Uncontested Local Races ~ A Disappointment

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Selectman candidates (l-r) Christopher Gittins, William Moonan, and Emily Mitchell at the LWV forum – Image (c) JMcCT, 2019 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

By Ryan Doucette, Voices @ Bedford High School

In continuation of my debut to Bedford’s governmental and political landscape, I had the privilege of attending the League of Women Voters’ Candidate Forum on Sunday, March 3 at the John Glenn Middle School. The event, which also aired on Bedford TV, aimed to educate the Bedford voters about the various candidates for local office prior to the town election on Saturday, March 9.

The candidates for the majority of offices, which were uncontested, were limited to only reading short campaign statements. However, the candidates for contested seats on the Library Board of Trustees and Selectmen were questioned more thoroughly by the attendees.

The lack of candidates in the uncontested races disheartened me. Throughout my interactions with many who call Bedford home, I have seen their pride in the town: its history, its schools, and everything in between. I urge those who appreciate an aspect of the town to run for public office and serve your neighbors. Conversely, if you want to see change, be the force of it, don’t sit idly by and hope someone else does it for you.

Furthermore, the idea that a School Committee race would not be contested is surreal to me. As a student, I believe there is no higher responsibility in local government than serving on the committee responsible for the education of the youth. Young people are the future. And yet, the two-seat race was uncontested.

While I am confident the incumbents and sole candidates for office may continue to lead the town in the right direction, an election challenger would have been beneficial. A contested race would increase attention to the background of each candidate. Additionally, it would raise awareness of issues that Bedford residents may not previously have known about, thus helping the people of Bedford become more connected to their government.

The four candidates for the three Library Trustee seats were asked about the use of the Bedford Free Public Library, as well as its transition into a more technological world. All candidates praised the initiatives the library had developed for the students who utilize its resources. Candidates broke with one another on specific details, but all candidates’ passion for learning and reading remained clear throughout the forum.

The attention the forum and election gave to the library allowed many Bedford citizens to become more informed about the problems the library faces. A similar result would be possible for the other sectors and committees of Bedford if more attention was elicited for each individual race.

However, the forum exposed more differences among the Selectmen candidates. From sidewalks to affordable housing, the Selectmen candidates’ knowledge on local issues was tested by the attendees. In particular, a majority of the questions directed towards the candidates were focused on the Selectmen’s actions on climate change. While I was glad that climate change was discussed so thoroughly, I was disappointed that other issues were not addressed. Climate change can and will have an impact on Bedford, but so will being unprepared for the other problems we face. While I hope our local government continues to do everything in its power to help save our town and planet for the future, I urge the Selectmen to acknowledge the problems that climate change proposes to our community but also to have a detailed policy on the various other challenges Bedford faces.

I urge all registered voters to get out and vote on Saturday.  There is nothing more important than fulfilling your duty as a citizen. No matter if it is a vote at the ballot or at Town Meeting, you will help drive the changes that you want in your community. Vote, get involved, run for office, attend Town Meeting.  You can make an impact.