The present system of governing is broken and needs to be retooled. How many times do we witness our representatives sitting back while party bosses hammer out the details of bills and then dictate how our representatives vote? Is my guy picking up the beer and pizza—FUBAR! It seems that a lot of our lawmakers forget who elected them and vote as per orders from their party leaders and biggest donors. There have been a lot of controversial laws, benefiting few while negatively impacting the majority, that have been enacted in spite of majority opposition. Often the excuse for these sellout votes is that our elected officials arrogantly believe that their constituents don’t understand the complexities of proposed bills which implies that we all are stupid (some of us—maybe). A local incumbent exemplifies the problem with views like this: “A lot of folks you hear complaining I think are used to hearing their views heard and adopted without question.” WTF! His job is to listen to the people he represents and do what the majority want “without question”.
I have lived in Durham, NC for twenty years and have never been asked by mail, email, text, phone or any other communication my opinion on any vote—not acceptable. The average citizen has been disenfranchised—that’s not how it’s supposed to work!
The voters should be consulted on all major issues (I’m not talking about the everyday housekeeping decisions): tax increases, zoning changes, major expenditures, and major policy revisions. With today’s statistical polling technology a representative sample could be designed to poll the voters affected by proposed laws or policies and the representative would vote with the majority (75% or more). Major research projects have used representative samples to produce accurate results and I’m amazed at the accuracy of election exit polls using a small sample of voters to predict right-on-the-money results. Polls are not infallible but they are a lot better than the back room deals that presently are the basis for many laws. Obviously there are issues that have many opposing opinions without a clear majority and that is when we need leaders who have a sense of what is best for his/her people and will not be swayed by political pressures. Polling then becomes a valuable tool in the decision-making process to continually gauge public opinion to help cast truly representative votes.
I realize that my polling method may not be ready for prime time but representing and voting with the majority of constituents should be a no-brainer. We should elect candidates that have pledged to listen and will be strong enough to truly represent us. Check out incumbents voting records and listen to campaign promises about governing “by the people” so you know who to support—vote out or don’t elect the sellouts. In addition to supporting good representatives we have an obligation to be an informed electorate and communicate our support or disapproval of major issues and VOTE!
I sent the following email to the five top candidates for our city council. Three answered and there is definitely a big disconnect between the incumbent and the council wannabes.
As elections approach I want to make sure that the person who gets my vote truly represents and is the voice for his/her constituents. It seems that a lot of our government representatives forget who elected them and vote as per orders from their party leaders and biggest donors. There have been a lot of controversial laws and rezoning that have been enacted in spite of majority opposition. Often the excuse for these traitorous votes is that the constituents don’t understand the complexities of proposed bills. That doesn’t fly because if the uninformed elected you, you are bound to educate the uninformed and vote exactly as the people you represent wish. I have lived in Durham for twenty years and have never been asked by mail, email, text, phone or any other communication my opinion on any vote—not acceptable.
The voters should be consulted on all major issues: tax increases, zoning changes, major expenditures, and major policy revisions. With today’s technology a representative sample could be designed to poll the voters affected by the proposed law or policy and the representative would vote with the majority. This is how a democracy works—by the people, for the people.
My question is how you will communicate with your constituents re: major decisions and will you commit to voting with the majority?
Incumbent reply—trust me
Thanks for writing.
I can see you are frustrated by some government decisions, and I share that frustration.
I differ with you on one aspect of this: I don’t think we elect our government representatives to ask them to find out the majority will on each issue and follow it. If we did that, we wouldn’t need representative democracy at all. Instead, when I vote for a member of Congress, I expect that person to use his or her best judgment to make wise and fair decisions on each issue. That’s what a republican form of government is all about–electing the wisest, fairest people we can to make decisions. Local government is the same way.
When I make important decisions, I listen to the public with an open ear and an open mind. I solicit opinions as broadly as I can. And I answer almost all of the hundreds and hundreds of emails I receive. Since we make dozens of decisions on the city council every month, it would be impossible to hear from the public on every one of them, and many of them are very important. So I use the input I have to make the best decision I can in the interests of the most people.
Wannabe 1: Will listen
“I don’t have all the answers to the problems we face. But after over 20 years of working with neighborhoods, non-profits, business owners, the Chamber and thousands of other community volunteers I have a good understanding so far on why they are here and why they exist. And while I’ll admit I might have an opinion, I haven’t gotten to this point by telling everyone what I think, I’ve gotten here because I have listened to what they had to say. Steven Covey said “Seek first to understand, then be understood”. By listening to people’s opinions, going to workshops, public hearings and yes even deliberations in municipal debate it’s been a learning experience to see how my understanding and depth of knowledge has improved. I want to continue to learn more by listening to you, not telling you what I think you should do. Then and only then will we be able to find a workable solution that both of us can walk away from with a plan of action that WILL work for all of us. Let’s start that conversation today!”
Wannabe 2: Wants to listen to voters—my guy
The most important job of any elected official is to be engaged with members of the public in an ongoing conversation on the issues that are most important to our community. If I am fortunate enough to be elected to the Durham City Council, I pledge to be accessible, responsive, and open to hearing views that differ from my own. That’s the only way that an elected official can know that they are truly representing the will of the people. Specifically, I will engage with the people of Durham in their neighborhoods and communities at community events; I will promote my email address, phone number and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as alternative means by which folks can contact me; and I will commit to going door to door at least one weekend each month after I am elected to meet people where they are and to find out more about the issues that are of concern to our community.
Especially at a time when voter turnout is so abysmally low, I believe that city government should carefully consider any possible method of encouraging the people of Durham to become more engaged in the public life of our city. The suggestions you have made
below are ones that should be part of that consideration. Frankly, turnout in this year’s municipal elections is so low, we should probably try just about everything we can think of to get people more involved in the political process!
Now it’s your turn to communicate with your representatives and demand that they truly are “by the people and for the people” and are not just picking up pizza.