The idea of the New England town meeting form of government is close to sacred, but it may be time to attempt to look at this process with an open mind.

There are several drawbacks to doing the business of an entire community via town meeting, and some of this is driven by changing times.

This was put to the test during the pandemic (which likely is not over). During this time, when it was not safe to hold large gatherings, local towns held voting at the polls rather than open meetings. What some of us discovered is something that town officials knew for some time: with secret ballot voting in the ballot booth on election day, you get way more participation than via town meeting.

Why would this be the case?

The traditional format is to hold a meeting on a specific night, usually around 7 p.m. To go out and attend this meeting, a resident must have time, first. People who work at night or who need to watch children are excluded from the voting. One must have enough interest not only to vote to do one’s civic duty, but to sacrifice an entire evening to sit through hours of discussion.

More importantly, people increasingly are uncomfortable raising their hands to cast their votes where everyone can see their position on town matters. It may be hard to vote down the public works budget with the road commissioner watching your hands. It provides an opportunity for people to be coerced or intimidated.

This seems an even more confrontational process to the younger generation of adults coming up, who are more used to dealing with people through texts and screens than in person. Right or wrong, times have changed.

The result of all these changes is that in a town of 3,000 people say, the annual business might be decided by 60.

Like we said, this is just a matter of being open minded about the possibility of change. Sit with it for a while and see if it is something we might ease into.

Rockland has long had a City Council form of government, and it takes about two votes usually to approve a new ordinance. When a group of people becomes concerned about an issue and turns out to talk about it, they do not usually find their concerns falling on deaf ears. If the council does go against the wishes of a group of stakeholders, they can also file petitions and bring things to a vote of the larger populace.

In towns like Camden and Rockport, it may make sense to change the form of government over time. Items that residents should vote on could still go to the whole town for approval through secret ballot voting, and the result would be that no small group could push things through without campaigning and gaining buy-in from a larger portion of the population.

The benefits of such a change might outweigh the drawbacks of the town meeting format. Another point to consider is how slow some day-to-day business is in getting done, because it must be approved at a town meeting, when many non-controversial items could simply be handled by select board members or the town manager.

It may have been with this in mind that the Camden Charter Commission was given its task, and we wonder if the group’s minds were indeed open when they opted to support maintaining town meeting as the form of government.

Seems worth a wider discussion. Feel free to send us your letters and thoughts on this important issue to news@villagesoup.com.

Mainers reach 80 percent for at least one shot

On Aug. 10, Gov. Janet Mills’ office announced that more than 80% of Maine residents aged 18 or older received at least one shot of the vaccine, according to The Portland Press Herald. Maine is third in the nation, after Vermont and Massachusetts, when ranked in terms of the percentage of the entire population that is fully vaccinated, according to published reports.

Not bad! Mainers should be proud they have, for the most part, done their duty to keep themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors safe and healthy. It is not surprising to us, as we know the local people and their strong community values.

Keep it up and encourage your vaccine-resistant friends and loved ones to do the right thing to protect themselves and those they care about.