Do you know what a Town Meeting is?
Until I moved here 12 years ago, I lived in blissful ignorance of such things. (butterflies fluttering...sunlit meadows...the smell of honeysuckle in the air...oh, wait- I grew up in the city. More like: horns honking, crowds of people, the smell of urine in the subway...)
Town politics were left to, well, Town Politicians. They fought campaigns to win their jobs, and were (presumably) well compensated. (I say that based entirely on how hard they fought for those positions.)
I knew there was a school board, because they were mentioned in the local newspaper (and not in a flattering manner). And certain times of the year the streets were littered with "ELECT STEVE ANGELO" signs.
I happily paid no attention to any of it.
Then I moved to Maine.
Where people are the town government. People I knew!
And then...I moved to Frenchboro. A very small island.
Population on the books, 61. *I think.
People actually on the island last winter? 51. And 16 of them were kids.
Jobs to be filled? 49
The purpose of a Town Meeting is to appropriate and raise taxes to fund the town. And to fill any vacant positions, offices, or committee seats.
Every year is a struggle for us, lopsided as our population/vacancy ratio is.
Every year it gets worse, as the same few people take on more and more responsibility.
Now, I'm not complaining about myself. I've taken on all I can, as can be evidenced by the dearth of knitting I have to show for my evenings. Were it up to me, I'd be 'off the clock' every evening by 7pm, kids washed and in bed (how long can I keep sending my 8 year old to bed by 7pm, do you think?), house cleaned, laundry done...and me, sitting in a comfortable, well- lit chair, glass of wine at the ready, knitting until sleep took over.
Snort, that is so NOT what happens here! I do manage to get the kids washed and in bed by 7-7:30, but the rest of it? I'm embarrassed to paint the picture for you. Let's just say that on any given night, well after midnight you can find me simultaneously folding laundry and writing up school board 'stuff' while tracking Post Office revenues on 6 different Excel spreadsheets.
My goodness, I used to finish a sweater in three days!
And the wine? Not so much. I'd be asleep before the kids.
So it's not about me, feeling pressured to do even more. I'm full up. I acknowledge that, and feel no guilt saying 'no' to any more work.
I have to add that all but a very few of these town positions are volunteer efforts. Were there price tags attached, they would fill up faster than flies on bait. That's not to say that any actual work would get done, but people would likely be tripping over each other to be nominated for these seats. That is not an opinion, it's a sad fact of life.
I feel strongly about volunteering. I think it's important. I think it's equally important for our kids to see us do it, and not see it as drudgery. I know many of you feel the same way, and I love that you do!
Our Town Meeting takes place this afternoon, at 4pm.
I'm worried about all those positions.
I'm worried about the school budget I helped to create.
I'm worried about the size of the town's budget, and its direct effect on my already large tax bill.
But I'm mostly worried that I'm one of a very few who are worried.
We are far from the only small town in the world.
What happens where you live??