SHIRLEY — David Smith bicycled past the Town Offices July 24, but he didn’t go in. He headed for the library instead.
Signs outside the Town Offices indicated it was the polling place for the Special Town Election, but Smith wouldn’t be one of the voters who’d decide whether to accept or reject a Proposition Two and a half override that was the sole question on the ballot and would raise annual property-tax bills if it passed.
The override amount, $163,896, was slated to pay for school programs over and above the budget that passed at the Annual Town Meeting this year.
But Smith said he hasn’t voted since he was 18 years old and certainly not since moving here from Ayer 15 years ago. Asked why he doesn’t exercise this basic right of citizenship, Smith said he hasn’t trusted a politician since John F. Kennedy.
“They promise you the world, then they get elected ” and don’t keep their promises, he said.
He’s for women’s rights, would support Hillary Clinton for president, and although he’s straight, strongly favors gay and lesbian marriage rights and the rights of all Americans to “live and work like men,” even if they are women, he said. If Clinton makes it onto the ballot in the next presidential election, Smith said he’ll consider voting then.
Paulette Holbein, a bus driver who’s lived in town for 48 years, voted no on the override, “like everybody else,” she said. “We can’t afford it.” As Shirley grows, taxes “keep going up,” she said, and its tough for folks on fixed incomes to keep pace.
“I wish I could be 16 again and walk the streets of this town,” she said.
Holbein, whose 65-year-old husband, Stephen, was once a school janitor in the town where he’s lived all his life, said the new middle school is one reason she’s mistrustful of the district’s motives in asking for this override. Citing problems such as leaks in the gym and wasteful practices such as leaving lights on, she said building upkeep is more expensive than promoters promised when they fronted the override to build it.
In February 2000, a record number of voters — 1,743 — turned out to answer the question, which was defeated. It was asked again in another election 10 months later. In December 2000, the override passed with a total voter turnout of 1,311.