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Published: Autumn 2008

Participating in Your Democracy

The National Election
For more than a year, our nation has seen heated presidential campaigns waged at rallies, at town hall meetings, in debates, in radio and television commercials, on talk shows, on comedy shows, on our telephones and in our mailboxes. An unprecedented number of new voters have registered and participated in early voting. It is difficult to believe that any qualified voter could remain indifferent and unmotivated, yet, in the end, many Americans did NOT take advantage of their privilege of voting to select the leaders of our nation.

New York Politics
In New York City, a referendum in 1993 instituted term limits for all elected offices. The majority of those who voted opted to forego the opportunity to retain good leaders in office in favor of ensuring that new talent would have its chance to serve. A second referendum in 1996 reaffirmed that the majority of those voting supported term limits, and specifically a limit of two consecutive four year terms.

As a result, in 2008, Mayor Bloomberg, Comptroller Thompson, Ombudsman Betsy Gottbaum, four of the five Borough Presidents and 36 of the 51 City Council Members were all completing their seventh year in office. On October 23, 2008, after many hours of hearings, the City Council passed legislation enabling these incumbents to run for a third consecutive term of office. Challenges have been registered in the courts claiming that this decision should have been made by the voting public.

DEMOCRACY AT HOME
Cooperatives and condominiums are self-governing communities where the shareholders and unit owners elect the Board that will set policy and oversee the running of their community for the ensuing year. What better or more direct opportunity for participation in the democratic process! Every shareholder and unit owner has the right and the responsibility to attend meetings, to ask questions, to speak their minds, to promote the best interests of their community, to take their turn serving on committees and on the board, and most basically, but perhaps most importantly, to be an informed voter in election of the board and in policy matters subjected to shareholder or unit owner decisions (amending documents, instituting new policies such as electrical submetering or transfer fees, etc.)

Far too often, shareholders and unit owners abdicate these important responsibilities. They don't attend meetings, where they could have spoken out in favor of new ideas or new leadership (or in support of the present leadership). Many people don't even vote in the annual election, despite the distribution of proxy forms which would make Ôabsentee' voting easy enough. And then these non-participants often complain about the way their community is run.

Participation is the best answer. Seek like minded neighbors and work with them to bring about the changes that are important to you. Voting is a privilege to be prized and to be exercised.

 

 

 
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