Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Erosion of democracy

I believe I'm seeing the erosion of democracy, both on a national level and locally.
Nationally, I'm concerned that President Bush is bypassing our established legal system to create military tribunals for the proclaimed prisoners of war presently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I think everyone agrees that we should review the actions of the captured prisoners. But for our president to claim special powers that allow him to step aside from our established and honored judicial process smacks of something that would be done by King George III. It was partially because of the abuses by King George that the colonies broke off from England so many years ago.
In our democracy we have the separation of powers. The president is not above the law, nor is he allowed to make his own laws.
Locally, I see a parallel in attempts to bypass the democratic process.
Time and again, our town council has ignored not only the wishes of the majority of voters, but also the rules spelled out in ordinance and state statute.
Andy Upham and Gary Foster chose to walk away from the (non-binding) referendum vote to move the library to Pennell. This was an action that flies in the face of our democratic expectation that elected officials will follow the will of the people.
Recently, the town council has found fault with the Planning Board for requiring subdivision builders to install cisterns for subdivisions. As I noted in a previous posting, the Planning Board is only allowed to make requirements as spelled out in local ordinance . . . and our ordinances allow the actions by the Planning Board. But that was essentially ignored by the council. This also smacks of a violation of our democratic process, and indeed gives the appearance of favoring the friends of town council members.
During the signature drive for the petition to recall Town Council Vice Chair Andy Upham, petitioners were told they could not collect signatures inside the library. The given reason was that political literature is not allowed inside town buildings. Once again, this flies in the face of our democratic process. The specific prohibition against campaign literature is an established council policy . . . under the heading of personnel policies.
To use a rule meant for town employees against our citizens is highly irregular, and has the appearance of royal edict.
Both our president and our present town council are well-meaning. But ignoring our democratic process under the guise of "doing what's right for our citizens" does not mean well for our future.
Nathan Tsukroff