Listening to the Voters

Last year, voters turned down engineering costs for a proposed auditorium for the Londonderry School District. The project didn’t go away, however, and remains on the Capital Improvement Plan.

This year, just as they have in years past, Hampstead voters defeated a bond request for construction of new classrooms and renovations at Central School, and removal of portable classrooms. The ballots had hardly been counted and put away, however, before the School Board agreed to pursue the project yet again.

While neither of those actions goes against the “no means no” rule in the state, which doesn’t allow a project to take place in a given year if voters turn it down at the polls, they do beg the question as to whether boards of elected officials pursue their own agendas regardless of the no votes of their constituents.

What makes it worse are comments by the proponents of the defeated warrant articles that voters misunderstood or didn’t realize what it was the project would have done. What never seems to rise to the level of discussion is that residents may well have cast their “no” vote because they didn’t think they could afford a “want” when there were so many other requests for “needs.”

The Central School issue is especially interesting because a second warrant article on that same ballot would have funded renovations – and “needs” – at the school but not the proposed new construction. Had that passed, work on significant improvements could have taken place this year. But it was all or nothing for the School Board, which chose not to support the lower-priced article, and both the bond and the smaller article went down to defeat.

Bringing a money issue back to the voters over and over again is not necessarily wrong. Both Hampstead and Sandown were able to replace their seriously inadequate police stations by perseverance – and also by cutting costs.

But we aren’t seeing cost-cutting as a priority in these school matters. Instead, ego seems to get in the way, and to lead down a path that ends in personal attacks, both of voters in general and of vocal proponents of a different point of view.

And we also don’t see a desire for understanding or respect for people who just don’t think they can afford multi-million-dollar projects, or who don’t equate funding a new building with support for educating students.

The bottom line is that respecting the voter is vital in getting projects passed on the warrant. That would be a position worth promoting.