Monday night was one of those nights that, as one resident said afterwards, “we’ll remember 20 years from now.”
It was a night when grass-roots action, governmental snafus, a good idea and a rare exercise by residents of their right to vote paid off in a huge way: By giving the town the right to sell a vacant school to Hope & Main, a group that wants to build the state’s first kitchen incubator in Warren.
For weeks, Hope & Main’s founder Lisa Raiola worried that there wouldn’t be enough people at Monday’s vote to constitute a quorum. Given the apathy that has dogged recent Financial Town Meetings, she worried that asking 125 residents to give up an hour of their night was too much to ask. She needn’t have worried: In all, close to 400 people cast their vote in favor of Hope & Main when the time finally came at about 8 p.m. It was the biggest turnout at a financial meeting in many years.
How big could the turnout have been? There’s no telling, but we are sure that more than a few people decided to go home after they waited in line at Warren Town Hall for upwards of half an hour only to be told that the vote was being moved to the Kickemuit Middle School (story, page 1).
Ironically, the poor planning — officials originally anticipated the town hall would be plenty big enough, only to learn at 7 p.m. that it wasn’t even close — did little to cast a pall over the night. Residents who might have been expected to be angry about waiting in a long traffic jam and two long lines at two separate buildings, weren’t. Instead, there was a feeling of anticipation in the crowd, which rejoiced loudly and passionately when the sale passed by a wide margin around 8 p.m.
Warren residents have been knocked recently about their apathy, and as it was fewer than 20 percent of the town’s voters turned out to Monday night’s meeting. But it was a large turnout, all things considered. We hope those same people show up two weeks from now, when they’re asked again, one final time, to support the sale of the Main Street School to Hope & Main.
Warren’s Adjourned Town Meeting, an all day referendum on the matter, runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, at Warren Town Hall.