Last year, Covid restrictions prevented in-person budget voting by eligible Woodbridge voters. Our budget was decided, instead, by the Board of Finance.
This year, an attempt to have a “virtual” budget vote failed due to numerous procedural and privacy problems. The town meeting was recessed and continued to June 2 at the Woodbridge Firehouse, with a large garage to accommodate a minimum of 250 eligible voters, with breezy, open bay doors, and unfortunately poor acoustics.
More problems followed that night with only brief moments of order. Frequent, time-consuming head counting was required to verify attendance and vote tallies. With many voters wandering in and out of the firehouse, with little control from the moderator, counting grew increasingly difficult. Audience talking was constant. Speakers’ voices were garbled/muffled due to required mask-wearing. Shouts of “Can’t hear you!” were common. Frustration and shouting increased.
Added to this was confusion about legal procedures. At times, the moderator and town counsel seemed unsure about them. More frustration, shouting and, now, anger. At one point, a voter got so angry I truly feared a fight would break out. Soon thereafter a police officer appeared.’ at the bay doors.
The firehouse siren went off during the meeting. A fussing baby could be heard during the meeting, too.
In two hours time, I witnessed many voters who either sneaked out or walked out during voting. Once attendance fell below 250, voting was no longer permitted by the Woodbridge Charter. A mass exodus immediately followed. The $51,566,481 town budget, described in its 171page guide book, was handed once again to the Board of Finance to decide.
Don’t you think it’s time that Woodbridge voted our budget by referendum? No more late night voting, endless head counts, distractions, voting chaos, no 250 minimums, no virtual meeting problems, no having the Board of Finance decide how much taxpayers will spend.
It’s time to get the ball rolling.