Marblehead Town Meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Veterans Middle School, 217 Pleasant St., and subsequent nights until attendees finish all the town’s business.
Marblehead has held Town Meeting since 1649, and its open town meeting format is direct democracy in action. It is vested with the authority to create and modify local statutes, known as bylaws, appropriate money to run the town, petition the Massachusetts General Court and set elected officials’ salaries.
Any resident registered to vote 20 days before the annual Town Meeting can participate in the civic gathering. Attendees can vote on articles, express opinions, enter debates, make motions and, before the big night, sponsor citizen petitions. Votes are taken by a show of hands.
From leaf blowers and a $112.5 million budget to a $2.5 million general override and a proposed human resources department, the 2023 town warrant (the meeting’s agenda) contains 54 articles (agenda items). Many anticipate the following to garner lively debate.
— Article 24: Proposes the creation of a human resources department. It complements a requested appropriation to hire a human resource director.
— Article 29, Article 30 and Article 31: Collectively, this trio of articles represents the main budget articles, which include proposed appropriations for $8 million in free cash, a $112.5 million budget and a $2.5 million general override.
— Article 39 endeavors to create bylaws governing accessory-dwelling units in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes.
— Article 42’s passage would allow the town to plant trees on private property within 20 feet of the public right away and with the property owner’s permission.
— Article 44 proposes changing Select Board terms from one year to three years.
— Article 45 proposes transparency enhancements and best practices for the public sector reporting of Marblehead’s annual audit.
— Article 47 and Article 48 are dueling leaf blower proposals targeting regulations governing leaf blowers in town. The first seeks to do away with the regulations, while the second proposes enforcement provisions to an existing seasonal ban.
— Article 51 and Article 52 recommend that certain governmental bodies with regulatory powers adopt hybrid public-meeting practices and file recordings of them.
— Article 54 asks Town Meeting to recommend that the Select Board, Board of Health, Harbors and Waters and Recreation and Parks Commission document processes and decision-making fundamentals into manuals.
Town Moderator Jack Attridge will preside over and regulate proceedings, decide all questions of order and determine all votes.
When he gavels the Town Meeting to order, it will mark a rare changing of the guard. In the last 60 years, Marblehead has only had two moderators before him: Steve Howe, who served from 1963 to 2005, and Gary Spiess, who served from 2006 to 2022. Spiess died in November, just months after he stepped down.
He believed a successful moderator conducted the Town Meeting business fairly, efficiently and respectfully. He saw conduct on the Town Meeting floor as a two-way street.
“A very important ingredient for anyone attending Town Meeting is that you will hear positions expressed that you don’t necessarily agree with,” Spiess wrote in his Town Meeting guide, “but my expectation is that Town Meeting attendees treat others with respect, hear them out and wait their turn to express themselves.”
Learn more and research the 2023 Town Meeting issues at marbleheadcurrent.org/townmeeting2023.