By Stephen Wagner
Some local politicians are decrying voter apathy. So letís take a look at some reasons why.
Voter apathy is not a local or even national problem. Try Googling "voter apathy" and you will see that it is a worldwide problem. Great Britain to Zambia, from South Africa to Thailand, voter apathy cripples attempts to increase governmental oversight, transparency, and accountability. It seems the status quo afflicts governments across the planet.
The very legitimacy of elections is called into question when less than 20% of eligible voters respond to the call to be counted.
Sometimes people donít vote because they perceive there is little point, that change will not or cannot happen. Another reason is that they perceive that everything is fine and the trek to the polling station just isnít warranted. If it ainít broke donít fix it.
But here at the Lake, voters, for the first time in years, have contested elections in every ward. And thatís a good thing.
Perhaps some voters have read or received email from our solitary Alderwoman who passionately calls for transparency in government. Perhaps some have noticed the inability or unwillingness of the standing government to clearly articulate the Cityís budget process and the financial standing of the City. Released budget reports, print outs, and tables all have one thing in common: they donít agree with each other.
As of Thursday afternoon, neither the City web page nor the Facebook page mention anything about the upcoming work session tonight. Why is that? Especially after both the Mayor and Alderman Scott Miles both stated (correctly) that citizens should come to this particular session to be better informed on topics before the board.
The Calendar of Events page on the City website is blank. But good news! The sailboat movies work.
Now the powers that be will tell you that the meeting notices are posted on the front door of City Hall. Apparently they feel that it is appropriate and reasonable for citizens from Foxberry, M and W Blocks, and other areas around the lake and in the City limits, to make the pilgrimage to Gate Two every day (as meetings only require 24 hours notice) to catch up with what the government is up to.
Really? In this technologically enabled society that is their best effort, their professional response?
I know it seems like I am off topic, but hang in there for just a minute more.
I suggest to you that they donít necessarily want the citizens to know. Remember when we used to be able to speak and ask questions of our aldermen? Admittedly we were sometimes subjected to verbal abuse but thatís gone, limited to a 3 minute talk by each citizen. No back and forth. I donít ask many questions anymore as the usual response is that they sit and look back at me stone-faced, like those Easter Island heads. Forget about email. Several times itís been discussed about the unused, non functional City email system.
So who hears regularly from their elected representatives other than those lucky enough to be in Ward 1? Since I moved here in 2010, I never have. No news is good news, right? No, the City government is ineffective in informing citizens what is happening in the City. I think they think you donít care.
But we must get involved. Mayor Welsh says "we are not changing our government" but we are. At least I donít remember anyone else besides the Board proposing ordinances, authorizing payments, and controlling personnel issues. Now, having someone to assist the Mayor may be a good thing, but saying there is no change is disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst.
The City is changing folks, like it or not, no matter what the Mayor says. There is a big reason to vote this year, and probably next year too. We need to change and forever remove the cronyism and the ole boy club mentality that has cost the City large sums of money and promises to run our debt up even more. We simply canít afford not to.
Mr. Welsh, for the most part in the past, did a fine job for the City as an Alderman. He was seen as the reasonable voice between the BOA and a Mayor that yelled at them. He is trading on that reputation for us to trust him now, when we have crushing financial issues and large civil suits, not to mention the "non-change" of having a City Administrator involved in our government. With no supporting information provided, is that the right path?
Next week, weíll talk about if that trust needs a second look as we discuss a pending civil suit from The Village by the Lake (Case number 1316-CV29555) and the possible purchase of a tract of land, to make it all go away. At what cost? Possibly years and years of payments.
Vote! You are needed!
PS: I canít resist. At tonightís work session City Attorney Paul Campo put in an appearance, instead of his subordinate, Jennifer Baird. Those in the know are sure that Paul saw his shadow, so we are looking forward to six more weeks of budget discussion.