Results of the Ballot Questions
I am both heartened and disheartened by the results of the recent Rehoboth ballot questions.
I am heartened by the overwhelming 89.5% “NO” vote on Ballot Question #2 (but sorry it’s not binding) against the construction of the natural gas Compressor Station, for all the reasons given by all opponents, obviously including both ends and the middle of the political spectrum.
I am extremely disheartened by the 51.5 to 46.8% loss on Ballot Question #2 – funding of a consolidated municipal town government complex. When we moved here last year from Minnesota (although we are not “outsiders”, as we moved from Massachusetts years ago and have returned to our grandchildren and our roots), we chose Rehoboth for its rural and historic 1643 character and were taken by the praise of Rehoboth from people we met. It even had a quaint but former town center with a white church, brook with bridge, the Blanding Public Library, the acclaimed Goff Memorial Hall, and two nearby veterans memorial sites (the Redway Plain Veteran’s Memorial and the American Legion “Cannon”). Then, I visited the actual town hall, a former military Nike missile base (purchased by the Town for the extravagant price of $1.00), a highly elongated, cinder block building with peeling paint and a flat roof. I was shocked, but not more shocked than when voters (apparently for the second or third time) denied public funding for consolidating or at least modernizing their town government facilities. For a town with 374-years of American/New England history, birthplace of the American public education, this ballot result is a travesty. How can citizens against this measure expect their town employees, who service a town of 12,545 residents, to work in an environment that they themselves would never accept? Contaminated, undrinkable water that can’t even be used for hand washing, peeling (lead?) paint, antiquated and inefficient heating and cooling systems, asbestos (?) insulation from the 1960’s, constant maintenance repairs (e.g., continual plumbing and roof leaks), etc., not to mention that the so-called town hall is separated by miles from the fire, police and various public works departments.
Several facts are clear from this recent ballot. A shockingly vast majority (70%) of Rehoboth citizens do NOT vote, and presumably don’t care what happens to their town as long as they are not impacted (ironically, the Compressor Station result is perhaps a “good” outcome). A higher voter turnout occurs in war-torn 3rd world countries facing dictators. A slight majority of the 30% who did vote (15.4% of Rehoboth eligible voters), and the 70 % who did not vote, seem not to care how dilapidated their town hall is, or worse, how unhealthy the working environment is for their pubic officials, as long as their own taxes are low and they get their essential services. Many of those who voted “no” appear to have been swayed by the typical scare tactics employed to avoid any, even reasonable and responsibly financed progress in our society – just basic, efficient town government and a healthy working environment for our public employees, who will now be housed in mobile trailers at further, wasted cost to us taxpayers (to avoid law suits and/or a state-mandated health & safety shutdown of our town?). Under the circumstances I commend our public officials for continuing to provide services to the public with the integrity and cheer that they do, but I find this whole episode to be a pathetic reflection of our town democracy. I hope that more citizens will educate themselves about town issues and votemore wisely for the future of our town.