Election Day in Peterborugh

It’s municipal election night here in New Hampshire tomorrow night. While not quite surrounded by the hoopla that greeted me when I was here for federal and state elections in November of 2004, it’s still exciting to be here at this time, what with democracy being so much “closer to the ground” than it is back home.

My favourite item up for voting tomorrow is on an amendment to the Peterborough Zoning Ordinance (it’s one of several on the ballot):

Peterborough seems to be at a crossroads, with factions supporting a sort of pure laine approach — “Peterborough for Peterboroughians” so to speak — lined up against a pro-business camp that wants a new grocery store and other abominations. The issues are, no doubt, much more complex and shaded; one only has to look up Route 101 to Nashua, however, to see what everyone’s either afraid of (or seeking), as Nashua is a veritable commercial wasteland (or paradise) compared to bucolic ye olde Peterborough.

A colleague at Yankee, Jack Burnett, is up for the vacant Selectman position on tomorrow’s Peterborough ballot. Jack is winning the sign war, with his “Burnett Means Business” signs lining almost every street. If only because we’ve come to admire Jack’s razor sharp copy-edit skills, I’m prepared to throw my endorsement, such as it is, behind Jack (even if he does “Mean Business”).

If you want to get some idea of what Peterboroughians are in for when they go to vote tomorrow, take a look at the Ballots for Town Officials, Zoning Amendments, and ConVal School District — that’s meaty stuff there, the kind of stuff, alas, that is deemed too complex for we simple residents of Charlottetown to leave up to ourselves.

Perhaps the most controversial item on Tuesday’s ballot concerns a “special warrant” of $548,112 to acquire laptop computers (Apple iBooks, as it turns out) for every sixth grade student in the district. This proposal, explained by the school board here, would not only see schools acquire 300 iBooks and assorted other gear ($410,000), but would also bathe the schools in wifi ($44,000) and train teachers how to use them ($15,000).

In a story about the warrant, the Monadnock Ledger notes that not all are in favour of the initiative:

Although the board’s Budget and Property Chair Craig Hicks said he “would love to see every sixth grader with a laptop computer,” resident Tom Baker of Temple said giving laptops to sixth graders was “folly.” He predicted that to do this would lead to vandalism and losses. “I heard the worst thing you can do is leave students alone with a computer,” he said.

The Peterborough Transcript reports, however, that officials are not without answers to the potential dangers that rampant laptop use might lead to; the paper quotes South Meadow School Principal Dick Dunning:

The use of the computers away from school has been a concern of many, and Dunning said a plan has been developed to track the history of what computers have been used for.
“We will conduct random checks,” Dunning said, “and if we find the student has been using it inappropriately, they will receive one strike against them.”
If the student receives three strikes, the opportunity to take the laptop home will be revoked and they will only be able to use it in the classroom.

Apparently Live Free Or Die does not apply to the pre-teen set.

I will, alas, miss the Peterborough Town Meeting coming up on Saturday; word on the street is that it offers more democracy than you can see almost anywhere else, all packed into one fun-filled marathon day.