Sunday, April 10, 2011

FAILURE IN THE FIRST: Ward voters blow off election, wonder why powerless

Columbia's First Ward turns out a measly 15.7% to exercise basic freedom
COLUMBIA, 4/10/11  (Beat Byte) --  Though he trounced the competition 60% to 40%, newly-elected First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt should be extremely concerned.

Residents in his Ward, perennially powerless to move City Hall toward their many needs -- from lagging infrastructure to public safety -- barely voted in Tuesday's election, posting a measly 15.7% turnout, lower than Boone County's equally distressing 17.1% turnout and almost twice as low as Fifth Ward Columbia's 27% turnout. 

For Schmidt -- and every other First Ward resident, adult or child, homeowner or renter, registered voter or not -- the ultra-low voter turnout will doubtless mean their muted voices will persist in the halls of power.  Particularly in light of a strong candidate slate and timely, much-needed efforts by concerned citizens such as
Tyree Byndom and the Central Columbia Get Out the Vote Committee to engage voters, the First Ward's failure sends a loud message.   
By and large, We Don't Give a Damn! 
Shortly before the election, Byndom organized an event targeted at Black voters, who -- with former First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton -- endorsed candidate Mitch Richards. 

Yet Richards lost by a huge margin, picking up only 235 votes, or 23.5% of 1,017 votes cast.  His loss, Crayton's involvement, Byndom's push, and Black candidate Darrell Foster's presence in the race all raise another question.   
Where in the world were Black voters in the First Ward?  
As a white guy long fed up with Columbia's historically-devastating treatment of Black residents, this observer can only hang his head in hopeless confusion.  Black Columbia's long-running apathy -- while understandable as a tragic relic of the past -- must become for the future a powerful engagement
Byndom went into his voter engagement event agitated about the Black community's lack of political involvement, some of which he attributed to the many divisions in local Black politics.   Get Out the Vote organizer Glenn Cobbins has expressed similar concerns. 
Too bad they, too, were disrespected by the lack of turnout. 

Nearly 6,500 residents are registered to vote in the First Ward.   Black, White, or whatever their ethnic persuasion, shame on the over five thousand registered voters who didn't vote

The street you saved could have been your own. 

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