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Letters to the editor for March 9

Annual town meetings are a form of direct democracy

To the editor,

Every year Minnesota townships are required to have an "Annual Town Meeting." It is held the second Tuesday of March, which is March 14 this year. It is a true form of direct democracy, encouraging all members of the community to participate.

As with most American political ideas, town meetings have their roots in colonial America. New England town meetings gave citizens a way to exercise local authority. These meetings were especially important in the development of democracy because it emphasized problem-solving through group efforts. Thomas Jefferson called it the "wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government."

This tradition was passed down to townships here in Minnesota. Township residents gather on the second Tuesday in March at the town hall or another designated place to discuss their communities. The Town Clerk brings the meeting to order and oversees the process of nominating and voting upon a moderator for the evening, who is chosen from those attending. Typically, residents hear reports from various committees — like roads and fire protection. Townships are required to post an audit. Everyone attending votes on the tax levy. Many townships hold elections the same day, outside the meeting, for a supervisor, clerk or treasurer.

Townships are often referred to as "grassroots government." This reference stems from the community-based nature of how town government is structured. Most townships have small populations, but a big sense of community. Being small, township officials must be creative in delivering quality services with the least possible burden to taxpayers.

If you live in a township, participate. Join your neighbors at the Annual Town Meeting Tuesday, March 14. Your local paper will publish the time and place. Be a part of direct democracy!

Minnesota Association of Townships

Editor's notes: This was originally written and published by Minnesota Township Insider, Winter 2017. It is reprinted as a letter to the editor with the permission of the Minnesota Association of Townships.

Locally, townships will hold their annual meetings shortly after the polls close March 14. Polls close at 8 p.m.