Winthrop’s voters will go to the polls this Tuesday, May 19, to vote on the Proposition 2 1/2 override referendum that will feature 10 separate questions to determine funding levels for virtually every town department.
For those of us who have spent our entire lives in this town and who have invested most of what we have, whether it be a home or business in this community, it is hard to believe that we have come to the point where we are today, with Winthrop voters facing choices that not too long ago seemed unimaginable.
Each of the 10 questions has a dollar value attached to it. But beyond the question of dollars and cents, each voter must consider what his or her vote really means, answering questions that go to the heart of what kind of town they envision in the future.
Is a community really a community without a public library or a senior center?
At what point do personnel reductions in our police and fire departments compromise public safety to such an extent that calls go unanswered or are delayed, so that the phrase “public safety in Winthrop” is an oxymoron?
When do the cutbacks in our schools result in an educational system that universally will be regarded as substandard and that threaten our schools’ accreditation?
If there is no public trash collection, will every individual homeowner make arrangements for private pickup or will garbage be strewn in our public areas by those who refuse to hire someone to collect their rubbish, and our town essentially becomes a dump?
Is it a penny wise and pound foolish proposition not to hire a grant writer who can bring in funds that are many times over his or her salary, especially in an era when federal stimulus money is being made available to municipalities?
Tuesday’s override highlights both the best and worst of democracy in action. No one wants to pay taxes, let alone increase them, especially in the difficult financial times we’re living in. It is all too easy to just say no to each and every question and to retreat to our shells as if nothing around us matters.
On the other hand, allowing the voters and taxpayers to have a direct say in the future direction of our community is democracy in its purest form. But that assumes that each and every person becomes informed about the consequences of each and every line item on Tuesday’s ballot. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you show the people the light, they will find the door.”
We hope that before entering the voting booth, our fellow residents will become educated about what is at stake and will have thought deeply about the issues, and that having done so, we trust they will make choices that are well informed and well intentioned.