SWEEEEEEEEP! Portsmouth Ballot Questions All Pass! (Update 2)
By commanding margins, all three of the questions on the Portsmouth ballot were approved today, in an election that saw 3,737 votes cast (a turnout of 31%, very strong for an off-year.) Charter change, at 54 to 46% was the narrowest margin, but still a 9-point win. Wind energy was approved by 60 to 40% and Open space by 57 to 43.
Town Council Vice President Jim Seveney was pleased with the result. "The community has spoken," he said. "In one evening, we voted for better participation, using less power, and looking over more beautiful vistas in this already beautiful town."
With a 9-point margin of victory, the result on Charter Change is clearly a stinging rebuke to the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens, Inc., who, in the last few weeks of campaigning, were engaged in a full-court press to defeat the measure and attempt to salvage their last shred of relevance. (I get to say that because I'm not a real journalist. But you know it's true.)
Sal and Chris Carceller, who had been outspoken champions of the change to the charter, were jubliant. In a statement released to the media, they said, "We trusted Portsmouth residents to make the right decision when it came to fair voting rights, and they did. Now every resident will have a say in a booth when it comes to challenging our budget, not just the residents who are able to show up under the tent. The tent meeting of August 2006 tore this town apart. We are hoping that the passing of this charter amendment will help heal our town. This is a victory for Portsmouth."
There were pockets where the PCC message clearly had traction. The votes from the Common Fence Point polling station were actually the reverse of the general trend: all three questions failed there. My hypothesis is that lingering anger over the sewer issue may have played some role with voters here. But a strong turnout, and substantial lead in the South end of town easily erased that deficit.
Town Councilor Len Katzman saw it as a victory for the truth. "There was a lot of deliberate misinformation put out there," he said. "I'm proud to see that Portsmouth didn't buy into it and were able to think for themselves."
Councilor Bill West also complimented the voters. "I want to thank the voters of Portsmouth," he said, "For turning out and voting, and for looking at and voting on the issues, and realizing that these are for the benefit of all the citizens of Portsmouth."
Personally, I think the Carcellers are spot-on. This is a victory for Portsmouth, and it removes any doubt in people's minds about whether the cranks in the PCC who get up and whinge at meetings really speak for a silent majority. Read my lips, Larry: You. Do. Not.
There are massive thanks due to many folks: the Carcellers, for taking on the Charter Change issue. The EDC and the Energy Subcommittee led by Gary Gump who put together such a compelling case for Wind. Ted Clement and the Aquidneck Island Land Trust for their partnership and vision on open space. And the Town Council, for whom this vote is a real validation. They got out there and pushed these issues, and this vote is a mandate on their leadership.
And we also owe thanks to our Canvassing staff, led by Madeleine Pencak, and the host of poll workers who pitched in to make this happen so smoothly.
But the biggest thanks go to you, voters of Portsmouth. Thank you for confirming our shared vision for our town. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Update: I was unable to reach Ted Clement of the Aquidneck Island Land Trust last night, but this morning, he was kind enough to e-mail me this response to the vote:
"When I learned that the Open Space and Recreational Development Bond had been approved I felt such joy and hope because long-term vision had won the day. In 2005 and 2006, Aquidneck Island lost around 360 acres to development with about 300 of those acres being in Portsmouth alone. Now is the time to act for land conservation and the environment in Portsmouth, and that is exactly what the majority of people did at the voting stations yesterday."
Update 2: Robert Marshall, chair of the Prudence Conservancy, sent along this comment on the results, with a focus on Prudence Island, which joined the rest of the town in approving all three ballot items:
"Forty-three Prudence Island voters went to the polls yesterday at the Fire Station and joined their counterparts on the mainland in approving a bond referendum authorizing Portsmouth to borrow up to four million dollars for open space and recreation projects.
Portsmouth has a good record of providing funds for the protection of open space, including contributing funds towards Prudence Conservancy recent purchase of a conservation easement on the Blount property. However, recent budget constraints had eliminated the source of funding for open space, passage of the bond will restore the availability of funds."