And now, another Letter (and see UPDATE posted below)
The following letter-to-the-editor appeared in the Tribune May 9th by Beverly A. De Witt-Moylan of Los Osos (She’s one of the Los Osos 45 served with a CDO) Her letter speaks to something that I found fascinating here in Sewerville: How quickly certain folks moved to dissolve the CSD that many of them, ironically, had struggled so hard to create in the first place when a recall didn’t go their way. No town meetings for them, no open debates, no compromise, no new candidates, no input or even new initiatives, no working on committees, no re-recalls (wouldn't that have been fun?), no use of any of the tools in the “democratic” tool chest except --- Blam! -- out of the box – dissolve the whole CSD. End game. No ninth-grade civics for them. Nosir!
It remains one of the most fascinating elements of this whole strange trip. Clearly, Sewervillers ain’t New Englanders, more’s the pity.
Growing up in New England, town meetings were a way of life for me.
Every week in March, my parents met our neighbors at the Town Hall to debate and vote on the town budget for the year. Into the night they amended and revised our local bylaws, item by item, with the Board of Selectmen, our town’s governing body.
This purest form of democracy continues to thrive in many communities across the Northeast. Though some have joked that we threw off the bonds of England only to be free to tax ourselves, the representative democracy that emerged from the American Revolution is the best embodiment of the concept in the world today.
Anyone who benefits from self-governance has a stake in democracy. Having only recently gained the right to local control, Los Osos struggles now with forces working to solve local problems by dissolving local government.
Ninth-grade civics teaches that the foundation of democracy is compromise, which can only happen if all sides represent themselves in the open where debate and resolution take place. Handed over to us instead of won through a difficult, bloody struggle, perhaps our local control came too easily for many to grasp its precious value. Easy come. Easy Go.
Beverly A. De Witt-Moylan, Los Osos UPDATE: (5/11) And Beverly notes . . . Being a California Girl, although married to a Boston Boy, I was aware of the tradition of New England town hall meetingS, as well as the annual big Town Meeting, but, like the Tribune, I didn’t catch the distinction (and had no idea the letter had been changed slightly by the Tribune editors.) A little history lesson for us all. The following excerpt from Bev’s email:
As long as you have posted my PUBLISHED letter to the editor, you might as well have THE REST OF THE STORY which I sent out today. Since I've already had my say for this month, and since they don't like printing criticism of themselves, this won't get into the TRIB, but people who like to argue on your web site might get something out of it. Use it or not... . . .
Blessings of peace,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 7:27 AM
Thank you for printing my letter regarding dissolution of the Los Osos CSD in its entirety in the Tuesday issue. After my careful effort to hone it to 200 words, it was somewhat surprising to read the first sentence, which you edited by adding two letters to its length. "Town Meeting was," in your hands became, "town meetings were." While I am aware that few people outside New England would have any understanding of Town Meeting as an institution, it might have been instructive to trust that your readers would understand the term in context. Like anywhere else in the USA, meetings are held year round in my hometown. They are not, however, town meetings. They are Board of Selectmen (a term which has survived since colonial times) meetings, which citizens attend in the same way as they attend city council or CSD meetings in this county.
Town Meeting is a specific process, described in my previous letter to you, which happens every spring in those New England towns where it has survived. In my home town of Canton, Massachusetts, Town Meeting occurred in March when I was growing up. It is a proper noun, such as, "Are you going to Town Meeting?" or "Town Meeting begins at 7 PM."
Rather than changing my words to suit your paradigm, it might have been prudent to discover whether the specific phrasing used had merit and meaning. Though probably borne from innocent provincialism, it is insulting to be treated like an ignorant bumpkin by your presumption that I meant something I did not. Judging from the Trib's coverage of the RWQCB CDO prosecution hearings, however, it is not surprising. Your paradigm regarding citizens of Los Osos would not allow you to see it any other way.
Beverley De Witt-Moylan, B.A., M.Ed.