Office of The Town Clerk
Kathleen A. Curran, Town Clerk
600 Chief Justice Cushing Way
Scituate, MA 02066
Phone: (781) 545-8743
Fax: (781) 545-8704
What is Town Meeting?
One of the hallmarks of New England is citizen participation in the running of local government. Since colonial days, the operation of Massachusetts town governments has been prescribed by an annual gathering of townspeople. The Annual Town Meeting, as this institution is known, continues to be a vital part of today's political landscape and provides one of the few contemporary examples of genuine grass roots democracy in operation.
Scituate holds Annual Town Meetings the second Monday in April. The general purposes are to establish an annual operating budget and to consider amendments or revisions to town bylaws or policies (including the management of finances). The Town Meeting recesses, if necessary, and reconvenes on successive Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until all business is completed and the meeting is formally adjourned.
The business of Town Meeting is governed by a document called the Warrant. The warrant is a notice containing the time, place and agenda for the Town Meeting. Each item of town business to be discussed is presented in the warrant as a separate and distinct Article. The warrant must be posted in town hall, all local post offices, and is published in local newspapers at least thirty days before the Town Meeting.
The warrant for the Town Meeting is prepared by the Town Board of Selectmen with input from other town departments and officials. The Town Advisory Committee prepares a printed booklet with the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Board for the annual operating budget and all articles to be included in the Warrant.
As a further example of the democratic nature of the process, state law reserves for the townspeople the right to petition the Board of Selectmen to place articles in the warrant. If the Board of Selectmen receives a written petition, submitted by ten or more registered voters, the item that is the subject of the petition must be presented as an article in the warrant.
The Town Meeting is presided over by an elected Moderator. The Moderator maintains order while methodically moving through the articles of the warrant. The Town Clerk keeps the record of the meeting, and town counsel is customarily present to provide legal guidance.
In Scituate, all residents who registered to vote at least twenty days before the date of the Town Meeting may attend and actively participate in the Annual Town Meeting and the Annual Town Election. Participation can range from passive observance, to offering motions on Articles in the Warrant, to good old-fashioned political oratory.
The Annual Town Election to elect town officers is held the fourth Saturday after the Monday in April when Town Meeting convenes. It is the final part of the Annual Town Meeting.
If an important town issue arises after the Annual Town Meeting is adjourned, the Town may hold a Special Town Meeting. A Special Town Meeting must be called if the board of selectmen receives a written petition, signed by two hundred registered voters or twenty percent of the total number of registered voters in the town (whichever number is the lesser). The process is essentially the same as with the Annual Town Meeting, except that the Warrant for a Special Town Meeting must be posted at least fifteen days in advance of the meeting.
Scituate's finance committee is called the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is comprised of nine residents appointed by the Moderator to serve three-year terms. Throughout the course of the Town Meeting, the chairman of the Advisory Committee voices the committee's recommendations on the Articles and any related motions. (The Advisory Committee also can authorize the release of money from the Reserve Fund in emergencies.
Last modified October 2010