To the Editor:In this month’s town election, only 677 people came out to vote. That represents only 6.5% of the entire population of the town and only 8.3% of the 8,121 active registered voters. Those are both shockingly small numbers when decisions are being made for the entire town. Perhaps that is because all positions, except for Select Board, were unopposed. That is a sad state of affairs when people are so disconnected from town governance that so few people are willing to run for office, or to even come out and vote.
In the race for Select Board, with two people running for one open seat, the winning candidate will serve for the next three years with a mere 410 people choosing him to represent us. Is this democracy at work? At town meeting this month, fewer than 200 people attended, making decisions that affect the entire town. The New England town meeting is designed to be democracy at its most basic, where the people get to decide what is good or not good for their town. While this system is unique, it has its shortcomings, as demonstrated at town meeting with so few people making important decisions.
Some people might argue that this low level of participation reflects a confidence in our town leadership. The other side of that same coin is that perhaps so few people voting in the town election is actually an overwhelming vote for “none of the above.” Does anybody know what the two candidates for Select Board stood for? Or what would be different if either of them were elected? I took the time to watch the “debate” sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and came away with no compelling reason to vote for either candidate. I listened closely for a reason to vote for one or the other and could not find one that was compelling.
Isn’t it about time that we had robust campaigns and discussions about the many issues facing Hull? A short list of these would include the impacts of climate change, the high cost of housing, the shrinking school population and how to attract families with children, and the high-rise development along Nantasket Avenue. Any discussion of these were sorely missing from this election cycle.
In the 12-1/2 years that I have been living in Hull, I have consistently heard one complaint more than any other – “Nobody tells us anything and decisions are made without people knowing.” The only way to combat this is vigorous participation by the residents of town. When we have decisions made by fewer than 200 people at town meeting and Select Board members elected with a mere 410 votes, that is a sure sign that something is wrong.
An active and informed citizenry is the key component to a functioning democracy that is representative of the people it serves. When decisions are made, or leaders are elected by a handful of people, they are not responsible to or reflective of the majority.
This last election and town meeting should serve as wake-up calls. It is time that more citizens became engaged in town. We have serious issues facing us, and they can only be addressed through rigorous discussion and action that involve a representative majority of townspeople. For example, zoning decisions that affect the entire town were decided by a mere handful of people, with only about 100 participants remaining at the meeting to decide for 10,400 people. If we don’t participate, then we have lost our voice and also the right to complain when things don’t go the way we want.