Once again, the town coffers are running perilously low. To keep things rolling along, including our cars on our currently pothole-riddled roads, we need to pass an override to Proposition 2 ½. For younger readers, this law, which came to roost in 1982, limits the amount that real estate taxes can be raised in any given year to 2.5% of the total worth of the town’s taxable properties. In a town like mine, Arlington, MA, which has neither a technology highway running through it, nor an office park to speak of, taxes come primarily from homeowners.
When I bought my first house in Arlington, over twenty years ago, I was single; I had no children; my social life happened largely elsewhere. I didn’t get the local paper or watch local access television. I was oblivious to town politics and I certainly didn’t vote in local elections. Then I got married, had a baby, pushed her stroller around the neighborhood and started to meet people. I began to pay attention to more than the state of my yard.
I worried about cars driving too fast on our street, fretted when streetlights were out, waited impatiently for plows to come by. I looked forward to garbage day with happy anticipation. I started to vote in town elections. Then I sent my daughter to kindergarten and my world expanded even more. I don’t expect my interest in the town’s health and well-being to dissipate when my daughter graduates from high school in three years; I will still care about all the things I’ve learned to care about. To quote a friend, “You can’t not know what you know.”
I walked around my neighborhood last week sticking Vote YES for Arlington flyers inside storm doors and under welcome mats. I met an older man who challenged me with, “Why should I care?” I responded that we were going to lose a bunch of DPW positions, police and fire personnel, and teachers. He said, “I’m on a fixed income, did you think about that?” I said, “Yes, you can contact the town for an abatement.” He tossed the flyer onto his driveway and said, “I don’t see the point.” “All right then,” I said, as I picked up the flyer and headed back down his driveway. For the life of me, I couldn’t come up with an appropriate response. I didn’t think I’d convince him by saying, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
I don’t know what research says about the local voting habits of young adults, but I do know what I was like. If someone had asked me to help maintain our town’s health and prosperity when I was a new, happy-go-lucky homeowner, I like to think I would have responded positively. Reach out to all the young people you know, whether they own property or not. Tell them your own stories. Share this post with them. There’s not much time left before the town votes on whether or not to pass the proposed override. With a little help from our young friends, I think we can do it.