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Saturday 23 September 2017
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Straight No Chaser: Restoring Fairness to the Local Democratic Process

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Op/Ed By Gloria Winston

 

gloria newPeople who support fairness, and those who are tired of the racism and bigotry we are faced with when it comes to local politics might agree with what I am proposing this week.

Many community leaders recently have more than stated and identified the problem.

Now, it is time to do something about the unfairness that seems to exist within the Monroe County Democratic Committee.

I don’t have a copy of the committee’s bylaws, and I am unaware of how to amend the unfair rules as it relates to legislative-district committee membership. I would need the help of a parliamentarian for that.

However, clearly, to have members on record who do not live in city legislative districts and then to try to justify allowing them to vote in city elections by claiming residency in the Assembly District is nothing more than a way to disenfranchise and discourage participation from those who live in city districts.

The committee should be encouraging city residents who have taken an interest in the political process to get involved, instead of making it easy for those who merely seek power over the masses.

The shot callers need to find a new game to play, and get out of the way of fairness.

What I would like to  propose this week is the creation of a city Democratic committee.

MCDC would remain in place, but it would only have oversight for county elections.

The city’s Democratic committee would instead have oversight for city elections.

The legislative districts that would participate in designating candidates would be those within the confines of the city’s boundaries.

The city’s Democratic Party would choose its own chairperson, from within the ranks of city Democrats.

As a result, no one living outside of the city would qualify.

Both the county and city committees could very easily share office space and resources; however their focuses would be dictated by geography, as opposed to personality.

The county and city Democratic committees could also hold their conventions at the same time, and the same places, as well.

We have a total of 29 legislative districts in Monroe County.

Out of the 29 districts that represent the county, only districts 21 (Mark S. Nmuiom, D), 22, (Vincent R. Felder, D) 23 (James Sheppard, D), 24 (Joshua Bauroth, D),  25 (John Lightfoot, D), 26 (Tony Micciche, D),  27 (LaShay Harris, D), 28 (Cynthia Kaleh, D) and 29 (Ernest S. Flagler-Mitchell, D), would have process oversight, within my proposed city Democratic committee.

However, the district lines in 24 and 26 would have to be redrawn, so those legislators were only representing the city, and not towns within the county.

In my proposal, districts one through 20 would remain within the county’s democratic committee lines.

District 14, in Brighton, and District 17, in Irondequoit, are the only two represented by Democrats anyway.

The majority of the county’s committees are Republican.

And city residents do not typically participate in the selection of  candidates outside of the city, with one exception.

That exception is District 7, which is split between Greece and Rochester, and, therefore, may present a minor conflict.

Those district lines may possibly need to be redrawn.

However, nothing about the process would change, in terms of how committee members are being elected, and how district leaders are being selected.

The important prerequisite for either committee would be that each committee’s’ members and leaders must live in the legislative districts in which they vote to designate candidates, with no exceptions. 

Each committee’s calendar and annual events would remain the same; however the leadership of the two entities would be more reflective of the constituents they were serving.

I think this would be a great way to regain constituents’ trust, and negate some of the shut-out feelings many in my community have expressed lately.

I also propose that paid staff begin to educate constituents on the process.

This should be a key focus for county committees.

Those individuals who have the information no longer seem to be willing to share it outside of their closed, divisive circles.

And, most people don’t know or understand the difference between a city council person, and a Monroe County legislator.

Some are clueless when it comes to what school board commissioners are supposed to do besides show up at meetings.

In addition, the influence of standing committees on each body of legislative offices is not common knowledge to the average resident.

Therefore, the withholding of this information is, from where I sit, intentional, and not community-oriented.

Yet, because civics, and the teaching of such is no longer a consideration in the Rochester City School District, it’s important to teach the community how the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government work together, specifically locally, county-wide, state wide, and on a federal level.

Most people fail to get involved because they do not understand how folks holding political offices can impact their lives on a daily basis.

When I worked with the late and former Monroe County Legislator Willie Lightfoot, in the 25th legislative district, we created an organization under SWAN called PERTO.

I got HISTORY, and we made a difference in our HOOD!!!

That acronym stood for Political Education Registration Training Organization.

And, we did not attempt to disenfranchise community members. Our goal was to enlighten them, and to develop future leaders.

When I was a card-carrying member of the National Black Panther Party, my role in our local chapter was that of a Section Leader.

I taught Political Education and Civil Rights twice a week in our Joseph Ave. office.

We need to stop assuming our community knows why their involvement can, and will, make a difference.

The bottom line is, we need to seriously consider a CITY-run Democratic Party, and we need to EDUCATE our community. So the take-overs we are currently experiencing will cease and desist. Restoring fairness to the local Democratic process is imperative, because, it seems, fairness in the party may no longer exist.

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