Cole Sonafrank's

Last Speech of my 1996-1999 Term:
Power and Your Vote

Delivered after the newly elected Assembly members were sworn in on October 14, 1999.   

Despite my better judgment, I do have a few comments tonight.

First, my congratulations to our new Assembly members. Please serve all of our community honorably and well. Even folks like me, [Smile] who voted against you, are your constituents. Please keep an open mind and take some time to learn how the Borough really works. It's likely to surprise you. [Smile] It sure surprised me! Beyond that, the rule about when not to say anything applies [Smile] so I'll shift to another topic: Voter turnout.

I'm proud to live in Ester, which was nearly tied with Farmers Loop for the highest voter turnout. I know that you folks listening probably voted and that I'm preaching to the choir. But I've got to say: Choir, sing louder 'cus your neighbors either aren't hear'in ya, or they don't give a damn. Either way, we have a serious problem.

I am not complaining about people not voting because I lost. I may well have lost no matter what the turnout. I'm furious that I haven't figured out how to inspire people to understand that their opinion and their vote matters. This campaign was typical. It was gritty and exhausting on the inside, slick and glossy on the outside. For those few folks paying close attention, the differences were clear. For others, maybe it seemed like all us politicians were pretty much the same and what difference did we make one way or another. Maybe most of us are just too flip'n busy dealing with real life to think about voting. Only about 20 percent voted.

[Quietly] Folks, if you're not scared, you damn well should be.

Now, I understand and appreciate how hard it is for folks in the Army and Air Force to become involved in a community they only share for a couple of years. As a community we don't welcome them as we should. These folks have chosen the honorable service of protecting our nation's democracy and your right to vote. Yet, their own voter turnout was the lowest at less than 4%. I do not mean to pick on them. I see their not voting as an indication of the nature of the overall problem. If it's not your community and your government, you don't vote. That seems reasonable to me.

Your community is where you live, where you spend your time and money. It's the people you talk with and care about. It can be isolated or international. The impacts of your government, local, state, and federal, on your life and your community are real and concrete. They're just not always easy to sort out. Those impacts are based upon power. That power can be wielded in various ways, the most significant being political, economic and religious. What we seem to be forgetting is that power rules, one way or another. America's core values involve the careful balancing of that power. Our political system depends upon people's demanding to exercise their right to one vote. If your vote doesn't talk, big money will. And that's just as some folks say it should be.

Me, I believe in America's mature rather than pure capitalism. Money talks, communities listen and we decide together. That's what our elections are all about. That's what this election was about. As your representatives, how do we, now they, balance individual property rights and the power of money with the democratic rule of law? How much does your opinion count and how can your voice be heard? If your friends and neighbors don't see how their choices matter and why their one equal vote is vital to the survival of our representative democracy, I suggest you make the effort and explain it to them. It is your personal responsibility to talk about community choices and why it's important to vote. If exercise doesn't keep this so called "right" we take for granted strong, power will destroy it.

[Smile] It has been an honor to serve my community on this Assembly.
I thank you for the opportunity.

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