It is fair to say that Winthrop voters will be determining the outcome of one of the most significant elections in the 161 year history of our town this Tuesday. Not only will voters be choosing our local government officials, but they also will be making a decision on a ballot question that will have far-reaching consequences both for the present and future of our community.
Voters will have a choice in the contest for Town Council President between incumbent Peter Gill and former President Jeffrey Turco, whom Gill defeated two years ago for this same office. It has become clear during the course of their campaign that these candidates present the voters with a clear contrast, both in terms of the views they hold on the issues and as to their style of leadership.
Voters also will be choosing two members for the board of the Winthrop Housing Authority from among five candidates for those seats on the board. The WHA is an agency that directly or indirectly affects the lives of every resident of Winthrop; those whom we choose to set policy for the WHA have an impact on quality-of-life issues in our community that matter to all of us.
In addition, there is a ballot question in which voters will be deciding whether to build a new middle-high school, a project which will have affect the education of our children for the next 50 years. The committee in charge of the plans for a new school have made their case to the voters — a proposition we strongly endorsed last week. Now it is up to those voters to determine whether our children will have a facility that meets 21st Century Learning Standards and that will include a new gymnasium and a new auditorium that will be a benefit for all members of our community, as well as serving as a big draw for young families that will increase property values.
When the Founding Fathers drew up our Constitution, the notion of a democratic form of government, in which every citizen was given the right to vote (although admittedly, citizenship in the late 18th century was conferred solely upon white males) was an almost-heretical concept in a world ruled by royals and oligarchs.
However, more than 200 years later, free and open elections in a democracy have become the gold standard, so to speak, to which the peoples of other nations aspire to attain.
It is ironic that voter turnout for local elections is far below that of Presidential elections. Despite former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neil’s oft-quoted maxim, “All politics is local,” only a fraction of voters who come out every four years to vote for President do the same when choosing their local office-holders. Yet it is at the local government level that the office-holders whom we choose are in charge of so many of the things that are relevant to our daily lives, from the quality of our children’s education to our trash collection and everything in between.
More important, the amount of money that we send to local government from our real estate taxes, excise taxes, and water & sewer levies far exceeds (for all but the wealthiest among us) either our state or federal income taxes. This includes those who rent as well, because their monthly rent payments indirectly pay the property tax bills of the homes and apartments in which they live.
There are many important offices and a ballot question that will be decided at the ballot box Tuesday. Our Founding Fathers imposed only one duty, voting, upon every citizen. We urge all of our readers to take a few minutes of their time Tuesday to get out and vote.