There is a great deal of discontent in Derry both with the quality of town government and the level of taxation. So it is disappointing that so few people chose to exercise their best opportunity to improve the town’s governance by running for office.
There are two open seats on the Town Council as two current members have chosen not to seek re-election. On the School Board, two incumbents are seeking re-election. Yet as the filing deadline for candidates passed last Friday, only one of these four seats will be contested in the March elections.
School budgets are increasing in Derry even as enrollment declines. The Town Council spends more time debating trivia and taking stands on pointless issues than accomplishing much of importance. The result: the downtown languishes, an important post like town administrator has gone unfilled for months and taxpayers endure one of the higher tax rates in the state.
There should have been a line out the town clerk’s door filled with righteously angry Derry residents determined to take a stand and fix this mess. Apparently, most are more than willing simply to sit at home and shout at the television as the local cable channel broadcasts municipal meetings.
As outgoing Town Councilor Neil Wetherbee wrote in a letter to the editor (see this page), the March 11 elections might as well be over.
“The 2014 town election results are in a little early this year but they’re very similar to other years -- apathy wins in a landslide,” Wetherbee wrote. “What’s that? You say town elections aren’t until March? Well no matter, because unless you live in District 3, all the people that control over $120 million of your tax dollars have already been decided without a single vote being cast. I trust everyone will be happy with the results but if not, don’t forget to take a long look in the mirror before voicing your complaints.”
Congratulations to those who did venture forth and submit their names for consideration as candidates.
Joshua Bourdon will run for the open councilor-at-large seat being vacated by Brad Benson. No one else filed to run for the seat so Bourdon will be elected in March.
In District 3, David Fischer and Marc Flattes will run for the council seat now held by Wetherbee. At least voters in that district will have a choice. We encourage voters to press Fischer and Flattes on their vision for Derry and how they propose to make the council run more effectively.
On the School Board, incumbents Dan McKenna and Wendy Smith will walk unopposed into new three-year terms.
Londonderry did a little better with contested races for two Town Council seats and two School Board positions.
For Town Council, incumbents Joe Green and Tom Freda will face Christopher Melcher and John Robinson in the March election. Robinson is currently a School Board member; Melcher is a member of the Budget Committee.
There are two seats on the School Board up for election. Incumbent Nancy Hendricks will face challengers Dan Lekas and George Tsekrekas for the two two-year terms.
Representative government requires an engaged electorate and willing candidates to function. The lack of competitive races surely contributes to the voter apathy that results in single-digit turnouts on Election Day.
Derry residents are right to be upset at their high taxes and low-quality government. But unless more are willing to step forward and accept the challenge of making things better, they have little cause to complain.