Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vote, just vote

This posting was first published in the Standard-Times Thursday, Sept. 27, and is reprinted with their kind permission.

November has the potential to be a low turnout election with no Presidential or Congressional to vote against, and in reality, more voters get off their duffs to turn out to vote "agin" than "for" anything.

I remember my grandfather telling me how he liked the old Texas ballot where one marked through the rascals one was voting against rather than politely checking off the right fellow. It just seemed to be more fun.

The Legislature has given us little in the way of meat and potatoes to attract voters on state Constitutional Amendments, so the driver in this election is going to be the City Charter Amendment package.

It is going to look like a lot of items; state law requires each topic to be sequestered, but the bulk of this is overdue housekeeping. Of the 29 items on ballot, I count 20 as updates that change nothing about the way we actually do business, they only update Charter language to comply with existing law.

Duplicative bodies will be abolished and Charter provisions will be updated to comply with state law and so forth.

I got a surprising nomination to the Charter Review Committee, and I tell you, this was not some "ol' boy network" hangover. I know I got chewed on by my appointing Council member, but I was there, and promise you that each of us used our individual judgement on every issue.

The San Angelo City Council took our recommendations, amended some, dropped one and put in another. At the end of the day, our members agreed to form an SPAC in support of that which is on the ballot. {Note here that was not in the article: I have since heard that former Mayor Dick Funk has declined to be an SPAC member. My apologies in advance if I mis-state his position, but it seems he actively supports the package, he just does not choose to join PACs}

We want to hear from the voters. Texas makes it absurdly easy to vote- by mail absentee voting, two weeks of early voting, including five hours one Sunday, and under a unique provision of Texas Election code, if you are an astronaut detained on the space station that day, you STILL get to vote!

Speaking of voting rights, the single most controversial item on the ballot will be the question of elected/appointed Police Chief. Our committee took this up reluctantly, but we were given a petition signed by a majority of serving officers, and we heard not a single dissenting voice from the Dept., including current candidates for the office.

When we last saw this issue about two and a half years ago, I voted against it. It had been used as a parliamentary block against other Charter Amendments, (by state law, cities must separate Charter Amendments by at least two years) it was never supported by the people who put it on the ballot, and it never received a fair hearing.

This time, the appointive process has been spelled out, the entire Department is asking us for it, and I have to support it. Just imagine if your workplace elected the boss. Can you see a potential conflict of interest?

By the same logic used by the keep-our-right-to-vote side, the same voters who just elected a hypothetically defective City Council- which must approve any appointed Chief- are better informed to choose a Police Chief for a four year term than the Council members they just elected for staggered two year terms and are therefore never more than one year from our chance to turn at least half the rascals out.

I promise you, the hot breath of the electorate is more urgently felt down the back of Council's neck than that of a four year Chief. Do I hear a "DUH!" in the background?

Agree or disagree, it won't matter if you don't get out and vote. If I hear you beef and moan on Nov. 7, and you admit you failed to actually vote, I will hoot and howl and point out to anyone in earshot that you are a lazy hypocrite. Please, this is a really important vote. Take a few minutes and help make a difference, it's our future on the ballot.

If you care to help, CASA, Charter Amendments for San Angelo, will accept donations of time or money at P.O. Box 5002, 76902. For more info, (325) 234-0436 or (325) 340-7685.

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