Ward system beneficial for students
This letter is in response to the article titled "Democracy, choice, second ballot offers that," which ran in The Daily Targum on Sept. 11, 2009, in which the author alleges that Empower Our Neighborhoods is acting undemocratically by taking legal action against the city government's illegal petition for an expanded at-large council.
Perhaps the author is not aware of last year's legal proceedings, in which the city government successfully stalled a petition by EON until after ballots were printed. But as a member of Unite New Brunswick the author was most likely aware of the city government's lawsuit that stopped EON's satisfactory petition last November when she wrote her article. Yet in her article, she accuses EON of "handcuffing" voters because of EON's efforts to stop this second petition authorized by the city government.
How can the writer accuse EON of this when the organization she works for — the city government — tried to silence EON's original question about changing the nature of city council elections only last year?
I can answer this question for us very easily. UNB, the group the author is a member of, is a front for the city government, comprised almost entirely of people with a personal stake in the current structure of New Brunswick's government. They will do what they are told to do by the city to preserve the existing power structure.
EON is a grassroots group of New Brunswick community members who have come together on their own to build neighborhood democracy. EON believes that a ward based city council gives power back to the neighborhoods — also known as wards — rather than New Brunswick's ruling elite, who frequently use their positions for financial and political gain.
For the majority of the people in New Brunswick, who lack political power and financial capability, this change would give us access to the decision making process, which the current electoral system does not provide. The current at-large system does not hold government officials accountable to the needs of most people; the at-large system benefits the people who have the most money. People who have insufficient funds cannot run at large and win. With a ward-based government, the person who seeks to get out and get to know their neighbors personally and the needs of their neighbors and who offers solutions to their neighbors' problems is most likely to get elected regardless of how much money they have in the bank. This is how the people's voice is heard!
Students should know that if they are tired of endless parking tickets, getting basement shows or parties shut down and money sucking landlords, the current system of government will not respond to their pleas. They don't care. They like making money off your tickets, your rent and, let us not forget, your business. But if we had a ward-based government, the students — who make up nearly a quarter of New Brunswick's population — will have their own city council representative to speak on their behalf.
The author's accusations that EON is suppressing the people's choice is nonsense, because if EON had not originally petitioned the government last year for the ward question and had EON not fought tirelessly all year in court to give the people the ability to vote yes or no for wards, the people would have no choices this November at all!
This second question that the author, as a member of UNB, has petitioned for is merely a crafty tactic authorized by the existing government to distract voters this November. Their proposed second question would not change the existing at-large system but would simply add two more at-large seats.
The law is very clear: There can be only one change of government question pending at a time. No matter what the city government thinks about that law, it is the legitimate product of a democratic process and it must be abided. For the city government to assert that EON is being undemocratic by following the law is appalling, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
Michael Mishkovsky is a Rutgers College alumnus, Class of 2009. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism and media studies, political science and history. He was a resident assistant, academic community programmer and peer minister.