By Ruth Gadebusch
What does it take for people to realize that we share this community, this world?
“Those people over there” someplace are not in some foreign land. One cannot profit at the expense of the other. It is as simple as that.
I am deeply distressed by the divisions in the community. Most acutely expressed in the mayoral election of 2008 but reinforced in more recent elections is the near total blackout of Republican votes in the southern part of the area and likewise of Democrats in the northern section. Worse yet is that much of that red and blue division exists throughout the nation.
It is reflected in our voting. It is reflected in our economy. While it is often said that one forfeits the right to complain if s/he fails to vote, many don’t bother. They simply think that one vote does not make a difference. Yet we have had many recounts in recent elections because the vote was so close, as well as history tells us of vital matters decided by one vote.
One vote made English the language of this nation instead of German. One vote made Hitler the leader of the Nazi party. One vote in the Tennessee legislature ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the vote. All have made a profound difference in our society.
It matters. Why else is one political segment trying so hard to make voting difficult in so much of the nation? In a nation founded on the principle of power to all, why shouldn’t participation be easy? Of course, when the nation was formed “all” was not as inclusive as now. Yes, some will vote unthinking but the answer to that is more civic education.
In that mayoral race, the difference was in turnout. A far greater percentage of eligible voters turned out in the north end, therefore their decision prevailed. It goes back to that idea of vote to make a difference. It is more than a privilege. It is a right that matters not if you don’t use it. It is too late to have any input on candidates this year, but political activists would do well to concentrate on voter turnout.
Then there is that California phenomena of county islands in the heart of our city. Isn’t it time for unification? Residents are most assuredly affected by the actions of the city and yet their power is forfeited.
Currently, there is a power play that doesn’t even allow for the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to have a joint meeting! In emergencies, there is confusion of jurisdiction but we refuse to even seriously consider any merger of city police and the Sheriff’s office. We have numerous other entities of little-known function that could probably all be carried out by the Board of Supervisors or some other broader jurisdiction.
We have more than a thousand K-12 school districts in the state in addition to county offices of education. The community college system is supposed to feed the state college and university system, but all too often the systems lack coordination to best serve the needs of students. Then there is the UC system. Maybe their functions are different enough to require separate systems. On the other hand, there might be room for efficiencies, especially when all the other myriad of education agencies are put into the picture.
The process of setting up various election districts for representation of one particular ethnic group, or the preservation of one political party rule, or some other vested interest, hardly speaks to looking at the whole. Heaven forbid we should allocate districts by pure population within reasonable lines. Instead I find myself in a county island, on the edge of Assembly and State Senate districts, dominated by a political party far from my views and a Congressional district of a shape that only a jigsaw puzzle fan would think reasonable. Each reapportionment leaves us wondering to what district we will we be assigned.
Still, I vote hoping that in the long run we might not be such a divided nation, that we might have a broader vision of the whole, appreciation that my welfare is part of yours and vice versa.
Ruth Gadebusch, a community activist, is a veteran, a former member of the Fresno Unified School District and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.