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The Dream Team and more…

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-05-20


The Dream Team?

First, kudos to Mayor Tom Henry for appointing two hardworking, savvy and dedicated public servants to key positions in his administration. Greg Leatherman has already taken over from John Urbahns at Community Development, while Justin Brugger will soon take over for Mr. Leatherman as the director of the Redevelopment Commission. Both are key positions in an administration that is unusually flush with Legacy cash and with ideas for the transformation, as they call it, of Fort Wayne. In fact, they will form a political ménage a quatre with Urbahns and former deputy mayor Mark Becker who are now the principle players at Greater Fort Wayne, Inc, that recent consolidation of all groups economic, including the former Chamber of Commerce. You might also note that the former number two at GFW Inc., Karl Bandemer, is now the number two at the city, replacing Becker. You could call it incestuous, in-bred or an alignment of the stars. All are remarkable able men who deeply care about the community, and in that regard Tom Henry has built what is really his team, so we should expect to see great things in the coming months…or we know where to point the finger.

Primary Time

I cast my primary vote almost a month ago. It was nearly effortless. I have chatted through with my European friends how they go to vote here. To the chagrin of my Democratic friends everyone shows a picture ID. No exceptions. But, everyone is registered is a resident of a certain address whenever they move. Europeans, for the most part, do not move as often as Americans and do not have the overarching concern for privacy as do Americans. Having worked polling places for years it is easier to process a voter through the paperwork with an ID, photo or not. Certainly, there should be an effort to help the elderly or infirm obtain a photo ID, but that should fall first to the person, then to the family and lastly to the community.

The Two Party System

It is interesting to compare our system to those of the various European countries. Many have more direct elections than do we in the States, while some have elaborately convoluted systems in order to prevent the consolidation of power in any one party, such as the Nazis. As DeGaulle once lamented, France has more parties than cheeses. In the states we vote for presidential electors, and our winner-take-all presidential systems mean that all electoral votes in Indiana go to the candidate who won 50% plus-one of the vote statewide. Our vote is not proportioned. This is reflected around most of the nation: Remember, Al Gore won more popular votes than George Bush II, but Dubya, who won Florida by a hair…or a chad, took all of her electoral votes, not just a share, and thus the election. Only a few states proportion their electors to reflect the public will.

The Exclusive Gridlock Clubs

The Democrats and Republicans have built a system that is pretty chummy. Over the years they have created so many safe districts around the country through creative redistricting that the same legislators are virtually assured reelection regardless of their failings in office. It is reminiscent of the English House of Lords where offices are life investitures. And, it is a part of reason why we have gridlock in Washington.

You see, the other ingredient in gridlock is our primary system. It gives greatest power to the extreme wings of both parties, rather than their moderates, thus presenting candidates who promise conquest over cooperation. The Republican right and the Democrat left are the vocal, activist bases of their parties and they are the ones who scurry out to vote each May meaning in the fall we have general election contests between extremists. Incumbents need not debate opponents, their seats are safe. They can use special interest money to smear the opponent via the media without ever leaving the safety of the mental bunkers.

Oh, and you pay for this gridlock. The primaries are really intra-party elections that happen to occur on the same day, and on your dime. The Republicans hold their internal election, the Democrats hold their internal election, but you pay for the machines, the workers, hall rental, printed materials, training, and the supplies the two parties use to pick their nominees for the fall general election. Now, if other parties were nurtured into the process it wouldn’t be such a rip-off, but the Demos and Repubs have written nearly insurmountable laws designed to keep third parties, their competitors, off your fall ballot. Our two parties have build, brick by brick, a chummy system that promotes life-time positions, creates safe districts, cuts out the competition and creates gridlock.

Plus, the reduction of neighborhood voting places further reduces the number of people participating in elections thus increasing the power of the implacable wings of their parties. If you want to know why there is gridlock in Washington examine the system set up by parties. They value their hold on power more than the welfare of the country or the county. They don’t mind the we-they of gridlock, rather they prefer it to the concept of sharing, collaboration and cooperation.

The parties fight change, fear change, fear sharing power. Gridlock is so much easier.

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