Time for Preferential Voting

An election controversy concerning the viable candidacy for mayor of Washington State Senator Ed Murray appeared today in the Strange Bedfellows blog of the almost defunct Seattle Post Intelligencer.

This news controversy reflects a clear demonstration of why preferential voting, or instant runoff voting should be implemented instead of relying on primaries, an outmoded and expensive voting process. Primaries, with their low turnout, allow small groups of voters and corporate interests to control the debate. They may have been democratic in the past but with their present restrictions, are not longer so. I have no idea whether the present mayor of Seattle would have won had we preferential voting, but I feel my own political voice was unheard in this ballot.

I have been extremely disappointed with and frustrated by Greg Nickels, the losing incumbent. His high handed dismissal of the staff of the city’s Arts Commission and  subsequent reorganization of the city’s cultural administration alienated many of us in the arts community early in his tenure. His cultivation of tinseltown types and patronizing corporate commerce in our city center (instead of indigenous retail) alienated true potential allies. On the other hand, the namesake tent city notwithstanding, Nickels’ advocacy for social services, especially housing and support for homeless persons with mental illness is strong and admirable. Such advocacy links him to his political ally, Ron Sims, my favorite politician who has gone to DC and now works for HUD. To further frustration, Nickels’s confrontations with the city council and neighborhoods reflect a heavy handed leadership which fails to inspire much needed progressive utopian vision, instead causing reactionary power struggles. The attacks on feminist city council members by his political functionaries further alienated a likely constituency.

I voted for Greg Nickels and would have financially supported this third campaign since the alternatives are so dismal. The primary resulted in two candidates, neither of whom have worked for the government. Why do they not care about public service? Why did they never even try? I felt the complaints of the mayor’s handling of transportation difficulties during the snowstorm last winter were proxies for aggravation with his refusal to acknowledge our difficulties with him, to see the big picture. Add the frustration of disenfranchisement many of us feel about the 99 corridor choices, the monorail battle and our vision of a green city with pedestrian and mass transit movement, and we can be very angry with Greg Nickels. Seattle deserves better leadership because each of us articulates every day the values of the city we want to live in. A preferred model is another city with trade, food, ceramics (cf. glass in Seattle) and information technology: Bologna, Italy. Bologna is called “la rossa” for its terracotta colored buildings and its politics. It’s time for Seattle to add socialist to its name.

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