Elect a Crazy Council – Get Crazy Results

UPDATE:  The Designated Conservative managed to beat Michelle Malkin on this one… …cool.

Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The Detroit News, and a close observer of all things Detroit.  The column excerpted below caught the Designated Conservative‘s attention because it highlights a serious challenge to our liberty and the future of the State of Michigan, which is the lack of real choice in local candidates on the general election ballot (more after the excerpt):

Elect a crazy council, get crazy results

Nowhere is Michigan’s brain drain on greater display than in the Detroit City Council chambers.

(L)ast Tuesday’s council meeting, the one that considered the Cobo Center expansion deal (was) a festival of ignorance that confirmed the No. 1 obstacle to Detroit’s progress is the bargain basement leaders that city voters elect.

The black nationalism that is now the dominant ideology of the council was on proud display…. Speakers advocating for the deal were taunted by the crowd and cut short by Council President Monica Conyers…. (W)hites were advised by the citizens to, “Go home.”

Opponents were allowed to rant and ramble on uninterrupted about “those people” who want to steal Detroit’s assets and profit from the city’s labors.

When (a Teamster official) dared suggest that an improved Cobo Center would create more good-paying jobs for union workers, Conyers reminded him, “Those workers look like you; they don’t look like me.”

(I)magine a white Livonia City Council treating a black union representative with such overt racial hostility. The Justice Department would swoop down like a hawk, and the Rev. Al Sharpton would clog Five Mile Road with protesters.

But in Detroit, dealing with the council’s bigotry is part of the cost of doing business.

Emmet Moten, the developer who just opened the Fort Shelby Hotel downtown, was at the meeting and found it appalling. “If (former Mayor) Coleman (Young) were alive today, he’d be outraged. It hurts, it really hurts.” 

Nobody can help Detroit if voters again elect a City Council composed of separatists, clueless dowagers and the apparently insane.

Where have all the good candidates gone?

In parts of our state, local elections go on without a full slate of candidates for local office. Far too often in recent years, voters have had but one choice for local office.  That is the danger to our liberty – it is essential to the future of our democratic republic that voters have real choice on the ballot.

Worse yet, some communities cannot even muster enough interested individuals to ensure that there is one person on the ballot for each elected position!  Here is just a few examples of this trend:  “Three area elections attract write-in candidates.”

How have things come to this?  There are many reasons – here are just a few:

  • The Michigan Republican Party utterly failed in 2008 in its outreach and grassroots efforts.  We can do better.  

Too often the only candidates on a local ballot are Democrats.  The Designated Conservative lives in a one-party Democrat town and has many Democrat friends, including numerous local elected officials of the Democrat persuasion that I respect and appreciate.  That doesn’t mean I like voting for them because they’re the only choice.  

I agree with Akindele Akinyemi, recent MI-GOP leadership candidate, and deeply appreciate his efforts to bring conservative principles to urban audiences and young people.

  • Partisan local elections deter potential candidates.

As a poll challenger last November, I witnessed many many instances of confusion and misunderstanding among voters wrestling with the differences between the partisan (Democrat/Republican/Other) and non-partisan portions of the ballot as they prepared to go vote.  Most of the spoiled ballots came from overvoting, where the voter cast a straight party vote, and then also voted for individual local officials.  

Worse yet, I overheard numerous comments from voters complaining that they could not find “their” candidate for local office (in all cases, “their candidate” had been on the August Primary Ballot and had lost).  

I’ve heard similar laments from candidates who express their frustration with the confusing and anti-democratic process of partisan local elections.  I once attended a city council candidates’ debate where an “independent” candidate (a republican running in a one-party town) had to “crash” the debate by standing up and speaking from the audience, rather than with the other candidates!  

Why?  Because his name wasn’t on the August Primary Election ballot, but rather the November general election (and no additional “candidates’ debate” was held before the November election, despite invitations to the Democrat nominee).  

Voters expect to make their choice in November, not in August, which is why the one-party politicians in my town ensure that the “real vote” takes place during the August Democrat Primary election, when most voters aren’t paying attention!   Why run when the system has been so badly rigged in favor of one party?

Where local communities have moved to non-partisan local elections, the result is more choice and less confusion.  Candidates must run on their records, policies, and plans, rather than relying on straight party voters to sweep them into office. 

  • Four-year terms deter potential candidates.

Four-year terms for local elected officials are just too long.  Such terms discourage new candidates [are you willing to make a four-year (mostly) volunteer commitment of your time? …especially in this economy!], and serve to disconnect the elected official from the voters.  

One retired Democrat city councilmember once told me that the reason he pushed (successfully) for a city charter change from two-year to four-year city council terms was to “stabilize” the council (i.e. protect incumbent officials).  In this case, it worked.  In one case, a sitting city councilmember enjoyed several full terms of office without ever experiencing a contested election.  He lost by a wide margin in last August’s Democrat Primary, when (finally) confronted with a serious challenger.

  • Recall mania deters potential candidates.

Recall petitions have become all the rage in Michigan in recent years, especially in townships.  The Designated Conservative has been involved in several of these disasters in his professional life, and each one has been a regrettable experience that damaged the community and the individuals involved.  

We need the recall process as a safety valve to remove the truly incompetent and malfeasant from office, but the process needs to be reformed to minimize the abuses.  “Why run for office just to be attacked?” is a common comment from potential candidates.

  • Personal attacks deter potential candidates.

The Designated Conservative works hard to focus my criticism on the policies of those I oppose, and to avoid discussion of politicians’ personal lives and family.  Promoting conditions of civility and politeness in public life is an essential tool to encourage more people to run for office.

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