I debate with myself constantly whether I want to display the list of contributors who brought certain people to office in the local area. It is these people's right to support whomever they wish and I harbor no ill will towards people making political investments in the system afforded them. As much as it is their right to make these political investments, it is my right to go research the public information records and see if it tells a story and it certainly does. If I need to show the information in this forum I will, but what the information shows is that it only takes the support of a few wealthy contributors to buy ones way into office. But the question becomes whose interest are you representing? And who controls the city?
That is one of the reasons why we are pushing this Ward Specific system. The average person cannot afford $10,000 to run a City Wide campaign against people who hold office for 3, 4, or 5+ terms. I know through the experience of campaigns in the past that it is very difficult to get ones message out. The local radio station and newspaper are only going to afford you one small chance to get your message out and most local groups won't sponsor a debate unless it is a member of the organization or represents their specific interests. Yard signs don't do squat to help one gain name recognition or get a message out. They are necessary wasted money. You have to have them, because your opponent has them, but they aren't going to help beat a recognized name without a vigorous discussion of issues.
The Ward Specific voting process will empower the local neighborhood associations. The areas that don't currently have them will see the necessity of them going forward should this referendum pass. Jill Patton and Sally Fox have stated many times the importance of the function of these Associations. With these meetings, you can attend and speak to specific issues involving the immediate vicinity of where you live. Well, these associations don't currently have teeth, because the alders aren't tied to their area. You can guarantee if this referendum passes that your ward representative will attend these meetings, because if they don't, then they won't be reelected. And at these meetings they will have to have dialogue with their constituents about the ward's best interests.
These neighborhood associations will hold debates when the election cycle rolls around. In a town of 40,000 people you can't get enough signs out there throughout the city. That is $1,000 to $2,000. You can't get to the people of the entire city. In a ward of 6,700, you can meet most of the people. People are more likely to personally recognize you. And at the same time, you are going to have to have a better critical thinking process to discuss the issues of your ward constituency versus the overall interests of the City at large. It will bring governance back to the wards. It will be cheaper and less time consuming to run a campaign and get your message out there. You can go door to door in a ward. This renewed Democratic process will enable better ideas to rise to the top through citizen input. Is it good to only have wealthy people representing this city? Isn't it time for a broader perspective?
The ward specific system will lead to better city council meetings with more vigorous discussion, questioning, and give and take. The Ward Specific Representatives are still going to represent the City as a whole. The Council will have to be more professional in their performance standards and engagement with City Staff. This system will demand more vigorous discussions with the staff and fellow council members about how the specific ward's needs fit into the City's overall plans and objectives.
I have seen where the Mayor is campaigning on the issue through facebook; good for him. He has been the lead opposition on this issue. Funny thing is that it doesn't affect Hickory's Mayoral electoral process, because he would still be elected throughout the city, but it will most certainly affect the way a mayor governs and brings the mayor position more responsibility. Right now the Mayor is only a glorified Council member. The True Ward System would empower the Mayor, while at the same time demanding a Mayor that can bring people together through positive coalescing. I would hope that the Mayor would come out from the shadows and debate this issue in public, if he feels that strongly about it, and I think it is high time that current council members state their positions.
I would like to reiterate, all we are trying to do is make participation in local government more user friendly. Whether you are Black, White, Rich, Poor, Woman, Man, Baptist, Lutheran, or whatever, it isn't about labels. It is about the stake you have in this community. Everyone has something to contribute. This issue brings everyone together. It brings everyone in this community to the decision making table. It makes the representatives on City Council responsible and accountable to the people closest to them. It makes them attentive to the 6,700 people in their ward, instead of diluting that representation to a bloc of people outside of their ward. That will not dilute the interest of the City as a whole. We believe it enhances it. Ward empowerment is not a plus and minus affair. It is a plus and plus affair.
1961 -- A lesson in Hickory's History
1967 - How we got where we are today
The History of At-Large voting in Hickory - The HDR articles and Council Minutes Documents
Hal Row's First Talk - CEG discussion about Ward Specific Voting - The Interview
Help Bring Fair Representation Back to the City of Hickory
Mayor Wright - Hal Row - Ward Specific Elections
Remember Next Saturday: