The lack of candidates for town races in this spring's elections may just be a fluke in politically active Lenox, but it is worrisome nonetheless. Democracy at the fundamental town level doesn't work, in Lenox or anywhere else, without plenty of citizen participation.

Lenox has no contested races and three positions with no candidates. It is possible that this is a byproduct of the overwrought Kennedy Park memorial controversy, in which town officials were accused of incompetence and corruption and threatened with lawsuits. No volunteer official needs that aggravation. It would be discouraging if strict open meeting regulations and ethics laws are discouraging participation. In Pittsfield, a School Committee member's Javert-like pursuit of a Reid Middle School Council subcommittee for a supposed violation demonstrates that the open meeting law could convince residents that they want no part of local government, but on balance, the law works to the benefit of taxpayers and town officials should not have to fear it.

In a worst-case scenario, a lack of good candidates for town offices creates a vacuum that the unqualified or those with an ax to grind or special interests to advance can easily fill. If capable candidates choose to stay on the sidelines it won't necessarily take much for town government to be derailed, creating real problems for all.