Huzzah Voters! And, Come On Pat's Pastured, You Can Do Better By EG
What to love and loathe about living in East Greenwich this week.
RAVE: So here’s the thing. Every possible year since I was eligible, I have always made it a point to vote. And people, it was not always easy – once, I was backpacking around Europe. I made sure I was registered for a mail-in ballot, picked it up in London and posted it in Paris, crossing my fingers that the Workers (in France, Workers are most definitely a proper noun) would not have one of their monthly strikes. Another time, I was in the hospital with pneumonia. Once, when I was still living in Manhattan and had moved more than a few times since the last election, no one could find my records and I was sent to four different polling stations.
This need to mark my X on the electoral territory was not limited to the big league. I also have voted every time in what is essentially the political equivalent to the Olympic heats – the state primaries.
Sometimes, the seats I was voting for weren’t even contested.
So why bother? Pure symbolism. I've been to countries where people don't have a healthy representative form of government. I know how hard women fought for the right to vote.
The point is, I believe in the system. Voting is something that I don't take for granted, even if that vote won't make a difference today.
Which is why, even though I am not all that excited about the process these days, I still dragged my sorry butt down to Swift Gym and cast my ballot. It seemed like the right thing to do, especially considering the date.
Part of my lack of enthusiasm is the recent Rhode Island ruling requiring identification to vote. On one hand, I get it - voting is a right and as such, we should be able to prove we are indeed the person on whom that right is conferred. But somehow, the whole issue has, like so many seemingly nonpartisan subjects, taken on nasty Republican versus Democrat undertones.
I think I am also sick and tired of the whole campaign, which, like seasonal holiday decorations in stores, seems to start earlier and earlier every time. I heard the other day that there are less than 55 days to the election. At first, I was freaked – November so soon? But then, I felt relieved – maybe we can get back to some sanity, like counting the days left before the ice cream stores close for the season (which, you might have noticed, are very much unlike the campaign and season holiday decorations and never reopen earlier than expected).
Lastly, I think I am fed up with this myopic focus on the presidential primaries and elections. Studies show that voting turnout spikes in presidential election years. This lack of interest in who is in charge of representing us in our own town drives me civically whacko. Sure, I care if Social Security and Medicare are going to be around in 20 years, whether or not we are at war and the dozen or so other big ticket federal items that have an effect on my life. (However, I don’t care whether Obama removed a bust of Churchill from his office to make room for one of MLK or that Romney has made it part of campaign promises to return Winston to his rightful place – a bit of minutiae that apparently grabbed the electorate’s attention more than whether or not America interceded in the Libyan revolution.)
But the stuff that really hits home daily – town and state taxes, what is happening with our town’s sewage system underuse, road maintenance, school overcrowding, where the Narragansetts are proposing to put a casino this year, same-sex marriage, state pension bailouts, empty store fronts and buildings, who’s responsible for Studio 38 failure, and, as a friend of mine used to say, etc., etc., etc. – is decided by the people we elect to sit on our town and school councils, in our state General Assembly and as governor. Yet these are the elections that have the lower turnouts. According to figures posted on this site, 1,257 voters decided who the rest of East Greenwich's 10,691 voters get to vote for in November. Go figure.
At the end of the day, the whole voting song and dance took me less than 20 minutes from checking in to feeding in that new ballot form. (I know it’s not new anymore, but I hate it and miss the old Dr. Who lever voting booth; therefore, I will never call it anything but “new” – and yes, that is meant to be read with disparaging dismissal.) Sure, some of the selections I made felt like I was choosing between Tweedlebad and Tweedleworse. But the fact is, I made the choice. And you know what? That gives me the right to complain – or (less likely) cheer the results of my choices over the next two years.
RANT: I was a big supporter when Pat McNiff petitioned to lease Boesch Farm - and I still am on the “Rah! Rah! Let’s have a neighborhood farm!" bandwagon. Cue Judy and Mickey – I am ready for a musical! But it would be nice to hear what is going on over there without having to go to Pat’s website – and basically read what is essentially an advertisement for his (admittedly delicious) produce and meat. The few times I have gone on the public access nature walk, it all looks nice but there is never anyone around to talk to or ask questions of or even say hello to.
Sure, I saw the blurb on the farm store and the Third Annual Grazing Night at Pascal’s.
But I had sorta hoped that there would be some – shall we say less pecuniary? – offerings on the table by now as well. I mean, eight bucks for a guided tour on what is essentially town property? Really? Yeah, I know, you can go over and wash eggs on a weekly basis and even process (euphemism for kill and pluck) turkeys for the farm. And then you can come to my house and do some weeding. The bottom line is that for all their unfortunate struggles, one thing you can say about the previous tenants of the farm is that they provided a series of free and reasonably priced workshops that appealed to all ages. I, for one, loved the fall fest, erratic as its scheduling was.
So c’mon, Pat – a lot of us went to bat for you to get what is essentially a pretty sweet tenancy deal. Now it’s time for you to be a good community neighbor – write a blog, offer some programs that don’t have an eau de free labor about them and really make the cornucopia (no Hunger Games imagery intended) of Boesch Farm a centerpiece of our town.