My Turn: Welcome To Greenfield’s ‘lazy democracy’


Published: 10/18/2021 8:32:10 AM

In our “lazy democracy,” voters stay at home and mind their own business. They don’t question what their elected officials are doing, because mistakes may be frequent — but are always small. Your job as a voter is to support your government like a good little citizen. This Nov. 2, the lazy democracy wants you to follow your “leaders” on Question 1.

Here’s my lazy democracy reaction to statements by the Yes for Greenfield Committee on Question 1:

“Keeps a fair referendum process: all registered voters should have the right to sign a petition.” I am not sure how Question 1 changes this right, but it’s nice to know I have some rights even if I vote No.

“Protects the will of the voters: a small number of people shouldn’t stop democracy from working for everyone.” Our “leaders” are a “small number of people,” but I think we don’t need to fear the majority voters because in the lazy democracy folks who are apathetic don’t care if Yes on 1 is “stopping democracy.”

“Protects your tax dollars: more delays = more wasted money.” Where would you rather your dollars be spent? Voters know that elected officials are quite adept at wasting time and money. They don’t need any help in that regard.

“Why is the number of signatures changing? The Greenfield City Charter is reviewed every 10 years by a special committee.” All of these “special” people were appointed by the mayor and City Council president. Most of them were present or past city councilors. They defined a referendum as being a “third branch of government” that allowed people to “resist” government. In the lazy democracy there are too many other things to worry about than resisting government.

“How many times has the citizen referendum process been used? Since the Greenfield City Charter was enacted in 2003, the citizen referendum process has been used twice.” It doesn’t matter how many signatures you need to hold a referendum, because we hardly ever use it anyway. Make it “harder” to use and nobody will worry about referenda.

“Won’t [Question 1] make it harder for people to vote? Not at all! A Yes vote on Question 1 ensures that the citizen referendum process can continue to function the way it’s supposed to … not a delaying tactic to be used on every decision by a tiny minority.” I thought the Charter Review Committee and the City Council wanted to make it “harder.” Delaying tactic? The 2019 library referendum did not delay library construction. The library groundbreaking did not happen until 20 months after the referendum was over because there was no place to move the fire station. Still isn’t.

“Requiring 7% of registered voters’ signatures for a referendum ensures that enough Greenfield voters believe it is worth the risks of time and money to suspend our government.” How does getting 900 people to put a referendum on the ballot indicate it’s worth the effort? You have to get 3,000 people to vote for your referendum — not a tiny minority.

“In 2019, the City Council voted to approve spending for the new library, with support from the majority of Greenfield citizens.” Actually, the City Council passed the library by one vote. They got that one vote by making a “deal” to remove 166 acres from the French King Overlay District to convert a councilor who threatened to oppose the library. By one vote, library supporters came close to needing to put the library on a referendum. I wonder if they would have supported raising the threshold to 900 votes then? In the 2019 referendum, the library passed with only 28% of total registered voters; 72% of the lazy democracy either voted No or stayed home, as they should.

“The resulting delay to the library cost the City of Greenfield up to $3 million dollars in extra expenses for the fire station.” The millions of wasted dollars spent on a temporary fire station had nothing to do with the 2019 referendum.

“What’s the threshold for a referendum in other local cities? Other local cities have much higher thresholds for calling a referendum.” But Amherst, Amesbury, Longmeadow, Southbridge and Winthrop are all lower. Why are lower-threshold cities never mentioned?

Yes for Greenfield are the same faces as Charter Review and the same faces as City Council. They are the “insiders” who want to protect you from “tiny minorities.”

But maybe I’ll see you at the polls on Nov, 2 anyway.

Sean Thomas is a Greenfield resident.


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