Broadcast from Oak Bluffs

Listen to the voters in Oak Bluffs; their collective voice is loud and clear. At the annual town election in April they swept two longtime incumbent selectmen out of office and voted in two newcomers. At a special town election last week they broadcast a forceful message about their desire to curb spending and balance the town budget in real time, rejecting by a wide margin two questions that would have allowed the town to exceed the state law that caps annual property tax increases at two and a half per cent.

That the election was not technically legal due to a posting error doesn’t change the message. Fortunately, since both questions were rejected, no action will be needed to correct the problem, town officials learned from their counsel this week. That eliminates the need for a pointless revote.

With their town very much in the Island spotlight these days for its fiscal troubles, elected leaders in Oak Bluffs are under increasing pressure on all sides to put their town affairs in order. Selectmen and their town administrator must face the music: There will be no money this year for street paving, extra aides in the elementary school or a finance director, it appears.

Against that backdrop it is most disheartening to see the dialogue devolve into petty bickering and finger pointing over small matters such as a procedural glitch in the election. In the end this becomes a distraction from the focus on the real issues at hand. It should stop; there is no room for undercutting and divisiveness, especially when there is so much work to do.

What there is plenty of room for is good leadership, and it’s clear this is what voters are asking for, indeed demanding in their town. Leadership to address the town’s monetary problems. Leadership to stop the bickering and get on with the real tradeoffs. Leadership to steer a good town full of good, hardworking people onto stable ground with a bright future, even if in the short term the sidewalks are cracked and the school short-staffed. Leadership to make the hard decisions.

This is the mandate from the voters of Oak Bluffs.