15 January 2010

The Disenfranchisement of Local Citizens

While viewing some of the on-line editorials of the local newspaper here, Corpus Christi Caller Times, I came across this editorial comments by a local citizen, a Mr. Johnson, titled “ Failed Resolutions”.

Failed resolutions

Here it is, just a few days into the new year, and already my resolutions are circling the toilet. No matter what I did to distract myself, I could not manage to fulfill these goals:

1. Be tolerant of an ineffective, unfocused and downright embarrassing Corpus Christi City Council.

2. Remain calm as Corpus Christi continues its slide ever farther down the slippery slope to nowhere.

3. Stop thinking that a little outburst of oligarchy might not be a bad thing if it helps the citizenry realize just how much power it actually has in the decision-making process.

4. Believe there is some traction in the GROW Corpus Christi movement — that is, believe it really does represent a movement.

5. Prepare for the next round of elections without thinking politics is no more than an end in itself — once the election is won or lost, actually doing something is either irrelevant or just so much icing on an otherwise tasteless cake.

6. Disbelieve that there are so many people who refuse to realize they are the true victims of bad governance.

So, all I can resolve is to be less petulant and more realistic. Darn, that’s not happening either.

J. Fred Johnson

There are some key themes in this editoral that are presumably echoed in other localities : 1) lack of citizen participation: 2) oligarchy of local politicians: 3) voting as a meaningless exercise to improve city governance: 4)quality of local decision-makers; and 5) boosterism groups which are have no effect in the direction of city change (in this GROW Corpus Christi). If I could travel back in time to the turn of the century, I would have seen these same themes presented, albeit in the language of that era. In these times city halls were controlled by powerful groups, the press controlled by local business, local politicians were responsive to special interests and boosterism was a puppet for self-interested local oligarchy. Sound familiar? The counter-balance to this situation was the Progressive Movement and to certain degree the Socialist Party presence at the local level (ie. Milwaukee). (Recently, the socialist mayor for Milwaukee, Frank Zeidler, died. An editorial by Roger Bybee, a Milwaukee writer and activist, documents Zeidler's accomplishments, but also chides the current local government for serving a few and ignoring the many. This editoriall can be found at http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/FrankZeidler/LastSocialistMayorInUS-FrankZeidlersRemarkableLegacy )

Where are the modern-day versions of Zeidler, Teddy Roosevelt, and Robert La Follette Sr.? The updated version of the Progressive Party could be found in the Green Party of America:
. Unfortunately, it is having very little effect on the local or national level.

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