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WITH 88% OR SO OF THE ELECTORATE NOT BOTHERING, AT WHAT POINT DOES THE WORD ‘DEMOCRACY’ BECOME A SHAM? … HAVE WE REACHED THAT POINT?

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, SEPT. 26, 2013) — The preliminary election on Tuesday had to be the snooziest, not snazziest, in recent history. THE PLANET isn’t saying that action at the polls was slow, but it’s the first time in memory that the city gave out toothpicks to poll workers to keep their eyes open.

Only wards 1 and 3 were in play, and at that, barely. In Ward 1, Chris Yon, the incumbent finished as top vote getter, followed by Lisa Tully. In 3, Nick Caccamo lapped the field several times, overwhelming second place finished Richard Latura. Those four go on to their respective runoffs in November. Unless there’s something or someone to drop a bomb in the middle of this sleep-fest, however, not only will it not matter but no one will even notice. Ho hum, samey-same.

The most troubling and at this point in post-apathetic Pittsfield the most sadly laughable aspect of the “election” had to be turnout, which came in as a microscopic 12% or so. Think about what this means. Roughly 88% of eligible voters did not bother, for some reason or other, to cast a ballot. “Winners” captured fractions of 12% of the electorate, hardly what you would call a mandate for anyone.

THE PLANET asks a sobering, serious question in light of this pitiful showing: At what point does democracy break down? At what point can we call an “election” meaningless? At what point do we throw out the whole system and bring in martial law or some other suitably totalitarian form of government?

THE PLANET has long advocated for these election reforms:

1. Days, not Day — Rather than have Election Day, why not have Election Days — Keeping the polls open two or more days, maybe one of them a Saturday, would generate more turnout.

2. The 50% Solution: This would void the results of any election where turnout did not top 50% +1 of the total electorate. If a race didn’t draw at least 50% + 1, it would have to be repeated, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. At some point, if the electorate simple didn’t care, the offices up for grabs would be eliminated.

3. None of the Above — Having this option would generate more action at the polls. Increasingly, as Pittsfield population drops, with seniors aging out at one end and young folks moving out at the other, elections have become unpleasant dips in the same gene pool. “The usual suspects,” it has become clear, are failing to be much of a draw. There’s a dwindling subset of folks who want to run for office and an even more rapidly shrinking group who’s willing to “elect” them. This leaves potential voters with “no one to vote for.” Ask yourselves how many times you’ve heard that complaint? “They’re all the same” or “They’re all in it for themselves.” Sound familiar? Regardless of the truth of these claims in any given poll, THE PLANET knows that including a “None of the Above” option would drive up turnout.

These are but a few of the ideas that would shake up the polls. If you have others, we invite you to share.

THE PLANET SHALL BE BACK LATER, WITH MORE … STAY TUNED …

——- 000 ——-

 What form of government would be more acceptable than a republic in which the vast majority of citizens do not participate? THE PLANET would recommend a benevolent dictatorship. Try and find one, though, the critics would point out, and that it true. We would respond, however, with: Try to find a form of democracy that would work in Pittsfield, Mass., or in most of the country, where apathy for the most part rules and citizen participation stands as foreign to America as most Swahili dialects.

There is no doubt that there are people who could assume total power and not succumb to thuggery. Who would such a person be?

* He (or she) would be above average in intelligence, would possess character and integrity, would possess fearlessness, and would have a heart that contained a full measure of justice and compassion.

* This person would be interested more in respect than in “being loved.”

* It would be a person who possessed a bias for just action.

* This person would welcome the tough judgments.

* This person would clean house and eliminate as much corruption in ciil service as is humanly possible.

* This person would face the haters, the reactionaries, the selfish, and the back-benchers and take their crap with a smile and would move forward. If he or she were truly benevolent, this person would have them all summarily ostracized or given two in the hat. That last part is a joke. Somewhat.

Let us pick up on here with the words of Mark Suster, a man who can be described as a philosopher-entrepreneur. This is from his blog, “The Importance of Benevolent Dictators.” Suster was talking about the Dreaded Private Sector, of course, but why couldn’t that model work for government? It could — All you have to do if find that one person in a billion.

——- 000 ——-

You’ll get your accolades. People will notice results. You’ll get public pats on the back and attaboys (girls). But you’ll have an equal chorus of, “She’s difficult to work with. She far too opinionated. Tempestuous.”

Fuck ‘em.

Don’t feed the trolls. Know that you signed up for this and it is why you are a leader.

I know, I know.

It’s 2013 and I’m supposed to believe in the “wisdom of the crowds.” We’re supposed to all allow side projects. 20% time. Total transparency. Everyone has a say. Free food. A chef. An on-premise masseuse.

And that’s fine.

Except that all of this “can’t we all just get along” mentality produces slow decisions. Group think. Compromises that lead to mediocrity. Avoidance of bold moves.

Think. Steve Jobs. Marc Benioff. Larry Ellison. Larry Page. Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates.

See any common threads?

Decision makers. Visionaries. Leaders. Chart their own course against the constant chorus of second guessers.

How many people thought Jobs was crazy when Apple first opened retail stores? How many lambasted Bezos for not delivered on profits at Amazon in aftermath of the dot com crash. He told people he was building for the long-haul and if they didn’t like the vision they shouldn’t hold the stock.

Bravo.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you should make decisions without other people’s input.

My motto is “always triangulate.”

I constantly ask people their opinions about topics and listen to how they argue them. By having many views and mixing it up into a pot and then sorting it out with a logic structure that informs my decision I often feel I get better results.

I don’t believe in turning up to a group discussion to form my opinion. I believe in sequential debates with the participants before I arrive. I then have a nuanced view of everyone’s position to make the most informed decision accounting for everyone’s views.

I know I kind of have a gene missing that allows the long, slow, consensus-building required to make infinitesimal progress on what are obvious decisions in side of my head. And it’s why I can never run for public office.

And I know that for every leader with whom this post resonates I will producer others who are affronted.

It’s subjective.

If you’re one of the ones with me just have the confidence to stick to your guns.

——- 00 ——-

To say the least, it’s frozen food for thought.

——————————————————————————–

We roamed, we boys from High School, / With mankind. / While Springfield gleamed, / Silk-lined.”Vachel Lindsay, from “Bryan, Bryan, Bryan: The Campaign of 1996, As Viewed At the Time by a 16-Year-Old.” (1920)

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

33 Responses to “WITH 88% OR SO OF THE ELECTORATE NOT BOTHERING, AT WHAT POINT DOES THE WORD ‘DEMOCRACY’ BECOME A SHAM? … HAVE WE REACHED THAT POINT?”

  1. tito
    September 26, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Au contraire mon frere.Ward Three had one of the most fearsome debates ever seen. One candidate actually said we’ve covered everything,then had brain freeze. Another said that we’ve become like the red -headed stepchild no one wants to talk to. The leading vote-getter was scratching his beard in amazement, I’m sure. Although candidate Wells wasn’t given the respect at the polls, he held his own during this unbelievable exchange for the Big Chair. Certainly you can’t expect these big shoes to be filled overnight, but it was very clear these candidates brought their A game to this tussle. Ward three voters should be proud as they have another legitimate group of candidates.

  2. william shaw
    September 26, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    …I remember saying the same about Melissa Mazzeo.

  3. Thomas More
    September 26, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    It’s Lisa Tully

  4. jlo
    September 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Dan – It is a sad day when so few choose to participate. As Winston Churchill put it; “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others that have been invented.”
    The question that is begged from your post is, what alternative would be better?

    • dusty
      September 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      It is a sad day that no one in ward five chose to run against you.

      It is not that big a conundrum that Pittsfield voters do not mob the polls. They say to get educated on where your candidate stands on the issues. But if the candidate stands up there and lies through his or her teeth you may not know it. Some politicians are actually (hard to believe I know) pretty good bullshitters. It is a big roll of the dice in Pittsfield and with the low odds of picking someone who cares about the taxpayers, many choose to save their gas and stay home.

      • Dave
        September 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

        Watched jlo(LOLOLOLO) on a replay of “Consider This”.
        I saw about 2 minutes. They were discussing the important subject of brewing beer I think. I’m only guessing that the guest will be applying for some sort of tax break when the overlay district gets the new uses that are being sought. I didn’t see the whole lead up to the comment so I don’t know the exact context, but when JLOW said to the guest, “I know what you meant by…………..(something about the difference in the glass used in different beer bottles) but can you explain it for the rest of the audience” he once again reinstated the problem with Pittsfield politics. Get elected-humble, man of the people— 2nd election- I have listened to the people(the few select I have actually talked to) and have voted in support of them.–3rd election- I know what you want, no need to tell me—4th election -”What me worry”(Alfred E Neumann)

        • danvalenti
          September 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

          DAVE & TITO
          Now if only Alfred E. Neumann would run …

    • danvalenti
      September 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      JLO
      The old TV show “The Defenders” started out: “Democracy is a very bad form of government, but all the others are so much worse.” What would work better? A benevolent dictatorship.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    September 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Not to burst your bubble, but the form of government we have isn’t a democracy it is a Republic. Might not be for much longer, doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of interest in keeping it that way. You make not voting a Pittsfield problem more than a problem the entire country is facing. September 24, 1874 the soldiers monument at Park Square was dedicated 25,000 people came out to witness the event. Last Saturday it was re dedicated, at the most you probably had 30 people show up, most of them office holders or office seekers smiling for the camera. Test any kid or adult for that matter and show them a picture of Nancy Pelosi and Miley Cyrus and ask them who Elizabeth Warren is and watch their eyes when they start wondering if you have been hitting the chardonnay more often than Duval Patrick on a hot summer night. An informed electorate is dangerous to the GOB’s but from all accounts , they should be able to go on for awhile longer. We get the government we deserve , until we can stop doing what we are doing now.

    • danvalenti
      September 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      RK
      THE PLANET is fully aware of this difference, and since we’ve made the distinction many time, judged that we didn’t have to again. You are only partially correct, however. It’s true that we have a republic, but it’s also true that a republic is just one form of a democracy. In fact, a democracy can be defined as any form of government other than a monarchy. Even the totalitarian governments of the past have had nominal legislatures. The points you make about apathy are well taken. In a recent poll of 10th graders, only 2% of kids could name the vice president. Almost none of them could spell it correctly. They all knew Lady Gaga and could some could even spell it correctly.

  6. Scott Laugenour
    September 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Brazil, Australia, Ecuador, and possibly others require voting. Those whom I know or have met from those countries, whatever their particular political persuasion, defend this requirement. One may leave the ballot blank when they vote but one is required to cast a ballot or face a tax penalty.

    We impose a tax penalty, instead, on those who do not purchase a private health insurance policy. (Oh, don’t get me started on health care expense and inadequacy and the economically crippling effects of medical debt, and bankruptcies that the myriad of insurance plans don’t provide much protection against …)

    True, Ron, except for local governments that are run by open town meeting we are a Republic, but we use democratic mechanisms to choose most of our executive and legislative officials.

    • danvalenti
      September 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      SCOTT
      I would favor this as well. As a responsibility, it’s not onerous. Hit the slackers in the wallet. Add NOTA to the ballot. Do this, and now you’re talking.

      • Scott Laugenour
        September 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

        NOTA (None of the above) is a choice that is required per the by-laws of the Green Party (national) and in the Green-Rainbow Party (MA). It is a ballot choice that I have checked on occasion in internal party elections. I have also cast blank ballots in state and town elections where NOTA is not a choice. Same message theoretically, but it would be meaningful if it were an official result.

        Recommended fabulous read: Jose Saramago’s “Seeing.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seeing_(novel)

  7. tito
    September 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    @Dave, funny stuff. Question, why would you watch Insidious This? Let alone a replay. A couple of Raconteurs if you ask me, that’s French for Bullshitter. Wine tasters?

  8. tito
    September 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Famous LOW quotes… Where can you get your garbage picked up for free. If we don’t accept the Grant, someone else will grab it. We’re still one of the lowest tax cities in the state. Pay now or pay later.In the grand scheme of things our water and sewer is very inexpensive compared to other cities in the Commonwealth. If you think we’re taxed out now, wait until LOW gets his Presidency (by default, no one has the balls to run against him) any and all tax increases will be automatic with this guy.

    • Dave
      September 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      Tito,

      I hope he does get elected Council President. I am tired of being reminded how much smarter he is than us common folk.

      • danvalenti
        September 26, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

        THE PLANET has a “next council president” story coming up in the next several days.

  9. JUST SAYING
    September 26, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    DV- I don’t like the multiple day idea. The 50% idea is good. We could eliminate a lot of public payed jobs that provide little/no benefit to the tax slaves.
    None of the above is a valid choice I guess.

    RK- completely correct. Even in pittsfield, Represenatives are elected to make decisions for the populace. The citizens do not vote on every issue.
    You know those mobs that protest and say “this is what democracy looks like’? Their correct, democracy looks like a mob of morons with no direction.

    • danvalenti
      September 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      JUST
      Of the three ideas I offered, I like the 50% solution best and NOTA next.

  10. joetaxpayer
    September 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    30 years of voting in this City, ready to throw in the towel. Every time with hope and enthusiasm,I have headed to the polls. Only to see the same sad $hit happen. Tax and spend, no forward thinkers, who have the balls & brains to come up with savings for the people.

    • Dave
      September 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      That is the problem, if you throw in the towel, that is one less voter to contend with. For you it took 30 years, for how many was it 29,28,27……….. If you give in you become part of the problem, I don’t think someone who uses joetaxpayer is ready to give up. I have felt the same way, but as long as I vote, I feel I have the right to complain or agree with what is happening.

      • raider50
        September 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

        Dave, You seem to be “cruising” right along today. We missed your wit and wisdom last week. Raiders will be 2-2 after RGIII goes down.

      • joetaxpayer
        September 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

        Dave, you are right, I cannot give up so easily. The right to vote is far more important than my own personal displeasure with the Pittsfield City council and Mayor. My first vote goes to Dan Valenti for Mayor!

        • danvalenti
          September 26, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

          JOE
          Thanks. Write me in. The best is yet to come.

  11. tito
    September 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    The only Councilor who actually would try to cut taxes was the Greek Adonis God of the Sun,Moon and Earth.The problem was, most of the time it was the Great Greek God against the ten of them. The productivity theme by the Aged Greek God was so much harder than just raising taxes, which is THE problem. Bianchi was to be for the Kapanski Family and looked how that turned out. It is just too easy, way too easy to raise taxes. Why take the road less traveled when you’re a politician, it’s free money!

  12. Nota
    September 26, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    @raiders, who is the president of the raiders?

  13. JUST SAYING
    September 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    DV- off topic, where did larry on 1420 go to? Station is much better now.

    • skier1
      September 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Radio station bought out. Heard 1) Larry retired 2) fired. Could be more changes coming.

      • Magic
        September 27, 2013 at 4:11 am #

        Larry retired

    • danvalenti
      September 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      JUST
      I hadn’t realized that he was off the air. I don’t listen, needless to say.

  14. C. Trzcinka
    September 26, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    While we can ignore government, it will not ignore us. Pittsfield voters need to re-learn this lesson and it will probably be the hard way.

  15. Nota
    September 27, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    What in the hell is Brian Holloway rambling about?

  16. JUST SAYING
    September 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    @skier1- what other changes have you heard about? Thanks.