Time to vote

The Norman Rockwell image is that Vermont governments are supremely open and Vermonters ensure that openness through hearty civic participation through institutions like Monday’s annual Town Meeting and Tuesday’s Election Day. That belief is reinforced each March by national media reports that tell of the quaintness and fervor of Vermont’s Town Meeting day.

So, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that civic engagement extends year round, with citizens seeking elective office, volunteering for boards, turning out for select board meetings among others and clogging the polls to vote.

In Chester, Town Meeting tends to be well-attended. But recent elections have drawn a piddly crowd. There aren’t even enough candidates to fill some elective offices. And just four candidates are running for three Select Board seats, only one of whom is a newcomer.

You could assert that the lackluster turnouts at most meetings and at elections point to a general satisfaction with the way things are run. After all, police in large cities will tell you to be thankful you don’t have a Community Watch organization. It means you don’t need it.

But there are other reasons for a lack of political participation. Some residents may sense their input is not appreciated by a town government; some may believe that their input doesn’t matter; and others may not be aware of the issues. The Chester Telegraph has certainly worked hard to begin to remedy the latter. But we have a long way to go, and it can be difficult.

Little known to the public is a skirmish The Telegraph engaged in last year  just to secure public documents to offer you the Police Log. Police logs are common newspaper fare. And the reports from which they are taken are public documents. What began as verbal requests in the winter turned into formal email requests in the summer. Only after three weeks of email volleys last August, first with the town manager, then with the town attorney, did the town agree. We’ve run five police logs since, and they tend to be most highly read column in the paper. It’s just one indication that you want to know what’s happening in your community.

We will continue to find and present solid information to help you stay informed. Please take the time to go to Town Meeting on Monday and vote on Tuesday. Then check back with us for results on Tuesday night.

— Cynthia Prairie

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Filed Under: CommentaryTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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