Better Voter Turnout Supports Democracy

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2009

I've never once said I was against the downsizing. But I have said that if downsizing is put to a vote, people ought to know in advance what their prospective district may look like. I do care about representation and I do think if re-districting is done willy-nilly, many folks will end up being marginalized. But it seems to me that apathy has become the new democracy. I really don't have a gauge to what the majority of people are thinking.

And yet, if we are to conclude anything from last week's low turnout, it might be that most people don't seem to care about downsizing, or other policy issues. A mere 20 percent of voters in my district turned out to vote for their county legislator. I'm honored to be able to represent my district, and I almost consider my victory to be huge in comparison to an even lower turnout in some other areas of our county. But for me, the real point is, low voter turnout is really bad for democracy. In my mind, everybody loses: people in the city, people in the suburbs, and people in the rural areas. We all lose out because whether you want to admit it or not, we are all included in this wonderful region of Western New York.

This weekend we learned that one home in the city will be getting an "extreme makeover." But we have to remember that if WNY is to be vibrant again, lots of homes need to be made over. As much as I feel good about this television show coming to Buffalo, and spotlighting us for a day or two, as your Legislator, I must say to myself, how can I help others get a makeover? How can I make it easier for people to buy a vacant home, fix it up and put it back on the tax rolls? That's what we need to do collectively and regionally.

Today, the Buffalo News ran an editorial that urges "a call to action." The sub-headline asks readers to contact their elected officials to do something about high taxes. The News provides readers with a two-page spread of where the State generates its revenues from. And yes, this may be good because it is information a lot of people need to see. Yet it's only a pittance of information people need to see if they are going to make an informed decision.

Really, the question is: what will Albany's response be to these phone calls from Western New York? If much more than 20 percent of Erie County responds, then I think we have something going for us. If not, I think it's time for us to wait until next week to see who'll be the next lucky family to get an extreme makeover. Our survival as a region depends on all of us. Stay tuned.