clearly a non-partisan issue and galvanized everyone across the board to show up and vote their conscious instead of their party platform. Admittedly (and sorry/not sorry), I was just as proud to stand up and show my support on some issues along with my party-mates as much as when I stood against them and with my two fellow Selectmen on other issues. I noticed this across the room, thankfully. The objective individual must come before the party, on both sides, for this form of town-hall democracy to work best and honestly we don’t see it often enough in this era and town often run by political machinery.

Walking down the aisle to a microphone in front of your community and audience of 300+ people is not easy. It’s daunting. It reminded me of one of my favorite paintings by Normal Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, where the courage embodied by the speaker overcomes the divisiveness of the debate during that town hall meeting. I’m personally super proud of every speaker those two days, and the general audience for showing up (especially twice) and (usually) showing respect for all speakers. We indeed can galvanize, we can persuade, we can uplift and yes, we can make a change.

I hope this becomes a new Weston tradition. An institution. An event. Like our Memorial Day Parade, or summer Friday markets at Lachat, I hope we all look forward to ATBM each year (maybe even with spirited tailgating beforehand bringing us together…just throwing it out there). I personally endeavor to also make it better. Lots of opportunity for improvement. A lot. We can bring New England democracy to the 21st century. And finish in one night.

With this new tradition though, comes our huge collective responsibility to be informed and educated. I admit, there were times this week where I was cringing at what was being proposed for reduction, or the amount of reduction, and the implications if they passed. This can’t be a blood sport. There can be no emotion. We as voters need to do the work to understand the issues, their costs and the 360 impact of making changes. We also need to not only express civility and good intent, but also assume there is good intent from the other side of the table. As a town leader, I also know we need to make this a lot easier. Easier to understand. Easier to read. Easier to get to. Easier to access. Easier to figure out. Easier to make an informed vote. This is one of my pillar initiatives as Selectman not just for ATBM but daily community involvement in town hall.

All this said, while profound and important, ATBM is just one step. As a town, we now have the responsibility to vote in the referendum on May 4th to uphold (I hope) the efforts and results of the ATBM birthing. There will be further politicizing, I’m sure. Brace yourselves. But most importantly, educate yourselves, ask questions, think independently and do what feels right. We must emerge from the Age of Apathy as individual agents, not cogs of the political party machinery.

Kerem Dinlenc,
Member, Board of Selectmen

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