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What does Cemetery Fields vote mean?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

While we agree with the decision of Amherst voters to shoot down a warrant article calling for the dissolution of the Cemetery Board of Trustees and a transfer of its duties to the Board of Selectmen, we will not pretend to understand precisely what the vote means.

But it says something that the vote wasn’t even close. The article lost with 1,632 no votes to 970 yes. The issue revolved around the Cemetery Trustees’ unwillingness to leave the land known as Cemetery Fields in use as playing fields. They have maintained all along that under state guidelines, the land must be returned for use solely as a cemetery by September of this year.

Some residents, believing the town needs more playing fields, want to keep the existing fields at Cemetery Fields and apparently thought that getting rid of the trustees was the best way, thinking the Selectmen would be more amenable.

Still, why did the warrant article lose so badly?

There has been some speculation that this was an “old versus young” or perhaps “old versus new” vote, the implication being either that residents older in age, probably with no children, have no interest in sports fields. Or that folks who have lived in town for a relatively long time saw this as an issue of newcomers trying to take things into their own hands and away from the three Cemetery Trustees, all of whom are longtime residents and pretty well known.

We can’t say for sure. But we can reiterate what we have said in the past: The move to eliminate the cemetery board was not smart.

First of all, it was a slap in the face to the board members, who serve honorably and who are doing what they believe to be the right and, not incidentally, the legally necessary, thing to do.

Second, it seems like petulance. We can’t have our way so we’ll eliminate your power. That isn’t how things are supposed to work in a democracy, which, by the way, is why New Hampshire has no provision for recall elections.

We hope that the voice of the people has put this issue to rest. Other warrant articles that would have opened up land owned by Brad Knight for recreation also failed, so at least in this vote, the majority clearly thought otherwise.

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