“Dexter Humphrey wiped his hands with his handkerchief. He picked up his copy of the warrant and read the twenty first item again. After he had read his regular question, he put the matter to a vote at once, and for the first time in history, the Town of Peyton Antrim Place voluntarily gave new powers to its selectmen in the form of a voluntary budget committee.”
Not much has changed in small town New Hampshire since Grace Metalious wrote down her observations of town meetings and human nature – not in Antrim anyway.
As the Chairman of The Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers I attended the Antrim 2010 Annual meeting to speak to the issue of adopting an official RSA 32 Budget Committee, something CNHT had a hand in getting on the ballot.
It took several voice votes and eventually a division of the room – 74 to 61 to let me speak in favor of adopting a statute and electing a budget committee to watch over Antrim’s finances which are a sloppy, incompetent, self-made disgrace. But that is another story.
If you have never spoken at a town meeting before, try speaking in hostile territory, it brings out the best in people so I bit my tongue and answered questions rather professionally, I think.
CNHT held in Antrim, just before the town meeting, a civic meeting which informed those interested in learning about RSA 32. About fifteen people showed up. Two of those fifteen, Antrim’s version of Dexter Humphrey, were the guys who actually run Antrim even though they are not elected. Both were not happy at the civic hearing, expecting to slay those of us from CNHT with intricate, dagger-like questions. The two budget committee savvy CNHT friends from other towns I had with me answered every conceivable question posed in the two hour meeting. We were never tripped up by the Dexter Humphreys. How sad for them.
So what was in the local paper about the civic meeting?
One attendee was your typical hand puppet selectmen who claimed that after the meeting I told him CNHT charged “a fee” for working with individuals and towns such as we were offering to do in Antrim. Nothing could be farther from the truth but that is how this works. The local press seized on this titillating bit.
When Dexter Humphrey’s selectman found out he might be wrong about fees he me called and offered that he would correct that point in person at the annual meeting. He must have been too busy sitting there quietly at the table with the other two puppets because he never offered the correction in my presence.
Dexter Humphrey #1 opened discussion of the Bud Com before the Antrim Town Meeting with an amendment carefully crafted in advance, his argument: No one had time to understand RSA 32 (established about 70 years ago) so they should vote for his amendment (no one has ever seen or had a copy of) for a voluntary budget committee – or puppet committee. So we don’t have time to understand a state statute so we should vote for some scheme I just made up?
It passed unanimously – fine with me.
Now comes the fun part. The puppet budget committee has to be hand picked by the moderator who has a daunting task before him. Should one single person of the six potential members of the voluntary puppet budget committee have a tiny fraction of a spine and asks questions of the larger more important puppets in the town hall - puppet droppings will hit the fan.