Annual Town Meeting Prep, Part 1: What is an Open Town Meeting?

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

With thanks to the Town of Bedford, The Bedford Citizen is sharing their Annual Town Meeting FAQ via daily excerpts. In this article, we’ll look at what defines Bedford’s Open Town Meetings, and other ‘town meetings’ that are very different. Click this link to download and read A Guide to Open Town Meeting.

What Is an Open Town Meeting?

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 Bedford’s Zoning Bylaws, its General Bylaw, and the Charter on the Town website.

What Bedford’s Town Meeting is NOT

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.

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