By S.D. Plissken | July 10, 2018
An examination of fifteen years worth of the Town Meeting Warrant articles on which the Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted to make a recommendation – 239 of them – reveals an oddity. While it cannot be said that they never met a warrant article on which they did not unanimously agree, it is extremely rare.
The BOS voted unanimously to recommend warrant articles 231 of 239 times (96.7%) in those fifteen years. They voted unanimously to not recommend warrant articles 5 of 239 times (2.1%). Those articles not recommended concerned the contentious landfill issue on the 2015 ballot, and the disincorporation petitioned article on the 2018 ballot. (Making any recommendation at all on a petitioned warrant article is itself an extreme rarity). Taken together, unanimous votes were made 236 of 239 times (98.7%).
There was a split vote in only 3 of 239 times (1.3%). One of them was a 2-0 vote with 1 abstention. (Some might say that too should be counted as a unanimous vote, of those who were voting). The other two were 2-1 splits. Most of them arose out of that same landfill issue.
Now, none of the warrant articles that were unanimously recommended (or unanimously not recommended) received unanimous approval (or disapproval) of the voters. Not a single one. In fact, a significant number of the unanimously recommended articles were rejected outright or passed by narrow margins.
All of this begs a question: why are the BOS recommendations, which have been almost entirely unanimous ones, at such variance with the expressed wishes of the voters? (Why are there so few dissents? (1.3%))
Some have answered that most of these warrant articles have to do with expanding town appropriations or authorizations, i.e., they are things that the town government wants. The town government is interested, as are all bureaucracies, in increasing its budgets, staffs, pay rates, pensions, authority, and control. So, it is easy to see why the town departments might create warrant articles that do not gain anything like unanimous acceptance by the voters. Their interests are not the same.
But the question remains for the BOS itself – the supposed representatives of the voters. Why do they make so many unanimous recommendations of warrant articles, i.e., solutions proffered by either the town apparatus or by themselves? And why such strong recommendations for solutions so often at variance with the interests of significant numbers of voters, even majorities of them (as expressed by them with their ballots).
One might expect there would be something like as many split recommendation votes as there have been split results in the actual election. That is to say, one might expect greater variance if the BOS were truly representing the voters. But do they, in fact, even try to represent the voters (and their interests), as distinguished from the town government?
Is the BOS really just a rubber stamp?
Town of Milton. (2002-03, 2006-2018). Annual Report. (Various Years). Milton, NH: Town of Milton