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School Board member Paul Fersen contemplates "gut wrenching" budget cuts at Dorset, Vermont, town meeting, March 1998

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The Town Meeting
A Local Legacy

Have you ever been to a town meeting? Do you know what goes on in one? Town meetings are a popular form of local government in Vermont and elsewhere.

During these meetings, all citizens are welcome to discuss local issues such as the cost of running the schools and government. Taxes are almost always an issue. Should they be raised or lowered? What type of computers should be purchased? What to do about overdue property taxes? These are just some of the topics that could be discussed and voted on at a town meeting.

University of Vermont political science professor Frank Bryan calls the town meeting the "Secret Flame of Democracy." But some people think the town meeting has outgrown its usefulness. They say that American society has grown too large and complex for the town-meeting style of government. Others think that town meetings are "alive, but troubled." They say that town meetings are mostly attended by those who are self-employed, retired, or otherwise not working at regular daytime jobs, so they cannot accurately reflect the views of the majority of the town's citizens.

Do you think the town meeting will survive?

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