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Grassroots politics is the heart of our democracy
by David Farside
Apr 08, 2013 | 2300 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local elections in Reno and Sparks could soon provide an equal opportunity for anyone, with or without money, to win a seat on the Reno or Sparks City Council. Proposed Senate Bill 457, would allow only voters in each individual ward to elect their own ward representatives in the general election instead of having to be elected on a city-wide ballot. This would decrease the campaign funds needed to win a city-wide race, making it easier for average, ordinary, common-sense people to become more involved in local non-partisan political elections.

Supporters of the bill include the ACLU, Nevada-AFL-CIO and the Progressive Leadership Alliance,  an organization with political ties to state Senator Shelia Leslie, who first proposed the idea several years ago.

Predictably opposed is the City Council of Henderson, Nev., and the Association of General Contractors. No doubt, they are afraid of losing collective and individual political power.

A city-wide election is an expensive proposition for any candidate. The “usual suspects” such as: realtors, contractors, developers and the gaming industry are always lined up with campaign contributions in hand for any candidate willing to exchange their votes for promises of favoritism. In the end, most every member of the Council is supported and “influenced” by the same financial benefactors. It then becomes a matter of playing “good-cop, bad-cop” politics. The new bill would eliminate the need for large contributions from special interest groups to finance a city-wide campaign and add more integrity to the local parochial political arena. Now wouldn’t that be a terrible thing to happen to any local government!

The bill will add more diversity in local government. Isn’t that what we want in local government? Different points of view from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds and all political philosophy should be welcomed in neighborhood elections, not suppressed in a city-wide free-for-all.

Representative government is the cornerstone of our Democratic Republic. We elect our representatives by district, except for City Council races. County commissioners and state representatives are elected by voters in their own district, not by voters in county-wide or state-wide elections.

Candidates for the U.S. Senate or Congress are elected by voters in the district they represent, not by voters living outside the boundaries of their district. That being said, candidates for city council should not have to be elected by voters living outside the boundaries of their neighborhood, district or ward.

Representation is the key word. It is the cornerstone of our political system. In the 1770s, the term  “No Taxation Without Representation!” was the battle cry of the American revolution against the British. Our new constitution, establishing a Democratic Republic, guaranteed us the right to freely and democratically elect our representatives both “locally” and nationally.

Because City Council races are, in most cases nonpartisan, some political pundits believe local government representation and grass-roots politics don’t fit within the framework of the our constitution. That’s why we should all support Senate Bill 457, and change that mind-set.

A few years ago,Sparks City Council discussed the issue of Ward-only voting to elect its members. Councilwomen Julia Ratti was the only member to support the concept. Although, the Council officially took a neutral position on the issue. Ratti said she believes electing representatives from within their ward is the real “foundation of democracy.” Who can argue with that?

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.
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