I’m sure slates of candidates, both formal and informal, have been around since the second election ever held.
It seems though that in our local election they have risen in prominence this time around. This election we had two competing slate of candidates each with their own PAC – Newton Democracy and Voters for a Vibrant Newton.
I view it as somewhat disturbing phenomenon, Our elections in Newton are non-partisan, i.e. candidates don’t run as candidates for a political party. The rise of these formalized slates of candidates push us closer to what’s ailing our national politics. i.e. you’ve got a be on someone’s team and if you’re not on my team, you’re on my enemy’s team. These slates are more or less organized around development issues. The problems come once you move to other issues. If the ‘competing teams’ model for politics take root in local politics it tends to lead to the teams always having to pick the opposite side of each issue that comes up – something that’s plaguing our national politics in recent years.
This phenomenon seems to have risen to an absurd level with this week’s Newtonville Area Council election. The Area Council’s have virtually no legal authority of any kind. Their primary purposes are to be a communication conduit of village concerns and issues to the City government and to foster community cohesiveness (e.g Village Days, etc).
There are nine seats on each Area Council. This time around there were 14 people running for the nine seats in Newtonville. Rather than running as individuals they ran as two opposing slates of 8 and 6 candidates – the ‘Slate of Eight‘ and I’m not sure if the opposing group of 6 had a name. As it turned out, the Slate of Eight all got elected.
The problem here is that it almost guarantees that the Area Council will not be representing the views of all Newtonville residents no matter what slate got elected.
I really hope that doesn’t mean we’re heading down a path where if you’re supporting the Riverside development then that means you must be against expanded dog parks and for preservation of Webster Woods.
I’m not a big fan of our unwieldly 24 member City Council but one of its virtues is that it encourages ever changing coalitions as each different new issue arises. Calcifying our elected officials into two permanently competing teams, regardless of the issues before them, isn’t something I look forward to.