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November 11, 2009 > Editorial: The power of one

Editorial: The power of one

In recent memory there have been several stark reminders in world affairs and politics that although "one is the loneliest number," it also has great power to shape the present and future. As a beginning for its brethren, two, three, four, etc., "one" can lead to highly significant change. Three Dog Night, The Beatles and other prominent vocal artists made a 1967 Harry Nilsson hit song - "One" - well known to popular music enthusiasts. The lyrics are aimed at the heartbreak of a soured relationship; the same can be said of the recent Measure L election results in Newark.

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one

"No" is the saddest experience you'll ever know
Yes, it's the saddest experience you'll ever know
'Cause one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
One is the loneliest number, whoa, worse than two

At this moment, unofficial results show 10 votes separate the economic boost of a utility tax from significant - some categorize 'disastrous' - consequences of current and projected budget shortfalls. At last count, of 18,551 registered voters in the city, only 4,718 votes were cast to decide the fate of Measure L. It appears that 75 percent of the voters were too busy or uninterested to be bothered. These citizens and those motivated to vote "no" may also be among the loudest voices decrying service cuts by the City of Newark. It is interesting that of four Alameda County ballot tax requests in the same election only the citizens of Newark denied their support. Adding to the mix and a bit of contradiction given the innuendo by opponents... by a wide margin, incumbents were returned to office, all of whom supported the tax.

A recount of votes is in progress since the difference represents an extremely small percentage of votes cast. If the result stands, it is a clear reminder that when the public is apathetic or confused and others are motivated, the power of one is heightened. Those who are given the opportunity but refuse to engage in the political process must bend to the will of an active minority. There is no refuge in criticism, complaint or opposition for such non-voters.

The City of Newark will survive with or without this tax. The question to be answered is how and in what form this will be accomplished with significantly reduced funding. If successful, opponents to this tax who have made claims of large reserves and wasteful spending should be asked to provide proof of this when cuts are announced. It should be just as difficult for those who claim a righteous path of reform to hide from the consequences of their actions as others performing their community responsibilities in government. Both carry the burden of results. In this case, a small segment of Newark citizenry will be held accountable for its actions. Were they factual and honest? Time will provide the answer.

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