When I came home last night and checked the election results online, I felt a wave of shock, immediately followed by disappointment. First, I couldn’t believe that Lynn Fazekas came in third place out of the three mayoral candidates with 953 votes, or 20% of the total. Secondly, I noticed that very few people voted at all: only 4,717 for mayor in a city of 43,714 (the population as of July 2007 according to City Data) and a major state university with an enrollment well over 20,000 students. Just watch our democracy flat-line…well almost.
During this campaign I attended two candidate forums, one at the Holmes Student Center and the other at the Egyptian Theater. While the other independent challenger for mayor, Paul “The Dome” Kallembach, distinguished himself with humor and spoke with a commanding voice, he simply failed to provide substantive policy ideas. At times, he sounded like someone who hadn’t done his homework, yet tried to answer questions as if he had. That’s why I find it disheartening that 1,192 people voted for him.
As for the turnout, well, my expectations weren’t particularly high because local elections that don’t feature major referendums never seem to generate high levels of interest. That said, you’d think the nation’s economic conditions would have reverberated more through local issues such as the city buying-up property for development. Clearly, the extremely low turnout (even lower than the mayoral race four years ago) suggests otherwise. What bothers me here is that people had a real viable independent alternative (Lynn Fazekas), but instead of exploring and seizing the opportunity, many chose to stay home.
The encouraging part of all this is the grassroots effort made by Lynn Fazekas and the volunteers on her campaign over the past several months. These people truly care about the future of this community – they care in a way the current leadership can neither identify with nor understand. Why? Some of them were citizen watchdogs long before the campaign began, and they will continue their efforts in the years to come. After all, if you really desire greater accountability in government, then people must speak out on a regular basis – not only around election time.