By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Although running without opposition for his 13th term as moderator of both the town and school district, Mark Sisti delivered the fieriest speech when voters filled the gym at the Gilmanton School to hear from candidates this week.
Not for the first time, Sisti sought to rally support for a petitioned warrant article to rescind official ballot voting, better known as SB2, and restore the traditional Town Meeting form of government where votes are taken at the meeting rather than on the town election day. Gilmanton adopted SB2 in 2012 after three previous efforts in 2003, 2004 and 2005 failed.
Branding SB2 "a nightmare" and "abject failure," Sisti said that "We're just not going in the right direction."
He said that earlier this year only 25 voters, less than 1 percent of the electorate, attended the deliberative session of School District Meeting, while 122, less than 5 percent of the electorate, attended the deliberative session of Town Meeting.
"I don't even known why we called these meetings," Sisti said, noting the meetings took just 20 minutes. "It's ridiculous."
Sisti said that voters cast ballots without knowing what they are voting for or against. A year ago, he remarked, voters rejected a warrant articles authorizing the town to accept a $350,000 federal grant for the purchase of a fire truck should the grant be awarded. "It didn't cost a penny, but they voted no without even knowing what they were voting for." Likewise, voters scuttled the budget only to find that the default budget that replaced it spent more. "Most people don't know that our budget can go up by voting no," Sisti said.
At a traditional Town Meeting, Sisti said, town officials, including members of boards and commissions, can explain warrant articles and answer voters' questions. With SB2, he warned, "When you read articles you have no idea about, don't come to me. When you step into the booth and close the curtain, you're on your own."
Sisti urged voters to question candidates on SB2, which he called "a farce, a proven farce in this town" and "a disaster waiting to happen," then said if they favor it, "I'll be voting against them" to thunderous applause.
Sisti faces long odds. Last year, in an effort to undo SB2, which requires a supermajority of three-fifths to pass, 561 voted against and 402 voted in favor. Since 1995, when SB2 was enacted, there have been more than 70 attempts to rescind it, but only three — in Dorchester, Orange and Enfield — have succeeded and none in the last 15 years.
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