Ward representation was passed by Springfield's voters today by an overwhelming 74% Although I believed ward rep would win a majority of votes, I am truly stunned by the level of support. I've been casting my mind around for another candidate or issue in the recent past that won by the same 3 to 1 ratio, but so far have been unable to think of one.
A few thoughts tonight: Eight by ward and five at-large for city council is not the version of ward representation preferred by most of those advocates who really studied this issue, but was instead a pragmatic decision made by City Councilor Jose Tosado (tonight's top vote-getter). It was not easy for those of us in Arise, Oiste, most other plaintiffs in the voting rights lawsuit and other activists to decide to put our weight behind Tosado's version. Hell, he wasn't even in office when we started this campaign. But we did it and I believe ward representation will, as Nick Camerota says, bring an end to politics as usual in this city.
Ward representation received more votes than any single mayoral, city council or school committee candidate-- almost 3,000 votes more. This was also the case in the 1997 election. Of course we worked hard to turn people out, but our hard work cannot take full responsibility for this. A 74% margin represents something deeply true in its urges toward democracy.
Yet at the same time, except for the huge upset of our incumbent Mayor Ryan by challenger Dom Sarno, every single incumbent on the city council and school committee was re-elected. People may want democracy and change, but mostly they don't know how to get it. I know that today, I voted for exactly two city council candidates, and neither was an incumbent. If you're in an at-large system, and you're trying to get a non-incumbent elected, you have to bullet-vote.
This kind of entrenchment of the incumbents is just one effect of an at-large system, now, thankfully, dead. But we still have a lot to learn about how to use ward representation so that we can all really benefit..
--- One last thought for tonight: we Arise folks met up at the Caribbean Club with Vera O'Connor to await poll results. Oiste, Out Now and Neighbor to Neighbor folks joined us, as well as Nick C (who designed our ad in the Springfield Republican) and E. Henry Twiggs, Chair of the City Democratic Committee. What a motley crew we made! From bowlers and overcoats to jeans and sneakers, we looked like the city I know and love. These folks are just the best, and I love them..