Tuesday was Election Day for school and library board races. It was also a time to vote for school and library budgets.
For four hours on May 21st I stood at the Delaware Avenue entrance to the high school parking lot to greet voters with a flyer explaining why I was running for a seat on the Bethlehem Library Board and asking for their vote. I stood in the spot the school district said I should stand. It was 1,000 feet from the entrance to the high school. I’m sure school officials would have liked me to stand in front of my Boylston Drive home based on the reaction I received.
Monday morning I asked the district office where the electioneering boundary was because I wanted to hand out flyers. I was told it was at the Delaware Avenue entrance. There was no traditional signage stating “No Electioneering Beyond This Point.” Voters were obviously confused and thought I was too close to the polling station.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. The law states the demarkation for handing out literature is 150 feet from the polling place, not 1,000 feet as the school district determined. I did not argue. Like a compliant student, I stood where I was told. Complaints ensued as voters went to vote. Three school district officials tried to convince me not to stand where they told me to stand because I was hurting my cause.
Then the Bethlehem police were called. No fewer than four police cars and six officers arrived only to determine that my spiel of less than five seconds was appropriate and did not back up traffic as some had claimed. The police investigated, observed my actions and left me alone.
Some voters who had already made up their mind and didn’t want to be convinced otherwise waved me off. I did not jump on the hood of their car or assault anyone over this volunteer position to serve the community. I behaved. Now that would have hurt my cause.
Some people left the high school with words of encouragement. I heard form one voter that he felt my actions were inappropriate. He was probably voting for one of my opponents anyway. Imagine that, school officials not educating the public that I was standing in an appropriate spot to do my electioneering to secure votes for my candidacy.
One point in my platform was to increase transparency and communication regarding the library. Maybe school officials should do the same. From this experience it is obvious we need a more proactive and aggressive approach to inform the public. One example would focus on why a library gives three-quarters of its $4.3 million budget towards salaries and benefits and then cuts services such as taking away the public access studio.
— Marc Gronich