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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Press Conference on Ward Voting Referendum -- 9/20/2011

Do people in this community who would like to join into our process of governance feel that they stand a chance of being elected or feel welcomed to participate in our City's Governance by this City Council?

When it comes to the current City Wide Electoral process, it costs at least $2,000 to run a city wide campaign and that is on a shoestring budget. A rational budget given to me by a successful Campaign Advisor in Hickory was stated at $5,000 minimum to attempt to unseat an incumbent City Council Alder. Add to that the hours that one has to spend engaging the public. Even in doing that, empirical evidence shows that less than 10% of the registered voting public will even bother to vote.

The people who could make positive change in this community are those are hungry for growth and moving the community forward economically. This will not come from those entering retirement age, who are winding down in life, or those that don't understand the plight of the working class. We need to see economic development in all parts of Hickory.

I love entrepreneurialism and believe that it will help the community, but not everyone can be a business owner and the community should not be 100% devoted to business owners. We need a workforce and we need to look out for the interests of the average worker just as much as the business man. We need balance. We need both in order to establish a dynamic community.

That is why I endorse the Direct Ward Electoral process. It brings the local government back to the people. It will not lead to cronyism as Alderman Meisner stated last week on the radio or nefarious dealmaking as the Mayor insinuated on WSOC - Channel 9 News tonight. What we have now in this community is a terrible crony structure. It is the complete opposite of what Ald. Meisner talked about on the radio or what the Mayor has alluded to, such as on the news tonight. All of those closed door council chamber deals are not necessary, but that is how this city has operated under this Council.We have three precincts (St. Luke's, Holy Trinity, and Neill Clark) representing 1,400 out of approx. 2,300 total votes. Why should three precincts, in the wealthiest sections of Hickory, determine who represents all of the wards in Hickory?

The Mayor talked about this being a money issue and that this special election would cost money. In this upcoming election, you would only have to have precincts open in the three wards that are running in a Ward election; but under the current process, precincts in all six wards will be open to serve an electorate of most likely less than 1,000 voters. We could also get rid of the "Primaries" and have elections where anyone with a super-majority (40%) in a more than 2 candidate election would win. That would be a big money saver there. Would it not?

It would also mean that all of the wards would have representatives that would bring their constituents' interests to the table and areas of South Hickory and West Hickory would no longer get the brush off and the real interests and issues of those neighborhoods would finally be forced to be sanctioned by the Council Bench. It would truly empower those neighborhoods and that in and of itself would bring more interest in those neighborhoods to the table.

What about the idea of holding city elections when other state and federal elections are happening? If you wanted to save money, would that not be the route to take? Would that not increase voter participation?

There are some real questions that deserve to be debated here and trying to block the petition process goes against the grain of our democratic/Republic form of government.

I am glad that the Mayor, Alderman Guess, and Alder Patton endorsed the petition process tonight. The Mayor was not doing that two weeks ago. I have sources that informed me that he was asking people not to sign the petition. That should not be the role of a Mayor or any other representative of the city. They can campaign against the issue, but they should never attempt to impede the democratic process.

Let's be honest and lay the cards out on the table. When I was a kid, growing up, we were taught in school about how in the Soviet Union they had contrived elections. They weren't based on party, because there was only one party. When the election took place, the "Chosen" leader would either be running unopposed or the odds were stacked firmly against any challenger to the point of intimidation. Is that not what we are seeing under this current structure on the local scene?

We are told that our elections are non-affiliated, but come on, let's be honest for once. There are certain sections of this community that are given the golden route and others that are completely ignored and when those that are not represented speak up, then they are labeled as trouble makers or ignorant or unstable. Maybe we (hmmm hmm -- you -- cough cough) need to take a second look at all of that!!!

Let me ask one final question. Under the current way that this city is structured, why even have a Mayor? We have a City Manager that basically decides agendas that will be discussed and promoted and a Mayor and City Council that follows his lead. And we have a City Council that is elected by the exact same people who elect the Mayor. Does the Mayor have any more power than an Alder who is elected city wide just like the Mayor. Seriously, and I am not addressing Rudy Wright, look at how our position of Mayor is structured, what is our Mayor's role in this community?

Ward versus At-Large

Press Release Contact: Billy Sudderth

September 20, 2011 (828) 308-4669

“Why City Government Must Change”

In 1970 the City of Hickory changed from a pure ward system to modified at-large or blend system for electing City Council members. This meant that council members were nominated from their wards through primaries but had to be elected city-wide. This change created an electoral system which has eventually led to the under-representation of lower income and minority citizens in elected positions.

A group of concerned citizens from various wards in the city has initiated a petition to bring about a public referendum on this issue. These citizens believe that each of Hickory’s six municipal wards should have a representative on the City Council elected by the people of that ward. They would also favor having the Mayor and two or three Council members elected at-large.

Our petition requests the Hickory City Council to change its present electoral system of the “At Large” system to a “Pure” ward system, a system that will let citizens of each ward elect their own representative.

Other advantages of a pure ward system are that the City Council and city government in general would become more responsive to local neighborhoods and more voters would want to participate in elections. Furthermore, the pure ward system is more efficient and less costly than our present system. Above all, it brings government closer to the people and therefore is more democratic. Studies of cities where representatives are elected by wards have borne out these facts.

Our questionnaire asks:

Are you registered to vote in the City of Hickory, NC?

Have you signed this petition with one of our members? (Signing this petition more than once doesn’t help, but actually hurts this cause.)

Please print your name, home address, city, and birth date as seen on your state issued ID card. Please sign your name.

Spouses cannot sign for the absent spouse. Each has to sign their own name, but please give us a time that the absent spouse will be available.

Citizens of Hickory interested in supporting this petition can contact Citizens for Equity in Government at (828) 308-4669.


Silence DoGood said...

Strange how the right way only involves Wright thinking. I mean, you've got millions to drop on an idea, but you don't have a few thousand by which to give people the opportunity to decide how they will be represented by government. What I'm guessing here is, given the signature requirement being met and vetted, a referendum is put on the ballot. Those that oppose will try to institute a whisper campaign to garner enough votes to defeat it. If it passes on the ballot, the 'forward' thinkers may go ahead and adopt a resolution of support and amend the Charter voluntarily. If the change fails, the status quo is maintained, and this will be triumphed as a 'true' product of the system and representative of the 'will' of the people. And somewhere in there, will be an exact dollar amount 'wasted' to give 'some' people their 'say'. Of course, all you have to do City Council is put the issue on the agenda, make a motion and someone second, and then pass the motion. Look at all the money you can save!!! It's better than switching to Geico!!!

harryhipps said...

Sign Sign Sign Sign

Deb said...

Meisner has the gaul to say the pure ward system leads to cronyism? WOW!! Ironic coming from a person already into cronyistic elections, policy-making , and power. Didn't he appoint one of his coworkers to the committee that was looking to shore up and fix the broken down rental property ordinances....a coworker that was advocating leaving things as they were.....because Meisner was already busting the codes/ordinances on his rental properties, etc? That isn't cronyism or any other ism? Don't the other council members appoint family members and best friends and former ministers, etc. to the boards and commissions now, rotating the same folks around and around on those committees, refusing to appoint those that wish to serve but don't toe the 'I agree with you whole-heartedly Master' anti-bellum type attitudes, that the Mayor and Alrs dub "trouble-makers" because those folks are unwilling to make "nefarious" deals, and shine lights into the shadows, expose the real happenings, question 'authority', don't blindly follow? Yep, conflict of interest on y'alls parts, and all is well, fair, etc. across ALL of Hickory........NOT!!