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Update on progress and my Speech before the Charter Review Commission

My campaign for school board has made some progress. I now have 23 of the 75 signatures I want, and feel confident that we will reach 30 by the end of the week…maybe even 40. In other news, we in the Charter Review Commission met May 1st, 2017 at 5pm, and will meet again on May 15th and May 22nd, both at 5pm at the Newark City Building in the Council Chambers. We didn’t decide anything this time around, but I did give the following speech in support of nonpartisan elections:

We live in an era of hyper-partisanship, and there is little indication that the gridlock we’ve seen will subside. This evening we have before us a grand opportunity to set things right as the perennial conflict between the parties has no business meddling with the affairs of a body responsible for guaranteeing paved streets, staffed safety forces, and regular park maintenance. Why must we permit the self-perpetuating two party system to lock out all other voices which don’t subscribe to this false political dichotomy? Is this representative democracy or is it the perversion thereof?

Under the present partisan makeup, a first time candidate has to wait for an open seat if they have any hope at pursuing an elective position successfully. This is because primary elections are typically frowned upon and “towing the party line” is expected of anyone entering their first foray into the arena. If you dare defy the status quo you will be met with fierce opposition from the leadership of your respective party and if you are a candidate of modest means you might as well call it a day while you’re ahead if you are a rebel of this caliber. Is it healthy for us to have a system where questioning the established order is rendered next to impossible?

Why is it okay for a candidate to be grilled by party leadership for publicly advocating a position which is contrary to others on a partisan ticket? Would it not be better for our representative democracy for each candidate to make an independent appeal to their prospective constituency separate from an association with any party? Would it not be better for the people if their officeholders and candidates didn’t take any marching orders from a political party? Are candidates somehow incapable of formulating political positions without the guidance of a party? Are the people unable to discern for themselves which candidate is best without seeing a political identifier?

Better yet, it must be asked whether or not a system which fosters division among imaginary lines is sustainable when the ability to work together for the common good is hindered by fealty to affiliation and the pursuit of electoral victory for one side over the other. It is my belief that a nonpartisan election design will do more to facilitate an atmosphere of cooperation and can potentially serve to liberate our candidates, officeholders and the people from the clutches of adversarial politics. Upon the founding of this great nation, our Founding Fathers conceived a union wherein compromise was customary in order to adequately represent the will of the people. One of the Constitution’s chief authors, James Madison wrote the following in Federalist #10: “…the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens”.

Before closing my plea for action let me first offer the words of our first president, George Washington whom offered the following caveat: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

Newark is but one city in a sea of communities in this great land of ours. While we alone can not end the scourge of partisanship and its crippling effects on our political system or our political discourse, we can take a stand to be part of the solution and a leader for continued change. If there is a collectively beneficial reason why we ought to maintain the grip of the two-party system irrespective of those with no association in either camp, then let us hear it now and dispense with considering this proposal forevermore. However, if you – like me – feel that this design has failed us and will continue to fail our children then the time to act on adopting an all-inclusive nonpartisan structure is now. Thank you.

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