Looking back on last month’s primary election, Scarborough voters, albeit in limited numbers, have once again done something prognosticators did not believe they would.

Former U.S. Rep. David Emery, despite assistance from a Republican heavy-hitter, Senator John McCain, and hoped-for name recognition by himself, fell out of the money.

The voters also did not approve the library’s proposition for needed expansion. From all indications, it’s apparent that had more voters answered the call, the margin of defeat might have been greater.

Perceived reasons for these two negative votes might surprise you.

David Emery did not come across as a strong candidate for Governor, and name recognition was not a factor in his candidacy any more than from his Republican cohorts. To win his party’s nomination to run against Governor John Baldacci in November, Emery would have had to come up with new and specific reasons why the electorate should place him in the Blaine House. As the Republican nominee, Mr. Woodcock will never be elected simply by being an ardent conservative. He too must clearly define the issues and offer a workable solution to problems where they exist. Right now, Baldacci gets my dime but that could change between now and November.

If the primary election results surprised you, then why did Scarborough’s library expansion fail at the same time, getting tanked by the same relatively small turnout of voters? Perhaps a couple of things influenced action at the polls.

With a costly update of the high school still on the scene and more dollars wanted for other school construction, it was easy to look at requested library dollars with Yankee askance! But the kicker in the soup may well have been the inclusion of an economic development office, a large meeting room and in another area, a fireplace to make exposure of the published word cozier.

Don’t these amenities stray a bit off the primary mission of a public library?

My earliest recollection of a public library was when I was eight years old and in the third grade. Miss Ridley, our teacher, had urged us to visit Abbott Memorial Library and perhaps borrow a book to read. Forgive me if the details are sketchy (it was a long time ago) but I remember frail and stooped Abbie Hamilton leading me through aisle after aisle with shelves full of books. A wonderful world I’d only nipped at the edges, under the guidance of my parents. My Dad had gotten books for me before but this was my first solo shot and contact with Miss Hamilton.

My book from my visit that afternoon was “With Grant at Vicksburg,” picked off a shelf for me by Miss Hamilton. The exciting story was that of a twelve-year old drummer boy in General Grant’s Union Army during the Civil War. Seeking to avoid household chores, as usual, I read the book in two or three days and hustled back to the library for more. During that period, under the able guidance of Miss Hamilton, I read the entire shelf of Horatio Alger books and graduated to the Bobbsey Twins, with their adventures in a contemporary world. As time passed, the writings of Virginia’s James Warner Bellah replaced hundreds of juvenile titles. Above all, a lifelong fascination with the written word ignited itself and it has never diminished.

Scarborough’s denial of the library expansion was nothing more than a resistance to spending, a growing phenomenon in today’s society. When our everyday costs escalate beyond annoyance, the ballot becomes a formidable weapon. Borrowing by a municipality, or you and I, is never a gift or easy and at the voting booth, causes a second look at the option. The same undercurrent of opposition that defeated the expected Senior Center in Scarborough loomed in the library question. A printed list of in-favor citizens has little impact against increasing dissent.

Having served on various committees and boards, at both the local and state level, it took me a few years to realize that often the negative view is as honest and practical as that of the positive.

Think about it.


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