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August 10, 2010 > Editorial: An expensive party

Editorial: An expensive party

Several times a year, we citizens host an expensive party. Some featured performers at this event pay many thousands of dollars to gain our attention and litter the landscape, our mailboxes and airwaves with invitations to the soiree. Just about every citizen who has reached the age of majority is invited... and yet in some years, most of this fanfare is wasted. Imagine calling a caterer to serve thousands of people for a gathering and routinely, only a few hundred attend. In addition, many hosts don't bother to show up either! This practice borders on insanity. But not only do we continue to do this practice, we are told and understand that this party is essential to our way of life, affecting a good portion of our income. After all, taxes support public institutions and the elections to determine who administrates the funds.

Each city that participates in an election must notify its citizens and related public entities of its intentions. At a recent meeting of the Fremont City Council, it was noted that registered voters of that city number approximately 94,000 and the County Registrar of Voters estimated the county cost between $3.50 and $5.00 per voter, $400,000 - $500,000. Fremont's Operating Budget allocates $100,000 to cover the City's portion including printing, publication, translation and other miscellaneous costs. The exact expense is determined by how many other jurisdictions share in this election administered by Alameda County. A rate for participating entities in Alameda County for the November 4, 2008 election was $0.70 per registered voter but as yet, there is no estimate for November 2, 2010.

Voter turnout fluctuates with issues presented on the ballot. Unfortunately, many critical decisions are not governed by this cycle and can be decided by a small number of citizens. Looking at countywide statistics in the archives of the web site, www.smartvoter.org maintained by the League of Women Voters, November elections can draw from lower thirty percent to eighty percent or more in heavily contested elections. This year promises to feature high profile contests and should draw a heavy percentage of voters. It is a good opportunity for voters to express a majority opinion to politicians, not just the majority of a small minority. This is also an opportunity to focus on all offices rather than glitzy statewide contests. Although these statewide contests are important, many local election results will result in a more immediate and personal impact.

All eligible voters should plan to join the party this year and every year. We are all paying for the show so we might as well get our money's worth. With the increasing popularity of vote by mail, casting a vote no longer depends on distance, time or work schedules. As the political season heats up, information about candidates, their platforms and records of accomplishments will be made public through campaign literature, voter information booklets and the media. It is time to make your pledge to not only participate but do it wisely. Be a knowledgeable voter this year; strip the rhetoric and herd mentality from the process to make an informed decision. Local politicians should be conversant with a wide range of local issues since successful candidates will be asked to make a decisions in many disciplines, not just a pet peeve or project.

Many media outlets will interview candidates and release information that can be an important part of the election process. Some will even to presume to make decisions for voters, telling their readers how to vote. The assumption that all are unbiased is na•ve and apparent in some instances, but heavily veiled from true motives in others. How questions are presented and to whom is a primary consideration when weighing answers.

There are plenty of examples of how editing can manipulate perception. It is important to listen to the content of discussion rather than focus on whether a "D" or "R" or any other description identifies an affiliation. Too often, party bosses manipulate the public and party candidates as hopeful politicians wait for their turn to be anointed. The silly season of politics is about to begin as everyone returns from summer vacations to the political fall follies. Tri-City Voice will soon begin to discuss the issues and candidates of the November election. The time is fast approaching for voters to flex their civic muscles.

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