Responsive government

Last week, the Board of Selectmen in Mount Desert held a public hearing on a proposed action: a marijuana moratorium ordinance.

Much of the time, in many towns, required public hearings are a formality. A handful of interested parties attend and offer testimony, but the legislative phase of crafting an ordinance is already mostly complete. Sometimes the change is uncontroversial, such as a new stop sign, and a hearing with little or no testimony or debate is appropriate.

But the long tradition of New England self-governance is a fine one, and it’s a great thing that our laws require these deliberations. Selectmen are elected to represent all the town’s voters, and any of those voters with information and an argument to make has equal standing with the board members behind the desk.

Such was the case here. Several residents had carefully studied the proposal and relevant background, including the likely timing of concurrent action in Augusta. Their well-reasoned arguments that a planned special town meeting would not be needed or helpful were well taken. Selectmen called off the special town meeting.

Whatever the next steps in the town’s debate and work on this issue turn out to be, we congratulate the residents who offered testimony at last week’s hearing and the selectmen who listened to them.

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