Sunday, August 28, 2011


Political power often occurs as a reverse pyramid scheme--{this one apparently six-sided}--most benefits concentrated at the top 

The Times Herald 8-18-11 editorial laments a lack of candidates participating in our city council and mayoral elections. Only 12 have filed to vie for the 6 new council positions, and 3 for the mayor’s spot. Whatever the new city charter has done with its mix of 3 at large and 3 voting district positions, it has not increased participation in the process.
  full size availabel at

This should be no surprise. There have been 10 wards / precincts in the past, which have never, in the past generation, been each represented by its own council member. North of the Black River personages most often have been in the majority of council positions, with roughly 5 precints equal north and south. Detroit, with all its recent corruption, has finally converted to electing its council from each and every ward. Our wards may need to be recomputed from recent census data, but why can’t we have 10 or more seats at our city council table? And each ward, as an equal self-contained playing field, will invite more political involvement.
Good old boys club--don't know what they're missing, in possible solidarity with the common citizen
If we truly want more participation in our democracy, we must choose systems which promote participatory democracy. Elections should be about ideas and service, not about celebrity and name recognition. Immediate neighbors who know their territory, not just the city’s “in-the-know,” should be campaigning for city council.
Politics, locally and nationally, has become dysfunctional because those in power are all about consolidation of power. And when that power breaks under its own weight of protected interests, then emergency managers are imposed to further the choke-hold on democracy. We need to move in the opposite direction, making use of the creative energies that derive from all citizens, rich and poor and middle class.

In our fair city, which is undeniably facing diminished resources, much of this due to conditions imposed from the federal level, much the fault of our own miscalculations, it is the old system, not any more buildings, that needs demolition. Open up to full ward based elections. Give democracy a chance.

Blessed are the men and women - the deep spread roots of democracy

There follows a dialogue on this local issue, between Mike Connell, respected columnist of the Port Huron Times Herald, and myself.  He helped me be more precise on my final draft of article for the paper, on the north & south precinct divisions.

Mike M.,
The Black River essentially divides the city in half in both area and population.
Of the 10 precincts, 5 are south of the river, 4 are north and one is divided by the river but is mostly in the north:
In terms of votes cast, the north end dominates. Not sure why anyone thinks north-enders should be penalized because they actually bother to vote.
In essence, that is the argument you appear to be making. Southenders have the votes, but they do not choose to exercise them. That does not suggest anything sinister to me. I simply do not believe that someone who accepts his or her civic duty can be held responsible for the apathy of someone who is too lazy or disinterested or self-absorbed or whatever to vote.
To use another example, congressional representatives from Detroit inevitably are elected by far fewer voters than those elected from elsewhere in the state. In essence, an individual Detroiter's vote carries considerably more weight or value than yours or mine. Now that may be a problem, but if it is, I don't think it is caused because too many out-staters choose to vote.
Participatory democracy includes the right not to participate. That does not make it less democratic. Trying to compensate for apathy by fiddling with the "one-dude, one-vote" philosophy is sailing democracy onto dangerous shoals, or so it seems to me.

Mike C.


Thanks for the clarification on precinct divisions north & south [see correction below]. I'm not trying to increase those divisions, and don't disparage the north's history of participation, but do think that moving towards ward based voting districts will improve the south's vote counts. Apathy is reinforced by systems that protect privilege [in this case "at-largeness"]. My experience has been that giving people a better chance results in their investing in the opportunity. Lets watch the Detroit vote numbers over the next couple years [compensating for its de-population], and see what the ward system does for them.

A ward system here would only be a small step in the midst of our problems, but I'm not afraid of one dude one vote democracy. It takes time to fight apathy with opportunity, but I welcome the struggle. Thanks for your having taken the time to respond in detail.

Mike M
On Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 11:20 AM, Michael McCarthy <> wrote:
Mike C
 Again thanks for helping always, and your critical response. I'm putting my oped on my webpage, and would like to include our dialogue below, as it well illustrates our divergent opinions on the issue. What say you? Of course you may submit a rejoinder to my 8-24 note if you like. And thanks for all you do to make our community a better place.
Mike M
Yes, Mike, it would be fine. Hope it gives people something to think about. Every issue worth debating has at least as many sides as a casket.

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