I’m sorry to say that whoever put together the announcement about the election in Camden (2 June, p. A3) missed noting the most monumental issue on the ballot that will change the face of Camden more profoundly than a waterfall or other physical feature ever could.

Article 3, if it passes, will eliminate the in-person annual town meeting at which voters can question our elected officials and committee members in a public forum about particular items on the ballot, get their answers in a public forum, debate issues, and propose changes to the budget and other critical articles before voting on them. With good reason this is often referred to as the “venerable New England town meeting.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we attended every evening annual town meeting, where a lively, diverse group of interested citizens made substantive, informed,
positive, and even necessary changes to the items on the ballot.

Article 3 entirely eliminates voter input at the annual town meeting, turning voters into yes-or-no rubber stamps for whatever the Camden Select Board wants to cram down our throats. That board and other town officials have argued that the in-person town meeting is “undemocratic” because relatively few registered voters attend that meeting, traditionally held on Wednesday evening on the day after the secret balloting.

The solution to “low” attendance, however, is not to eliminate the in-person town meeting. Instead, our town officials have an obligation to educate and inform the public about our responsibilities, since some Camden voters might have come from outside New England and been unaware of this vital democratic tool.

By putting article 3 on the ballot, the current members of the Camden Select Board have failed the democracy-in-action test.

Respectfully yours,
Deborah Oliver