The Ballot – ‘Menu’ format calls for greater level of participation

Thursday, March 12, 2009
By Cary Shuman

The Town Council has made a decision to place 10 categories as part of a menu on the override referendum that will go before the voters on May 19. Winthrop residents now will have the opportunity to decide what services and departments they want to see continue.

The ramifications of the votes are enormous. For example, the Council on Aging question involves the Senior Center’s entire budget of $119,870. A yes vote would keep the center open, while a no vote would almost certainly close the center. So also is the library question which involves a yes or no vote on a $499,324 budget.

Voters will also decide on questions involving the Winthrop Police Department, fire department, the schools, Parks and Recreation, Department of Public Works, trash pickup, grant writers, and other departments.

The next two months and the votes on May 19 will determine the future direction of this town. We feel the council chose the best course of action by letting the people decide on each and every question individually.

Some might argue that the reason we elect public officials is that we expect them to familiarize themselves with the details of these issues so they are in a better position than the average citizen to make these sorts of decisions. But the reality of life under Proposition 2 1/2 is that the bottom line financial decisions are left in the hands of the voters.

Obviously, this requires a certain degree of involvement and self-education in the town’s economic affairs in order to cast an informed vote. Offering a 10 choice menu for the voters creates the need for an even greater level of citizen awareness of the issues, but in the long run, that may be a good thing.

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