Proposal to switch to SB2 meeting format resoundingly fails in Pembroke

  • Pembroke budget committee members Matt Miller (left) and Clint Hanson talk during a voting break on Saturday morning at the Pembroke Academy auditorium. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Pembroke resident Clifford McGinnis looks over the warrant articles on Saturday morning. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Pembroke resident Sharon Eaton votes at the town meeting on Saturday morning, March 18, 2023 at the Pembroke Academy auditorium. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

For the Monitor
Published: 3/18/2023 7:09:19 PM

A proposed change to the way the town governs itself was resoundingly defeated in Pembroke on Saturday.

The change from a traditional town meeting format to the SB2 format is allowed through a law enacted in New Hampshire in 1995 that allows municipalities to decide issues through a two-step a deliberative session followed by ballot voting in March. A traditional town meeting, which is the current system in Pembroke, keeps deliberation and voting to one meeting. Depending on the point of view, the change can increase civic participation or tear at the fabric of a community.

“This is the worst law ever enacted in New Hampshire,” said resident Diane Schuett, a state representative.

Schuett argued that the number of people participating in a deliberative session would drastically dwindle compared to the attendance at a traditional town meeting.

Pembroke resident Marc Chronis was the first to come to the microphone in favor of SB2. He said that it’s crucial to respect people who cannot physically come to town meetings and to still give them equal rights to vote via ballot. He said that there are many legitimate reasons residents may not be able to attend town meetings, and not giving them the option to vote “is wrong, and you have to admit that.” Chronis backed his stance in favoring SB2 stating, “We don’t even have 2% of voters here.”

“This would offer equal opportunity for voters to vote,” Chronis said. “All the SB2 does is take the yes-or-no vote out of the town meeting,” Chronis said.

Pembroke Selectman Chair Karen Yeaton stood in the lengthy line to share her opinion that many people can’t understand the issues on the ballot without the clear explanations that traditional town meetings .

“There’s no way that SB2 can work in this town,” Yeaton said firmly.

While four of six towns in the Suncook Valley – Deerfield, Epsom, Pittsfield and Allenstown – subscribe to the SB2 plan, Pembroke and Chichester still adhere to the traditional meeting format.

The petitioned warrant article to change to SB2 format required a two-thirds majority, and it wasn’t close. With much deliberation and a majority opposition toward SB2, the article failed to pass with 120 votes in opposition and 15 in support.

Throughout the meeting Moderator Tom Serafin answered questions and concerns from residents and announced when articles passed or failed. Voters approved money for roadway improvement and construction projects on multiple town roads and passed the $10.7 million operating budget.

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