JPNC voting place and time are inappropriate

July 24, 2009
By

Your article on the upcoming Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) elections [JP Gazette, July 10] reveals several disturbing elements in the whole process. Regarding the single proposed polling place, the JP World’s Fair, instead of some half-dozen locations spread throughout JP as specified in the JPNC election procedures, we note:

1. While doubtless a convenience for fairgoers, only a small fraction of JP residents attend the event. Others must make a special trip to one tip of the entire JP area. Nearby parking will be scarce and barriers will be erected to traffic hours before the opening.

2. Many people have family and other obligations on the weekend, doubly so during the summer months. Polling places previously were located and timed to accommodate voting on the way to work.

3. A carnival atmosphere seems hardly conducive to thoughtful consideration of candidates. Providing or-derly polling in the chaotic atmosphere of the fair is likely to be impossible. Moreover, the fair is spon-sored by some organizations likely to have future issues before the council; thus it is far from an impar-tial venue.

4. The change in polling place may not have been legitimately made in accordance with JPNC bylaws. The decision was made, not by the JPNC (which had no quorum at its meeting), but by the Executive Committee. According to the bylaws, the Executive Committee is “authorized to act on behalf of the Council between Council meetings…only in matters not admitting of delay.” Does postponement of an election that has already been once postponed until such time as the full council can convene to consider the matter constitute such an emergency, or is this an abuse of power by the Executive Committee?

The influence of the JPNC, which has, at best, an advisory role to city government, hinges upon wide pub-lic participation in council elections. Voter participation has dramatically declined, with turnout in re-cent years typically 1 percent or less. Just 10 candidates have filed so far for 20 positions. What will happen if not enough council members are elected to constitute a quorum? If the council is to have real power to represent JP residents and not be dismissed by City Hall, then only a solid base of voters can give them that power. Holding the election at a single, inconvenient, unfamiliar and inappropriate location is likely to further reduce voter participation and destroy whatever shreds of usefulness and credibility the JPNC still retains.

For these reasons, we say that elections must be postponed until later in the fall, when it is also likely to be easier to recruit volunteers to supervise properly located polling places as specified in the JPNC election procedures.

,b>Judith Kolligian, Terrell T. Gibbs, Kathy Holland
Jamaica Plain

Kathy Holland is a member of the JPNC.