Friday, November 2, 2007

Politics as usual-- beginning of the end?

Just came back from another ward representation standout at Wilbraham and Breckwood. There were seven of us, including City Council candidate Vera O'Connor. I'm not one to be overoptimistic, but it sure does seem like ward representation has a lot of support in Springfield .

98 hours until the results start coming in. Vera will be waiting for results Tuesday night at the Caribbean American African American Social Club, and she has graciously offered to let us join her. We'll bring the pizza.

I've wanted to write more about this campaign as it's gone along, but everything has moved so quickly! We didn't even know for sure the question was going to be on the ballot until October 2nd, putting the election only a month and a few days away.

I say the ward representation campaign has moved quickly, but of course that's not true. Some people have been fighting the at-large system since it was implemented 46 years ago. Arise, my organization, has been involved since 1995, when a young man named Joe Fountain brought us a discrimination lawsuit he had filed. The ball started rolling from there.

Ward representation will be no magical cure for Springfield's sick politics, and it won't undo all the damage of the entrenched at-large system all at once. But here's what I see will start happening between now and the first election (2009) actually to have both at-large and ward rep seats on the city council and school committee:

People who have considered running for office-- or who have run before, unsuccessfully-- will start believing that they could run successful campaigns from their wards. Some of these people will make great city councilors and some will be mediocre or worse. However, in a ward campaign, it'll be a lot harder to get over on the community. People will know who you are.

People running a campaign from a ward will have a real reason to encourage voter registration and, more importantly, voter participation. Ward candidates will have to turn out the vote to win.

An unknown number of current city council incumbents, numbering nine, as well as any challengers, will have to decide if they are going to vie for one of the at-large seats, reduced from nine to five, or if they are going to go back to their community and run from their ward-- a bit of a problem when nine of the current councilors come from only three of eight wards. This is all just lading up to the first mixed election.

The Springfield Republican had a very favorable editorial about ward representation today, posted at MassLive:

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