Government fails when electorate won’t take part
By BILL MEGO email@example.com August 7, 2012 10:58PM
Updated: September 9, 2012 6:05AM
It’s hard to dispute Thomas Jefferson’s argument that the biggest impediment to freedom is ignorance. He believed that people could be trusted to govern themselves only when they were well informed.
That’s the best argument for public education, not that good schools bring rich and successful people into a community, although they probably do, but that, if everybody has a constitutional right to vote, our very survival as a free nation depends on them being well and truthfully informed.
Unfortunately, it’s not working. We are experiencing an epidemic of not just ignorance but jaw dropping empty-headedness due to superficial education, incompetent reporting, deliberate partisan misinformation, superstitious zealotry, and political corruption.
That’s why I have suggested we put state and national politicians and their spokespersons under oath during the last three months of any election. If it’s a felony to lie to Congress it ought to be a felony to lie to the people who elect the members of Congress.
Our chief concern here, of course, is local self government, which usually fails not because of lies but simply because the electorate refuses to participate in the process, leaving a small, usually unrepresentative, self interested minority to decide issues that often have a bigger than expected impact on peoples’ lives.
For example, a popular argument against re-voting the decision to go to wards is that “we had an election.” Well, did we really? There was no public debate, no discussion of the consequences at any level, and a very low turnout. I’ve been told there are places where, if two-thirds of the electorate doesn’t bother to vote, they rule that there simply was no election, and the status quo ante prevails.
How can you argue that the results were the “will of the people” when most of the people didn’t bother to say? Is there no turnout so pitifully low that the results would be meaningless? If there’s not, our future teeters on the whims of a few.
What actually got me thinking about such things was tonight’s 7 o’clock meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, at which they’re going to be asked to approve the Water Street District plan including variances, a plan that has become ever more gargantuan in recent years in an attempt to increase profits.
All we apparently have to go on is what little we’ve been told and a couple of old You Tube promotionals. I hope the Plan Commission has a lot more information, but if they do why haven’t we seen it?
It doesn’t look like there’s nearly enough parking or adequate vehicular access, even for the project’s residents and visitors. And the even taller buildings along the river appear to detract even more from the Riverwalk, the very thing upon which it’s trying to capitalize.
From the original site plan, using the new heights and some back-of-the-envelope trig, I suspect that Water Street, the adjacent sidewalk along the river, and the “plaza” will never see the sun, not even at noon on June 21st. In the winter, at 9 a.m., the Dandelion Fountain and the front door of the library will probably be in shadow.
At noon, the Riverwalk across the river from the project will still be in shadow, and by 3 p.m. it will cover the small parking lot and Jackson Avenue. The river won’t see any light at noon until April or May.
Looming brick walls with balconies hanging over people’s heads, narrow streets, traffic congestion, crowds, lack of parking, and gloomy shadows won’t “enhance” anything, not the Riverwalk, not the downtown, and certainly not our quality of life. I can see why the developer wants this project, but until we know more how can we ever know if we want it?