As an outspoken advocate for representative government, I generally support an appointment over either a special election or leaving a vacated seat empty. That’s because representative government means that those who are elected make decisions on behalf of the citizens that elected them, rather than a direct democracy, where the people vote on every issue that requires government action.
More importantly, I believe that those elected should truly act as representatives of the people whose actions reflect what they believe the majority of citizens would do if the opportunity to decide went before voters.
However, most elected officials act more as trustees, doing what they think is best, regardless what the majority opinion of the people who elected them think.
Exceptions to this Fundamental
I’ve been outspokenly unambiguous to highlight the exceptions to this fundamental principle, which includes when an elected body considers the following::
- raising taxes,
- taking on or growing debt, or
- taking away more of the personal liberties of property owners.
In these cases, citizens should first give their consent before elected office holders take any action.
For our city, consent of the governed can be accomplished either by a direct vote of the people in an election or via a citizen survey (the state actually prohibits citizens in “General Law, Type A cities” (like M-C) from voting on property tax-rate increases).
Appointing to Fill Vacancies Epitomizes Representative Government
So when it comes to filling the unexpired term of an elected official, when it is possible to do so, an elected body should appoint someone who they believe best represents the majority opinion of its citizens. Only when it is not possible to appoint with confidence, or in instances where there is significant division among an elected body, should the options of a special election or leaving the seat empty be entertained. Further, I don’t believe that the majority of taxpayers would support spending the approximately nine to ten thousand dollars that’s required for the city to hold a special election.
Despite arguments to the contrary, history proves that opposing an appointment by those elected to represent the majority opinion of the people in favor of a special election best serves those who make up the vocal minority of political activists who capitalize on the low voter turnout in these kinds of elections in hopes that they can bolster their supporters to show up at the polls and slide-in their candidate to an empty seat. Despite the fact that voters have twice rejected their plans to grow our government, amplified by the citizen’s survey, they are not for the opinions of the majority, only of themselves.
The vocal minority continues to use empty rhetoric deceitfully disguised as protecting the voice of the people in an attempt to undermine it.