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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I've received several pieces of correspondence from readers about my column this last Friday. Normally, I respond personally, but Rosebush Bob and I just returned after a couple of days from our respective obligations snatched along the shore of Lake Michigan. Besides, the rippers have all said basically the same thing -- the rules are the rules, and Sharon Tillman doesn't belong on the city ballot.

When discussing this, let's just cut Sharon Tilmann's name right out of it. The name of the person denied a spot on the ballot is irrelevant, since what's at stake here is the public good.

The overriding question is whether a cut-and-dried interpretation of the rules is more in the public's best interests than is a contested city commission ballot. We now have three candidates for three open seats. I'm not so good at math, but I can't quite work out the formula of how an uncontested ballot translates into a more active, educated public.

A couple of folks argue that the city was bound by the rules, which is true unless you can convince a judge that an exception is/was warranted. At some point in most judicial rulings I've read, the judge gets around to jibing his ruling with how it benefits the interests of the public at large. Heck, when the city violated the city charter and pulled the fluoride question off the ballot a couple of years ago, they argued that bonding questions gave them a reasonable excuse (the judge thought otherwise, and argued that a public vote was in the public's best interests, despite the wording confusion and bonding issues). So, there are election-related rules, and the city has previously decided to violate them when it felt it needed to.

I don't really how to wrap this up with something that I didn't write in Friday's column, other than to point out that there are precedents that suggest that not only could the city have decided otherwise and argued that it was in the best public interest, but could have legally defended their position. But, because they didn't, I get to participate in what is essentially an uncontested race in the November election (barring a write-in candidacy), and I'm pretty sure that's not in the best interests of our more important democratic institutions.


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