Democracy battles apathy … again

My old home folks in Beaumont are facing a problem. That city’s governing council is faced with the prospect of all the incumbents being “re-elected” this spring without opposition.

As the editorial attached to this blog suggests, that would be a step backward. I couldn’t possibly agree more.

I’ve gotten under officeholders’ skin many times over the years by suggesting that no matter how good a job they do, they deserve to be challenged. That’s as true in the Panhandle as it is in my old haunts on the Gulf Coast.

Amarillo’s commission goes up for election every year in the same manner as the Beaumont council. All seats are contested at the same time. The Beaumont election reform is a fairly new development, while Amarillo has doing it this way for quite some time. The idea is to promote greater participation, to draw more candidates into the arena. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

In 2011, Amarillo drew a huge field of challengers for the city’s five commission seats. Part of the attraction was that three incumbents chose not to seek re-election, creating three essentially “open” seats. I’ll have to acknowledge that most of the candidates were, um, quite underwhelming. But the point really is that they were willing to step up and have their voices heard. For that I congratulate them.

I hope the Beaumont municipal race attracts challengers to that city’s council. I’ve been away too long to gauge how well the City Council is doing its job. But they all need to be tested, challenged and questioned if they seek the voters’ endorsement for another term.

Precisely the same thing should be said about Amarillo’s city commissioners.

Our democratic system works better that way.