What Price Democracy?--Marina City Council election stirs debate.
Thursday, April 2, 1998
On April 14, the residents of Marina will have an opportunity to elect a city council member to replace the late Zaruk (Tak) Takali. The sudden loss of Tak late last year was a shock to the community of Marina. Tak was a man who cared deeply for his town, and was respected for fiscal scrutiny during the many years he served on the city council.
After Tak''s death, some in the community requested that a replacement be appointed to avoid the cost of an election. After some deliberation, the city council did make an attempt to make an appointment. Interested residents of the city were asked to file an application for the council to review. Nine residents applied, more than twice the number that had run for election just ten months previously.
As a member of the city council, I maintained that with more than 80 percent of the term remaining, an election was the correct manner to fill the vacancy. In agreeing to undertake the efforts of appointment, it was my hope that the city council would unanimously endorse someone to serve the more than three years left on the term. Without unanimous endorsement, I feared that animosity would result, and that such would undermine a true team effort by the council.
During the deliberations on an appointment, I announced that I had been contacted by many people in the community in support of the appointment of Ms. Charlene Gaytan. Charlene had been the closest runner-up when Tak was recently reelected. However, Charlene chose not to seek the appointment and instead publicly endorsed the appointment of Mr. Ken Nishi. Based upon my review of the applications, I indicated support for Mr. Nishi, and also Mr. Dan Cavazos, another recent council election candidate.
Much to my surprise, one council member announced in a public meeting that he would not vote in favor of the two applicants I supported or another, a Mr. Vierling. A full third of the applicants were eliminated from the possibility of unanimous appointment. Pleading to the council to remain open-minded and to consider the qualifications of the applicants, I was able to get an acknowledgment that Mr. Nishi was the most qualified applicant. Unfortunately, personal animosity and negativity still prevented these three individuals from being considered for unanimous appointment.
People in our society have differing viewpoints on issues. Some find it uncomfortable to work with those who differ in viewpoint or approach. Some put great effort into suppressing the voices they find distasteful. At this time in our society, the lesson of tolerance is vitally important, and as leaders, members of the city council must exemplify the value of tolerance. The condemnation of individuals as unfit to serve demonstrates neither leadership nor tolerance, and sends an unacceptable message to our citizens.
The residents of Marina must now vote in a special election for a representative of their choosing. Interestingly, not all nine of the applicants for appointment chose to run for election. Only two of those nine were willing to put the effort into the election process. Yet, a few vocal residents chastise the expense of an election as unnecessary.
Since the founding of our country, brave people have fought mighty battles, and many have sacrificed their lives for the right to vote. Should we now place a price upon that right? If it is too expensive, should we deprive the electorate of a voice? Does the cost justify turning our heads to intolerance and animosity? I THINK NOT.
The measurement of representation is not in dollars. Rather, it is determined by our values, and the protection of human rights and equality of opportunity. I have full confidence that the citizens of Marina will choose the right person on April 14.
Jim Perrine is Marina''s Mayor Pro Tem, and has served on the city council for eight years.