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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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School Board member contemplates budget cuts at Dorset, VT, Town Meeting, March 1998
School Board member Paul Ferson contemplates "gut wrenching" budget cuts at Dorset, Vermont Town Meeting, March 1998 Photo: Sabina Haskell Latour, courtesy Bennington Banner

The Town Meeting

Taking up every topic under the sun, the Vermont Town Meeting is, according to University of Vermont Political Science Professor Frank Bryan, truly "the Secret Flame of Democracy." Town meeting topics range from delinquent property taxes, vital statistics (marriages and births), and budgets for administration, computers, and even the printing of the town report. According to some, town meetings are "alive, but troubled." In their view, town meetings are mostly attended by those who are self-employed, retired, or otherwise not working at regular daytime jobs, and thus cannot accurately reflect the views of the majority of the town's citizens. According to their critics, town meetings don't work and are beset by special interests and bureaucracy. They say that American society has grown too large and complex for democratic institutions to function well, even at the level of a small New England town. This project examines the current state of the town meeting and its viability.

Included in the project documentation are a written report; photographs; periodical clippings; a 1996 Annual Report for Worcester, Vermont; a Vermont Public Television video entitled Town Meeting: A Day in the Life; and an audiotape produced by the Vermont Folklife Center entitled "Vermonters Talk About Town Meeting."

Originally submitted by: Patrick J. Leahy, Senator James M. Jeffords, Senator & Bernard Sanders, Representative (At Large).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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