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Annual Town Meeting normally commences on the fourth Monday of March. Town Meeting is typically held in the Bedford High School Auditorium beginning at 7 pm.
A Warrant will be issued in accordance with MGL Ch. 39, Section 10. Special Town Meetings are at the call of the Selectmen and typically occur in the Fall.
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First, you need to make sure you are registered to vote. You can register to vote or check your registration status online by visiting the Secretary of State website. You can also fill out a form and mail it to the Town Clerk or register to vote in person at Town Hall. Please call the Town Clerk's office at 781-275-0083 with questions.
When you arrive for Town Meeting and reach the teller you will need to tell them your Street name, then House number, then Your Name. Check-in is not separated by precinct.
Petitioner's articles shall be submitted in written form. Ten signatures are required on a petition for the Annual Town Meeting Warrant and 100 signatures for the Special Town Meeting. The Town Clerk will verify the signatures. Please use this form:
For assistance with the preparation of the petition, you are encouraged to contact the members of the Petitioners' Advisory Committee.
You may contact any member of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee to discuss the committees and which ones have openings. After you have attended a meeting of the committee you are interested in, you should complete the Questionnaire for Volunteers. You may also call the Town Manager's office for information at 781-275-1111.
The rules for the Town Meeting are in State law and also, in order of precedence, Bedford Town Charter, The Town Bylaws, Rules adopted by the Town Meeting, Town Meeting Time published by the Massachusetts Moderators Association, and custom of the Bedford Town Meeting.
Article 3.6 of the Bylaws of the Town of Bedford states that "In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, the Town Moderator shall have complete jurisdiction over any Town Meeting held for the transaction of the Town's business." The Moderator runs the meeting and enforces the rules of Town Meeting.
Article 4 of the Bedford Bylaws lists Town Meeting Procedure in detail. These procedures outline in detail motions that can be made and action that can be taken by Town Meeting.
These procedures have been included in "A Guide to Open Town Meeting" (PDF) which was written by Betsey Anderson, former Moderator and now Deputy Moderator for Bedford.
View the Bylaws of the Town of Bedford.
To read an even more complete guide on Bedford that includes Town Meeting information, download "Know Your Town" (PDF), published by the Bedford League of Women Voters.
Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law is available from the Bedford Public Library or you can order a copy from the Massachusetts Moderators Association.
The Town Meeting form of government "speaks for the belief that a society is safer and freer when the bulk of its citizens understand the programs and goals that their government has chosen and when they have achieved this understanding because these programs and goals have been honestly discussed in public." Quote from Town Meeting Time: A Handbook of Parliamentary Law, published by the Massachusetts Moderators Association 2001
When we are removed from the decision-making process it is easy to feel that we have no control over the how and why of government. Attending TM gives us the opportunity to vote on local expenditures - for schools, roads, police, water/sewer, fire, etc., and to decide how we want to regulate our town through bylaws. We get to know our elected and appointed officials and town employees and they get to know us through our participation.
"Freedom in the concrete, freedom as it is experienced in daily life, is the experience of having a hand in the determining of issues that touch the individual closely and intimately." From Rockefeller Panel Report on American Democracy: The Power of the Democratic Idea
The Warrant is a notice to all voters of the town as to the time and location of the TM. The warrant must state the subjects to be acted upon so that every voter knows what is being proposed. No action can be taken by TM unless the subject matter is contained in the Warrant.
The wording of the warrant does not have to be the exact wording of the motion at TM, but it must contain a sufficient description of what is proposed so that voters are aware of the subject matter.
So why would it be different? The Warrant has to be finalized to be sent to the printer more than one month before TM begins. In the intervening month, motions are fine-tuned for proper wording and dollar amounts are made most accurate, based on up-to-the-minute data in some cases.
And, in some cases, boards and committees concerned with the content of the warrant article have not come to a decision as to what they will recommend at TM. In this case, at the end of the Article, you will see the words "Recommendation to be given at Town Meeting."
Town Meeting is the business meeting of the town and TM members are the legislative branch of the town government. Only registered voters of the town are allowed to vote. A quorum of at least 100 voters is required to conduct business. (For the 2020 Annual Town Meeting, the quorum has been reduced to 75 voters as allowed by temporary state regulations).
Other interested persons may attend TM - residents who have not registered to vote, town employees, and business owners for example. When they arrive at TM, they will check in at the desk and will be escorted into the auditorium, and will be required to sit in a separate area where votes will not be counted. The Moderator and Town Clerk will determine the location of the appropriate area based on the space needs of voters.
Only TM members, i.e. voters, can speak at TM. On occasion, someone else would like to bring some information to the attention of TM members or would like to share their opinion with TM. In that case, it is preferable for the person to make themselves known in advance to Town Clerk or the Moderator. In any case, when the person steps to the microphone and is otherwise not eligible to speak, the Moderator can ask TM if they want to grant permission to the person to speak. If there is no objection from the voters, the Moderator will recognize the speaker.
If you have a question about the article being discussed or if you want to share your thoughts, please go to any one of the four microphones in the aisles. Wait in line until you are at the microphone and are recognized by the Moderator.
Speaking in public is not something that comes naturally to most of us, so before you get to the mic, take a few moments to think through the point you want to make or the question you want to ask. If someone else has already made the same point you wanted to make, it is fine for you to say, "I agree with the previous speaker and I support the passage of this motion." Please do not go over what has been already stated.
Town Meeting is not a debate so there is no back-and-forth conversation allowed between you and another speaker or presenter. You can make your point, or ask your question. The Moderator will not permit a debate.
Please also keep in mind the guidelines for civil discourse that are recommended for Town Meeting. In short, they are:
View the complete Guidelines for Civil Discourse (PDF).
If you are presenting slides, please see the presentation guidelines to maximize accessibility and readability.
Bedford has an "open" town meeting, which means that all of Bedford's registered voters are eligible to come to Town Meeting (TM). Some towns in Massachusetts have a "representative" town meeting and elect their TM members.
In the government structure of Bedford, registered voters attending TM are the "legislators." Town Meeting members are vested by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Bedford's Charter with the traditional powers of the legislative branch of any level of government: the power to make laws (in this case, called By-laws) and the power to approve the expenditure of money. No money can be expended by the Town without the approval of Town Meeting. No general or zoning laws can be enacted by Bedford without the approval of Town Meeting.
You can read these Zoning Bylaws, General Bylaw, and Bedford's Charter on the town website.
It is very popular for today's political candidates and congress members to hold what they refer to as "Town Meetings." These are in general sessions, open to anyone, where the person organizing the meeting presents ideas and the audience responds, asks questions, and makes comments. This is not what is referred to as Town Meeting in Bedford.
Town of Bedford10 Mudge WayBedford, MA 01730
Town Main Directory: 781-918-4000
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