Bob Clark

People who care, vote. 

People who care more, vote more. 

Me? I vote early and often, as the joke goes. I’ve always been a political news junkie since one of my first complete sentences was “Asia is extinct” as the U.S.S.R. fell ... Yes, I’m that young. I don’t miss elections if I can help it. In college, I was the one person in my dorm who asked for absentee ballots. Each election — school budget votes, general elections, whatever — I’d make a “squee!” noise like a 4-year-old with a new puppy as I found my ballot in my mailbox.

But a lot of people don’t feel that way.

A lot of us are busy. 

A lot of us just don’t think it matters.

But if you’re not happy with something, you’ll make the effort. 

You want some local examples?

Ask Mario Cuomo about 1994. 

Here’s a few for you to mull: 

A lot of people thought the 2013 mayoral election was going to come out differently — I know few people who felt really strongly toward one candidate than the other — in fact, I don’t think the victor really did a particularly good job of showing how different he was than Linda Witte in the debate, nor had he shown a strong anti-North Union Street overhaul position.

You know, the issue which pretty much everyone agrees was Mrs. Witte’s downfall.

But city elections fall at a weird time compared to the rest of the election schedule  — no federal races, maybe a state judgeship or two.

In other words, people who are only occasional voters didn’t bother unless they were really upset because somebody once mentioned back-in parking. Others were angry over the rather-sorry Santa Claus Lane lighting display this year (I get nervous tying a bicycle to those things, so I think the city made a good call on that one).

A month later, Portville school officials learned how one of the most-innocuous building projects I’ve ever seen could motivate just enough people to come shoot it down.

For less than the cost of a postage stamp each, voters in Portville could have seen more than $6 million in work done in their school. 

But they said no. 

Why?

Well, officials have pretty much admitted they dropped the ball on getting the word out. A poorly attended public hearing — about par for the course, I’m sad to say — coupled with bad info about what career and technical education is and those who vote against all tax increases.

Now the school board is revving up a PR campaign for a second go, with surveys to residents and members told to ask questions — and, more importantly, listen — to find out what needs to be changed.

I think if they keep to the May budget vote for the next go, it will probably pass — as long as the district doesn’t have to break the tax cap or cut sports. Ask Bolivar-Richburg about that.

Olean voters will get to sound off Tuesday on Epic Church buying the old Ivers J. Norton Elementary School. The vote, which isn’t expected during the regular election, is likely to motivate a lot of people who were either upset over the school closing or worried about parking and lighting along their streets. 

I’ve seen this scenario before.

Back in 2008, Grove officials wanted to sell the town hall to Swain Ski Center. The building had once been a schoolhouse, and the deed said if Grove no longer used the building, it would go back to the school, so they had to have a referendum on its sale.

It went down. Not by a ton, but enough.

And the Swain deal looked pretty good on paper, too.

According to news reports — written by some guy named Bob Clark, whoever that is — Swain offered $100,000 and 2 acres of property adjacent to the town highway shop for a new town hall, in exchange for the old schoolhouse. Oh, and the building was going to be renovated and go on the tax rolls.

Now, I haven’t decided on the merits of the proposal one way or the other — even though I live two blocks from the school, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t affect me if it became a church, a tater tot farm or a brothel.

I’m not going to stand up and chant the word “Allentown” like a rabid television pundit. (For those not familiar, the Allentown school closed in 1980, going through multiple owners. Motivated locals now mow the lawn and keep the plywood up in the windows). I’m not even going to complain about the lost potential for taxes — enough to cut everyone’s by 1 percent each. 

But I will say this: Misinformation will sink you faster than a depth charge.

There are already rumors floating around about it becoming apartments for released criminals and sex offenders — it won’t. It’s not in the permit issued Monday night for ANYONE to live there. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more by Tuesday. 

But the vote will be at a weird time. Only the hardcore voters or the ones who care deeply on the issue — and hate is quite the motivator — will make it to the polls.

I’ll see you there.

 (Contact reporter Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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