To the Editor:
While congratulations and a collective sigh of relief are shared among participants in Wilton Town government, the Board of Selectman, the Board of Education and the Board of Finance, with a Town Meeting and associated vote now concluded, I say, hold on a moment.
Sure the voter turnout was higher than last year’s pandemic impacted vote, but how can anyone celebrate an 8.9% turnout? As has been the case here in Wilton and so many communities across America for a very long time, voter apathy is entrenched and simply shameful — even more so in these times when so many people are screaming about their rights.
Millions of people throughout the history of America have made the ultimate sacrifice, and a significant multiple more have been wounded directly or indirectly, being left with life-long challenges so that “We the People” have the right to vote.
I cannot celebrate an election that, in part, was won by a technical default mechanism. Do people not come out to vote because they believe their neighbor will? Or because they know that so few voters turn out that the budgets will Pass by Town Charter-imposed default (15% or more of the voters must vote, otherwise the budgets put forth at the Town Annual Meeting automatically pass)?
The Board of Education’s chairwoman [Debbie Low] offered thanks: “The budget process is long and this year has had its share of ups and downs. Now that it’s over, it’s terrific news that the budget passed and by a healthy margin. We are very grateful for the community support.”
Fact is, there is a large community of people in Wilton who sadly don’t come out to vote, yet complain about the Board of Education budget. Candidly, I’m typically disappointed year after year that these folks don’t show up to vote because I believe the Board of Education budget needs a scrubbing it’s not getting. I believe the last time the budget was actually voted down was in 1996.
This year, in the course of exchanges between the Board of Education and the Board of Finance, the notion was put forth multiple times by the Board of Finance about “wants vs. needs.” This is a serious question that requires a serious answer. Every dollar the Board of Ed receives becomes part of the foundation for the next year’s budget. Generosity by the town years ago is memorialized in perpetuity. Times are very different. People, yes here in Wilton, are struggling to make ends meet. The Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance seem to be dialed into this reality, but not so the Board of Ed. One must question the Board of Ed’s concept of “needs and wants.”
No one seems to have an answer when the question of how we motivate more voters to the polls besides for a presidential election is asked — not elected officials nor townspeople.
Perhaps if the 15% default were reversed and the budgets didn’t pass unless a threshold voter count was met would work. Experience suggests probably not, and then you have a terrible fiscal problem.
This is no time for congratulations. It’s time for the hard work to continue in often thankless positions that keep Wilton running.
My thanks to the many who sit on the boards and commissions of our town.
To the voters of Wilton — this town needs you. Stop making excuses and rationalizing. Step up, be counted, do your civic duty. You have a responsibility to know what’s going on and vote!
Just do it!