Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Town Meeting

I recently went to my Town Meeting to observe what was happening on a local town funded development. Now the things that happened and I have no idea if they were planned or just happened that way, were classic old school politics, somewhat heavy handed and almost threatening. Now these are my observations and opinions and those of one who infrequently attends the meetings. But having been in politics in some way or another in my almost 20 countries of even temporary residence I found this somewhat sharp to say the least.

So let us say you are the Mayor and you and the Board have some proposal which benefits someone other than say all of the people. I am not in any way assuming less than honorable intentions and motives.

1. Minimize the Number Attending. Take Measures to Block the Parking Lot before the Meeting to Dis-incent those who were interested in attending from attending. Thus I arrive for the 7:00 PM meeting at 6:30, I am always early, but I found the parking lot over flowing. Apparently they Mayor had scheduled the handing out of certificates to High School grads starting at 6:00 PM and thus every family got there by 5:30 and there was no room for the Meeting. Nice trick, since by 7:00 they High School folks were being released and mobbed the entry way and lingered so it was near impossible to enter.

2. Reduce the Number of Attendees Allowed in the Meeting Room: I was amazed that there were 6 to 8 rows of RESERVED seats, occupied by people who appeared to me to be just sitting there. I had seen COMCAST do that trick with its union people at Harvard a few years ago at an FCC meeting. This was a typical union trick, stuff seats so even if some managed to get to the meeting they could not get in.

3. Make it Uncomfortable to Stay: The heat seemed to be jacked up to 80F and the windows were closed, “so as to better see the screen”. When people complained it seemed to me that the complaints were used just as a distraction.

4. Make It Clear You Have the Power: The police were in full force, with bullet proof vests, hands to the ready on their 9 mm weapons, all in crew cut and pigeon chested and scanning the room staring at any dissident. In my opinion it appeared as a small armed force, anticipating whatever.

5. Make Questions Difficult to Ask: I observed that even if you made it there, even if you survived the head, even if you found a place to stand, you next faced the challenge of getting your question in. There was a timer, 3 minutes, and the sound system was less than sterling, and there always was an interrupt to clarify. By that time the time was up.

6. Never Answer the Question: The answers were often a quest for additional clarity and often less than expository as far as I could see.

Thus, was this deliberate, and agenda, typical, just normal? Frankly I have no way to ascertain. But if one observed that nothing truly was answered, one could at least say it was exemplary of how to avoid answering. So I guess all politics is local.