Oak Bluffs concludes four-part meeting
Cantankerous, contentious, but ultimately compliant. That's one way to describe the mood of Oak Bluffs voters during a special town meeting and an annual town meeting that stretched over four evenings. Seasoned political observers said they could not remember a town meeting continued so long in Oak Bluffs, or any other Island town.
Voters approved a 7.5 percent increase in the town's operating budget, and approved two Prop. 2.5 override questions for school spending. The town meeting decisions require confirmatory votes in a special election, whose date has not yet been determined.
Voters demanded, and got, a line-by-line explanation of the town's proposed $22.5-million operating budget, which consumed more than three hours of debate. To some it was agonizing in its minutia, to others too short on both time and detail, and to several a healthy sign of grass roots democracy.
"It's going on and on and on and on," said selectman Duncan Ross, summing up his thoughts after the third night of the meeting. "I can tell people are frustrated. They are venting, as well they should, but when it comes to the votes, it's not close." Despite a determined minority of squeaky wheels that reached a tense and unruly cacophony at times, in the end, voters gave town officials all the money they asked for, and more.
Voter sentiment was perhaps best summed up by two nautical analogies made during the long and prickly debate.
"I feel like we're on a boat going through rocky waters, and someone yells out 'hey look, there's a rainbow,' and everybody runs to starboard," said David Wilson.
"This is a financial crisis in the country, in the state, and the town," responded Barbara Hoyle. "I would say to you there is a perfect storm on the horizon, and if you don't pay attention, we'll all go under."