By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher
As far back as anyone can remember, residents of Peabody have been voting in schools. And as far back as anyone can recall, student safety on Election Day has never been an issue.
But that can’t stop Brandi Carpenter from wasting more valuable Peabody School Committee time on an issue that just isn’t an issue at all. The School Committee member, after all, is on a quest, a crusade, a hunt for justice and enlightenment.
Since 2008, it has been her primary and defining issue as an elected official: She wants to move some of the city’s polling places, currently and conveniently located in school gyms, to alternative locations.
How about supermarkets?
Or the North Shore Mall?
Hey, I have an idea, maybe we can have people walk barefoot, five miles uphill in the snow just to vote. I mean, we have such wonderful voter turnout these days, so inconveniencing people on Election Day couldn’t possibly be a problem. Right?
This “Carpenter Crusade” surfaced again today in a Salem News article by John Castelluccio, who set out to write about the city’s need to temporarily move the Higgins Middle School’s Ward 4 polling place while the new middle school was constructed. But John ended up poking Ms. Carpenter again on one of the silliest issues in recent school committee memory.
“It’s a long uphill battle,” Carpenter told The News of her quest to take voting out of schools, again making us all wonder … when, exactly is another member of the school committee going to ask Ms. Carpenter to move on so they can focus on REAL issues concerning our schools?
Well, the fact is, according to Ms. Carpenter, she and her esteemed school committee colleagues are giving the city’s election commission a little time to work out the current Higgins polling issue, but then … watch out! We’re coming right back at you Peabody election officials on this bigger, more cataclysmic issue. That’s right, Carpenter says the school committee — with member Beverley Dunne being the only responsible dissenter of the six — will waste more time next year on trying to force the city to move polling locations to places such as Hannaford Supermarket.
I can just see the wording on the ballot now: Vote for three for school committee, and while you’re at it, make sure you pick up some apples. They’re on sale four for a dollar.
Of course, I am being a little silly about the apples, but then again, a silly issue deserves some silly commentary. And how ironic and silly is it that Ms. Carpenter has suggested that voting be moved from some public schools and into at least two churches and temples that have children onsite for their own preschool programs?
Look, in all seriousness, no one is against safe schools. If there is a real safety issue in Peabody’s schools, then we should be addressing fixing that problem first and foremost. But if we’re going to say that voting in schools causes a danger, why don’t we just totally give up right now, and lock the little darlings in a bubble in their bedrooms? That’ll keep ’em safe.
There has never been a safety issue with people voting in Peabody schools, and the odds against there being one in the future are slim and none. And slim just left the building. You could actually argue that Election Day is the safest day of the year in Peabody’s public schools. After all, it’s the only day of the school year where there is at least one police officer onsite, on duty from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If you have any common sense at all, you come to the quick, frightening conclusion that those sick vermin who seek to hurt children are not going to wait until Election Day to do so. Early in this debate over taking voting out of Peabody’s schools, the tragedy of Sandy Hook was inappropriately evoked during one debate. Was it a scare tactic? Perhaps. More likely, though, it was an over-reaction by school committee members who need to focus on real issues.
Aren’t maniacs less likely to strike on a day when there are police officers and lots of law-abiding adults around to potentially stop them?
Is there a true safety issue in our schools that we don’t know about? And if so, why don’t we address that instead of finding bad people amongst Peabody best citizens, who are only trying to conveniently exercise their ultimate right as Americans?
In these days when voter turnout continues to drop at an alarming rate, moving voting from our schools will only further confuse and inconvenience voters. The city’s election commission, including Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos, is against uprooting voters, and so too are most of the city’s election officials.
It’s time for Ms. Carpenter to drop this silly crusade and move onto more important issues. Maybe the voters will even thank her come her own re-Election Day when they’re not inconvenienced by traffic trying to get to the mall to vote .