Monday, September 17, 2007

Get out and VOTE!

I frequently find it hard to explain to people why their vote matters, because too much of the time, I don't believe it does. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't believe in Democracy (whatever that may be). But we've had the last two Presidential elections stolen right from under us and there was little dissent from the citizens of this country. It was almost like people were embarressed to make a fuss.

Local elections still feel different-- difficult to impact but still within the range of possibilities. In Springfield, MA, what started out as a probably well-meaning attempt to reform a cumbersome, bicameral form of ward representation fifty years ago has become a tool for keeping the decision-making in this city in the hands of a very few individuals. People with new blood and fresh ideas are locked out of this at large system. Becoming an elected official is a near-superhuman task.

Oddly enough, even those wards from which the 89% of all city councilors have come in the last ten years-- Wards Five, Six and Seven-- really have no direct representation on the city council. (Ward Seven, by the way, whose residents are the whitest with the highest median income in the city, has 51% of all councilors.) Springfield is like a ship where most people are crowded into one end of steerage, destabilizing the ship even for those lucky few at the captain's wheel.

Legislative update: I called Sen. Buoniconti's office today-- possibly the House will vote Tuesday and the Senate Thursday on the Home Rule legislation allowing ward representation to be placed in this year's ballot. Then the legislation moves to Governor Patrick's desk, where, if he doesn't sign it within a week, it becomes law. That would bring the date it becomes law to September 28th. We have an October 1 deadline for the question to go on the ballot. Can they push it any closer? Cross your fingers and say your prayers.

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