The recent municipal elections once again displayed a complete lack of community involvement in the electoral process. Government and political pundits decry the low voter turnout and pontificate new and improved plans to engage the voter. But, I think they secretly congratulate themselves in the manipulation of low voter participation to further their goals. Of course, this I cannot prove but the actions of the political elite in the city tend to demonstrate an active role in discouraging voter turnout in the city, regardless of their public posturing and fake shock at the abysmal numbers.
Let’s indulge in a little recent history with city council. On January 2011, city council took a citizen initiative and put it into legal oblivion, not in the spirit of “protecting” a group of individuals against “majority oppression” as they pontificate to the media, but rather to continue an initiative they themselves shoved down the collective taxpayer’s throats.
Let’s put aside the issue of gay rights revolving around the domestic partner issue as this is not about gay rights but rather about what taxpayer’s in the community are demanding. Representation is about what the community wants, not about what is right. Activists will look for catch phrases too wrap around their positions in order to gain the most public attention they can to motivate public discussion.
These catch phrases are “red herrings” designed to empower the minority over the majority. Personally, I’m for most tools at the disposal of activists as they mount battles against well-oiled and moneyed machines intent on keeping their power. For every activist cause that I feel compelled to support there are many I completely dislike. Regardless of the activist’s cause they are not at fault for employing the tools at their disposal because ultimately it is our own personal responsibility to protect our own interests.
The domestic partner issue was not about “gay rights” but rather it was about the wish of a community to live as they choose. Whether right or wrong, a community elects representatives, the keyword being representatives to “represent” their views within the governmental process. In the case of the domestic partners issue, the citizenry made their position known to the government by passing a citizen driven initiative 55 to 45%.
Their intent was clear, a resounding “NO” to extending benefits to unmarried couples. Although, the organizers of the initiative petition had to overcome, not one but two petition drives, two city council votes and the engagement of the very voters who were absent in this last election to get to this point, city council, in its complete rejection of citizenry participation decided that, they were the ultimate keepers of “what is right and what is wrong in our community”. Citizen wants, be damned!
City Council rejected the voter’s demand and remanded the whole thing to the judiciary in order to avoid their responsibility. They basically told the citizenry, “We don’t care what you want”. And, thus we find ourselves with a voter turnout of less than eight percent. I still believe that regardless of the mountain we, as the citizenry, must climb to wrest control back from the government, I nonetheless, appreciate why many in the community woke up on Election Day and said to themselves, “what for”?