Monday, May 21, 2012

We, the people!

The Franklin (MA) Town Council did something interesting this past week. They punted when they could have knocked the ball out of the park. Yes, I understand that is mixing metaphors and it is a deliberate choice.

The agenda was published on the Friday before their Wednesday meeting as normal. The agenda included Res 12-33 which was an endorsement of the People's Rights Amendment. I thought this interesting because while I consider my radar pretty good, there are always holes and new opportunities and this was a surprise.

The Town Council was going to step into a discussion on people's rights? A national discussion that derives itself with roots in local politics (yes, all politics is local). A discussion fraught with political overtones covering the full spectrum of the rainbow. This Council was indeed going to set new ground!

Alas, this was not to be. The agenda was modified and republished on Tuesday without Res 12-33 and the associated documentation. The item was left as a 'presentation'.

Wednesday evening comes and several members of the Council make their sentiments clear that this was not the proper forum for the Council to discuss this item.

I beg to disagree. There may be a better set of language to put forward for this issue. There are at least two proposals out there, there may very well be more. The problem I have with the Council is that the Council is indeed a good forum for this discussion. Why?

What does the US Constitution say? You may recall that the US Constitution begins
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What does the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts say? In the third paragraph, you'll recognize the key phrase but pay attention to the first two paragraphs!
The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life: and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness. 
The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them. 
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

And of course, the Franklin Charter, by which we are empowered to govern ourselves begins:
We, the people of the Town of Franklin, Massachusetts, in order to form a more perfect community, reaffirm the customary and traditional liberties of the people with respect to the conduct of our local government and take fullest advantage of the Home Rule Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, do ordain and adopt this Home Rule Charter for our Town.

So we have three levels of government, the two most local to us (MA and Franklin) clearly state that we the people have "a right to alter the government", the process includes "an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them."

We should have a discussion on the people's rights amendment. Maybe we can come up with the phrasing that will correct the money problem!

Part of this essay was originally posted to the Franklin Matters Weekly website here


My normal practice is to download a copy of the agenda and documents prior to the meeting, one to prepare, but more importantly to have a local copy to refer to during the meeting rather than be dependent upon the network in the Town Council Chambers.

The full set of agenda and documents as originally published for the 5/16 meeting can be found here

The revised agenda and set of documents (missing all the People's Rights Amendment pages) can be found here

My summary of notes from the meeting reported live can be found here