CONSERVATIVES LOVE VOTER APATHY
Memo to all you twentysomething non-voters: You may think politics sucks, but it was liberal politicians and their judges who gave you the freedom to take the birth-control pill last night, safeguarded your right to an abortion, set aside that park land you played Hackeysack in this weekend ["9 out of 10 Young Voters...Don't," WW, July 8, 1998].
By not voting, you leave the door open for well-organized groups that would take away those privileges. You leave the door open for the Christian Coalition to mobilize their members who will elect candidates that will take those rights away, and for pro-development candidates who would love to reverse the urban growth boundary and put condos up where park land now stands.
So don't think you are pissing off the repressive forces by wearing a nose ring, standing around Pioneer Courthouse Square, smoking cigarettes and wearing Tommy Hilfiger. The conservatives love it when you're apathetic. The best way to strike back is to beat them at their own game: That means, VOTE!!
"The herd instinct is based on the desire to be led, the desire to have someone else legislate life." (Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia)
I am one of the nine out of 10 who did not vote last year, this year or any other year, and if you chose to lump me carelessly as you did an entire populace of people into the 18-34-year-old category of "Gen-X" (a co-opted term meaning nothing in itself) then bravo, hats off to you ["9 out of 10 Young Voters...Don't," WW, July 8, 1998]. Let's see, according to your article, we have two kinds of people in our country or at least in the greater Portland area: the Gen-X crowd and the non-Gen-X crowd. It is so typical of your "publication" to use this sort of mechanical thinking, culminating in the ultimate simplification of reality into sets of binaries and dichotomies in order to make some feeble attempt to grasp the totality of the multifaceted flux of what it means to be a voter/citizen.
You chose words like "cynical" and "predictable" in your article to portray non-voters in a negative light (as all 18-34-year-old non-voters are). Well, if we want to talk of dichotomies for a moment, what should I choose to represent the voters (the opposite of myself, for the sake of simplistic argument, which is the basis of your article) who are "non-cynical"? Optimistic? I don't think so--that implies that cynics cannot be optimistic. Naive? No, they are certainly responsible for their unfortunate sheep-like behavior. Well, I'm sure whatever word I come up with you could use it to reinforce your view, because aren't all voters simply left with a basic binary choice (which is no choice) with which to "promote democracy" anyhow? The on/off flipping of switches/ballot boxes in this system you call "democracy" is absurd. Especially when you chose to use ageist assumptions about political belief. Because Molly Bordonaro is of my generation I should feel that she represents my beliefs? And if she does not, then her "opponent" or 1 (we can call her 0 for our little binary argument) will graciously represent all my hopes and dreams and get me that 50 cent pay increase at my job? Or is it that people like Bordonaro represent a perfectly constructed social apparatus to be used by the majority of voters (a minority of the population, for good reason), most of which you claim are middle age or older for the promotion of the state and their interests. The higher up the political food chain you get, the more homogenized and blurred the lines of difference become, ultimately resulting in a perverse situation where the 1s and 0s (Democrat/ Republican, liberal/conservative) have the same value and no longer represent a binary (what you call choice) but a monolith. And you wonder why people my age choose not to vote? Your article implies that senior citizens are getting more benefits because they are more conscientious voters, but could it be that these benefits come because the higher-ups on the political food chain are themselves senior citizens (or close)?
As someone who has grown up never seeing a woman or a person of color in the Oval Office, only seeing white men with gray hair (yes, I count Ronnie's dye job as gray hair) in suits, it was easy to become disillusioned with what it means to be a part of the political system and what you so easily call "democracy."
Northeast Hoyt Street
SAVE THE VOTERS' PAMPHLET
Your justification for making Don't Waste Oregon Council "Rogue of the Week" [WW, July 22, 1998] is way off the mark. As an active member of the Pacific Party, Oregon's Green Party, I feel that pointing out the potential loss of the Voters' Pamphlet is more important than the public employees unions losing the ability to collect dues through payroll deductions. In a political scene dominated by the Republicans and Democrats the Voters' Pamphlet allows other voices to participate. Over 22 percent of all Oregon voters are either nonaffiliated voters, i.e. registered independent, or else registered with a minor party. The loss of the Voters' Pamphlet would further the disenchantment of our political system for over one of every five voters in Oregon. I realize the point you were trying to make, but I feel you chose the wrong press release this time. As a public employee in a union-represented position I realize the potential damage to the unions if this measure passes, but it will never outweigh the damage to Oregon's political system if the Voters' Pamphlet becomes gutted by this measure. I can say nothing but thanks to Don't Waste Oregon Council for bringing up the ramifications of this measure.
Southeast 39th Avenue
GOLD-PLATED LIGHT RAIL?
In the July 15 issue of Willamette Week, a letter from R.J. Polani outlined an alternative to Tri-Met's north-south light rail route through downtown. He argued this alternative, using the Hawthorne Bridge and existing light rail track along 1st Avenue, would reduce the project's costs by $200 million to $300 million.
I assume Tom Walsh and other officials at Tri-Met read Willamette Week and I'm sure the paper would print a letter from them in response to Polani's assertions. But for the past two issues, I've scoured the letters pages and found no such rebuttal from Tri-Met or Metro. Surely they can't all be on vacation.
Maybe Tri-Met thinks a couple hundred million bucks is pocket change, but for most of us, it's real money. Commissioner Erik Sten recently said the $120 million the City of Portland is supposed to pony up for the north-south line should be better spent on affordable housing. It seems that under the alternative described by Polani, the city could do just that.
Using existing infrastructure for the light rail line makes sense to me, and I'm sure to many other citizens. I can't understand why Tri-Met hasn't considered the alternative route, or if it has, why it won't explain to the public its rationale for building an entirely new bridge, laying several miles of new track through downtown and tearing up the existing transit mall for who knows how long.
Last night, I got a call from a citizens' group informing me of a rally in support of light rail at noon on Aug. 5. I will probably attend this rally because I support light rail and frequently use it. But Tri-Met and Metro can't take that support for granted in the vote of the north-south line. It will have to first convince me it isn't gold-plating this project.
Northeast 39th Avenue
originally published August 5, 1998