EDITORIAL: Rejection of Override Was Pro-Schools
The mere fact of living in Groton for many years confers no special legal or moral rights on long-term residents. But, it is an inescapable fact that this Groton, with its open land, beautiful library, commercial establishments, vibrant cultural life and –yes – excellent school system, was created by people who have lived here for many, many years.
The town you see today is not the isolated rural village of forty years ago. It was transformed by the cumulative volunteer efforts, votes, and mountains of accumulated tax spending of residents who lived here through much of their adult lives, people dedicated to this town.
If these same residents had the foresight to make decisions that created today’s Groton, perhaps it is not too much to imagine that they still hold a small measure of common sense about how to run a town government and manage spending priorities.
Perhaps the most unfortunate side effect of the campaign for this monster override was the vilification of these same residents, residents who have been pro-schools for years - simply because they disagreed with the size of the override. Residents who helped build our schools were, unfortunately, cast as anti-school rubes just because they rejected the override.
But, we believe that by not giving their support to the override, residents cast a pro-schools vote. They rightly saw the potential for this huge override to destabilize school and municipal finance. A ‘No’ vote, rather than being a vote against the schools, was actually a vote for the long-term stability and viability of the schools and the town.
The ‘No’ vote protected the schools from an imprudent arrogance that would not listen to contrary opinion or hear any argument that did not support their viewpoint.
After last year’s fraught election, former Selectman and State Representative Bob Hargraves wrote that elected officials ‘first responsibility is to safeguard, advance and preserve the town and the needs of its people. It is impossible to achieve these goals if local politics turn poisonous. Creating and maintaining a healthy political climate is tantamount to governing well.’
Hargraves added, “The first rule is that elected officials must create and encourage an atmosphere of Honest and Open Debate. Honest and Open Debate requires respect for the right of any office holder or citizen to hold opinions different from yours! It is especially important in policy discussions. Implementations must not come at the cost of creating disrespect among colleagues. Personal jibes or attacks should never be permitted. They only degrade the ability of government to do its job.”
We hope that all school committee members and especially newly elected members take these words of experience to heart. Now is the time to put harsh words behind us, to work together for the best interest of the town and the schools without preconceptions about other people’s motives.
Many residents are prepared to pass an override to help the schools achieve important goals. We encourage Selectmen, the FinCom and School Committee to seek a compromise override at a significantly lower level. Working together with mutual respect, the shared common goal of a better education for our young people can be achieved.
Politics at the local level is different from national and statewide politics. After each election is over, we must let passions cool quickly. We still see each other on the street, we still need each other to make this community work well, ultimately, we depend on each other. We retain the great blessing of self-government at the local level. But it requires restraint and forgiveness to work, to create the Groton we all want.