For the Public

About Town Meeting

Resources to help you understand Town Meeting Law, Procedure, etc.

Materials Prepared by the MMA  Education Committee to Assist Educators in Teaching Students About Town Meeting

Parliamentary Procedure

Town meetings serve as the legislative component of local government in many communities throughout New England. Town meetings operate in accordance with rules of procedure established by general laws, local bylaws, and local customs and traditions. As part of their bylaws, many towns reference a standard parliamentary handbook to provide for most of their rules of procedure. Use of a standard handbook to supplement a few local rules of procedure defined in bylaws provides participants in town meeting with a complete framework that all can readily learn and understand.

The Massachusetts Moderators Association first published in 1962 a handbook of parliamentary law called Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law that focuses especially on the operation of those legislative bodies described, in very concise language, as town meetings. The bibliographic information for the current version of this standard parliamentary handbook is:

Johnson, Richard B.; Trustman, Benjamin A.; and Wadsworth, Charles Y. Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law, 3rd ed. Boston: Massachusetts Moderators Association, 2001.

Click here for information on ordering Town Meeting Time

Town Meeting Time is also available in many public libraries throughout Massachusetts.

Town Meeting DVDs

The Massachusetts Moderators Association has produced and makes available two educational DVDs to encourage voters to participate in their town meetings across Massachusetts. One DVD entitled Town Meeting and You describes the experiences of voters in open town meetings. It helps to familiarize those who have not previously attended town meeting with the key elements of this form of local government, and it serves as a refresher for those who have.

The second DVD entitled Voice of the People: The Representative Town Meeting includes some of the same content, since, in many respects, open and representative town meetings operate in similar fashion. The DVD describes, in addition, the role of town meeting members who are elected by the voters in each precinct to represent them and vote on their behalf on all matters decided by town meeting. Each DVD is narrated by NECN’s R.D. Sahl and includes comments from a number of voters on why they participate and why others should participate in their town meetings.

Praise for –
Town Meeting and You

“… a most informative and professional video … Town Meeting and You is an excellent layman’s description of the equalitarian open town meeting, its procedures including voter addition of articles to the warrant, and the importance of voter participation in the decision-making deliberative process.”
 
Joseph F. Zimmerman
Professor of Political Science
University at Albany, State University of New York
Author of The New England Town Meeting – Democracy in Action

Through the assistance of several moderators, the DVDs include scenes from a number of vintage and recent town meetings, along with current substantive and procedural information presented by three moderators about various aspects of town meeting, including the warrant, the role of the moderator at town meeting, and the most common motions available for use at town meeting.

Each DVD runs for approximately thirty minutes. Click on the following links to preview each DVD.

Town Meeting and You

Voice of the People: The Representative Town Meeting

Copies of the DVDs can be purchased from the Massachusetts Moderators Association at $10.00 each, or three for $25.00. DOWNLOAD and print an order form. Complete the order form with your shipping address. Include a check, payable to the Massachusetts Moderators Association. There is no charge for shipping and handling. Write to:


Massachusetts Moderators Association
c/o Alan E. Foulds
9 Ide Street
Reading, MA 01867-2753

To make inquiries about your order, telephone Alan Foulds at 781-942-0129 or send email to alanfouldsmoderator@gmail.com.