Philosopher George Santayana said that if you don’t know the past, you are condemned to repeat it. And we all know what it is called to repeat something over and over again expecting a different outcome.

When elected representatives seem unfit to govern, we lose faith in government’s ability to govern. But we shouldn’t blame representatives for not meeting our expectations; it is we the voters that reelect them over and over again expecting a different outcome. And the outcome is, a governing duopoly causing polarization, incivility and character assassination in elections, in government and in society.

Winning for the party now is the objective. That discourages many well-qualified people from serving in government. In Waterville, the city manager has said there was significant difficulty getting people in some wards to serve on the City Council this past year. Was it because of incivility and disrespectfulness by some in the audience attending council meetings? Was it because of the limiting factor of party affiliation? Or is it the ward system in our city of less than 17,000 people, in which wards are composed of small populations and thus fewer potential candidates?

Data by the National League of Cities shows only 26 percent of cities our size still use the ward system, and nearly 49 percent of cities our size elect council members at large. “At large” means non-partisan candidates residing anywhere in the city can be elected to the council.

Political affiliation for the office of mayor and City Council shouldn’t be a consideration to be elected. We can encourage a broader interest in serving on the council if we replace the ward system with the nonpartisan at-large system. Waterville voters can make this improvement with a question on the ballot this November.

Jim Chiddix


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