Democracy and its most potent symbol in Marblehead — Abbot Hall — were on display front and center during Monday night’s Marblehead League of Women Voters forum for candidates running for office in the May 15 town election.
Profoundly declaring that “…(D)emocracy needs to be revisited in Marblehead,” former Board of Selectmen member John Odlin Liming said it’s time to impose term limits on how long elected officials serve in town.
Liming’s 10-year term limit proposal prompted Selectman Harry Christensen to offer the standard posture displayed by term limits opponents: “If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t vote for them.”
Term limits are more often than not the refuge of first-time political candidates who think they are throwing hungry voters a bone by casting themselves as agents of change compared to political incumbents who, in the newcomer’s view, are the problem with all that ails politics.
The rare political novice who can sell this polarized perspective to informed voters is quick to offer up term limits as the solution to political ills. Interestingly enough, Abbot Hall’s need for an estimated $9 million in repairs points to why voters benefit when experienced elected officials can address a problem over a long period of time.
As Selectwoman Judith Jacobi pointed out, the venerable seat of town government and repository of national treasures has benefited from more than $1 million in repairs paid for by the town since 1979.
That’s a long time ago and the value of $1 million in 1979, or even 1989 and 1999, is not what it is in 2018. But Abbot Hall isn’t just the town office building, it is a piece of Marblehead history fittingly dominating the town’s skyline and, in many respects, considered Marblehead’s epicenter.
Thankfully, a host of selectmen during the past four decades ensured Abbot Hall received repairs and a similarly committed bevy of local officials will need to persevere and guarantee future long-term repairs are made to Abbot Hall.
In defiance of Liming’s logic, a current board member or someone elected to the board on May 15 might tell voters during an election forum held 10, even 15 years from now, how his or her commitment to saving Abbot Hall year after year preserved the building for future generations.
Voters are the winners when incumbent elected officials and people running for elected office debate democracy in its many forms and guises. Monday’s League forum proved democracy is indeed alive and well in Marblehead and here is hoping its strongest restorative properties benefit Abbot Hall’s restoration.