Wellfleet was the first of the Outer Cape towns to conduct its long-delayed annual town meeting this past Saturday, and as Provincetown, Truro, and Eastham have also chosen, it was held outdoors. By every measure, it was a smashing success.
As K.C. Myers writes on page one this week, Town Moderator Dan Silverman “pitched a no-hitter” from his spot on the mound of the school baseball field, moving through a 38-article warrant in four hours. Silverman would be the first to insist that it was a team effort, as he was ably backed up by an excellent sound system and crew, a planning task force that seemed to anticipate every potential glitch, and what seemed like an army of volunteers who directed and screened the arriving citizens, checked them into the meeting quickly, rushed mobile microphones to anyone who wanted to speak, and generally helped anybody who needed help.
Taking the baseball analogy to its outer limits, Dennis Cunningham wrote a post-meeting paean to the moderator. “Silverman bends from the waist, raises his right hand to shield his eyes from the sun, and then peers into the dugouts,” Cunningham wrote. “He scans the batter’s boxes, the white chalk on the grass. He’s meticulous this way. The fans know it. He hates it when you refer to them as ‘the audience.’ This is a sacred game. They are not ‘the audience,’ he sneers, ‘They are participants in the game. It’s like a democracy. No, it is a democracy.’ ”
It’s true. Silverman is meticulous in his preparation for the big day, his knowledge of town meeting protocols, and his commitment to making sure that things are done the right way. This year, he again opened the meeting with a brief discourse on the meaning of the event, explaining that, just as the select board serves as the town’s executive branch of government, the town meeting is its legislative branch, with each citizen empowered to serve as a legislator. In this sense, he likes to remind people, our town meetings constitute the purest form of democracy.
Silverman added a new line to his opening speech this time, quoting the late John Lewis’s parting message to his country: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
The Wellfleet Select Board had lowered the town meeting quorum to 100, anticipating people’s reluctance to gather during a pandemic. Two hundred came to Saturday’s meeting. At the end, it felt as if each one of them knew they had done their part, to listen and deliberate, to decide and to vote, to build a community worthy of love.
A sacred game, indeed.