Friday, March 17, 2017

Intent vs. Subject Matter

According to a recent ruling by the NH Supreme Court, altering the “intent” of petitioned warrant articles for Town Meeting is allowed , so long as the the "subject matter" is unchanged.  
I had written about this a few weeks back as there have been rumblings about amending petitioned warrant Article 16: 
"To see if the Town will vote to rescind and repeal Board of Selectmen Policy Number 2 establishing recommendations for so called “private roads”." 

The proposed amendment we have been advised will read: "To see if the town will vote, to direct the governing body, to continue to plow private roads in Moultonborough, as presently done, and defend an affirmative vote of this motion, if defeated in a lower court, to the NH Supreme Court, if needed."

My personal opinion as a taxpayer: the intent of Article 16 is clearly to rescind BoS Policy #2, the subject of the article. The reason behind it, as explained by the lead petitioner, is that the authority to recommend road standards is under the authority of the Planning Board, not the BoS. I agree with that. The private road recommended minimums have nothing to do with the town plowing private roads, which is addressed in Town policy # 1. That is a different subject. 
The proposed amendment changes the intent ( rescinding policy #2) and the subject matter. Should be a no go, particularly as the people that put forth the original petitioned article had in mind a totally different intent and subject matter. 

If the purpose of the amendment is a referendum on whether taxpayers want the town to continue plowing roads it is really not necessary, as it is clear that they do. I do too. 
If it does make it to the floor and receives an affirmative vote, what then? It  changes nothing as it is not enforceable. The town needs to fix the problem, but generating unwanted publicity and calling attention to it is not in our best interests. 

With all the angst about plowing of private roads, it would be far better in my opinion, to just let this issue quiet down and allow the Town through counsel and working with other towns, to work the process.

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