A Sign of Change?

Deliberative Attendance:

Sandown Town
116 voters out of 3,643 registered.

Sandown at Timberlane School
278 out of 3,643.

Hampstead School
70 voters out of 6,033.

Hampstead Town
44 voters out of 6,033.

Derry School
245 voters out of 20,115.

Londonderry Town
71 out of 15,944.

Londonderry School
90 out of 15,944.

Look at the Timberlane numbers for Sandown. Not great by a long shot, but so much better than in the past and in comparison to nearby communities. Derry gave it a decent shot too. Start of a trend?

When residents speak out and don’t take no for an answer, when they write letters to newspapers and air their views publicly, they attract attention. That’s what happened among Sandown residents upset with school taxes, and what seems to be developing – just barely – in Derry.

That still leaves the other towns in the dust. Hampstead – whose voters face an ever-increasing $7-plus million school bond for construction – could muster only 70 voters at School Deliberative and just 44 at the Town Deliberative. Not much interest there.

Londonderry, which has a $4 million bond on the school warrant, saw just 71 voters at its School Deliberative, and 90 at the Town session. Lots of contented taxpayers in town?

But the Timberlane Deliberative Session brought out the crowds. And while an attempt to significantly lower the ever-increasing school budget failed, it resulted in public debate and questioning and discussion – and people concerned with how much they spend on their schools on both sides of the issue came out to rally for their viewpoint. Individual citizens dug for facts and sent them out and kept asking questions – and asking is the only way to get the answers needed to make informed decisions.

Does that mean everyone who stayed away is delighted with the money articles on their warrants? Hardly. But people with reasons too numerous to list for not attending, ranging from “I forgot” to a conflict with a favorite program on TV, are leaving what should be citizen decisions securely in the hands of public officials.

At Deliberatives, residents can voice their opinions, and have the opportunity, granted under the SB2 form of government – that was after all adopted by the town’s voters – to alter the financial aspect of a warrant article. It’s a shame when the no-shows are in control.

That leaves the Deliberative a mockery. Lots of people just don’t get the idea of the personal responsibility called for by participatory democracy. And lots of people will be suffering the consequences come tax time.

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