Reading Town Meeting is right-sized, according to its members.
With 121 members opposed and six in favor, Town Meeting voted against reducing its size from 192 to 144 members, from 24 to 18 in each of the town’s eight precincts.
By a similar vote – 113 against and 15 in favor, the body also rejected a motion to increase the number of write-in signatures required to be elected to that body.
“(N)ot enough residents of the community (are) interested in being Town Meeting members to sustain a Town Meeting of 192 members,” the warrant article states, based on a number of figures, including seats available each year from 2007 to 2012 and the number of names on the ballot, as well as write-ins.
Instead of reducing the size of Town Meeting, several members, including Robert Connors in Precinct 4, suggested that members should encourage other residents to run for Town Meeting seats.
The last few years are not enough time to see a trend in Town Meeting membership, said member Will Finch from Precinct 8.
Reducing the number of members would limit discourse, said John Halsey in Precinct 1; he said he was new to the body.
The town’s representative Town Meeting is a step away from the democracy of an open Town Meeting, said Angela Binda from Precinct 5. Binda listed the populations and Town Meeting size of some half a dozen communities with populations similar to Reading’s. The average size, she said, is 184 members.
“We are in the mix with 192,” she said. Interest in sitting on Town Meeting fluctuates, she said, based on the issue and the economy. Several other members echoed her.
Several Town Meeting members suggested revisiting this issue in two years.
Regarding the proposal to increase the number of write-in votes to be elected from one to 10, a number of Town Meeting members said they had been elected with one or two votes.
Ten write-ins were proposed because about 20 percent of Town Meeting was elected with fewer than 10 write-in votes, according to Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner. Ten is the number of signatures a candidate for Town Meeting must get on his or her nomination papers to have his or her name placed on the ballot.
“You should get out and hear constituents,” said Phil Pacino from Precinct 5, who reported that the By Law Committee recommended both articles. If you get only one vote, he said, “You represent (only) yourself.”
Town Meeting rejected amendments that would have required seven or four votes as the minimum for write-ins to be elected.
A resident can get elected to Town Meeting in three ways: by having his or her name on the ballot, by write-in vote and by precinct vote.
Town Meeting members cannot be elected at large, for the whole town, in Reading, according to Hechenbleikner.
Annual Town Meeting ended after an hour and a half of discussion on Town Meeting size and write-in votes.