News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
2nd August 2008

Is democracy an endangered species?

posted in City Life, Education, In the News, Local Politics |

In 2003 when I first ran for school committee, the local paper spent the previous year publishing quasi-news stories and editorials centered around two basic themes: the school committee is failing the community because of the teachers’ raises and we should change to an appointed board. Sound familiar? At that time, as an outspoken member of the Citywide Parent Council, I was confused by the vehemence against the board and disappointed by the lack of balanced reporting of the challenges facing our schools. I was also uncomfortable by the silence of the committee, and so began my own journey of letters to the editor, running for office, and eventually this blog. (As we have all seen, taking on an entity that buys ink by the barrel is not without consequences.)

Meanwhile, the drum roll for an appointed school committee continues: Fewer people are running, the leaders are not held accountable, people are not voting, voters are not paying attention etc. Aside from the fact that an appointed committee will not do one thing to improve these concerns—particularly voter apathy and sophistication, which is another reason why excellent schools are an absolute necessity—I cannot get beyond the simple question of who will do the appointing and how will it ensure accountability? Instead, I fear we will end up with an appointed board of connected politicos with agendas that will not be held up to public scrutiny.

There is an area, however, in which the paper and I agree: the lack of people running and voting is alarming. In a post last week, I mentioned how less people are running for school committee, which is true of most elected seats these days.  In www.richardhowe.com Marie wrote about this fall’s state elections, “Senators Panagiotakos and Tucker, Representatives Golden, Nangle, Garry, Miceli, Finegold and Tucker have no primary or Republican opposition.” (my bold) Yes, our democracy is in crisis, but appointed boards are not the answer. In the end, we get the government we deserve, and that means fighting to keep democracy alive rather than hastening its demise.

There are currently 6 responses to “Is democracy an endangered species?”

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  1. 1 On August 2nd, 2008, Fred said:

    Yes Jackie, I agree that voter apathy is a huge problem, but one that has been around for a long time with no solutions. Unless people understand the issues and spend the time doing this, I guess it’s better they don’t vote. With people scrambling to pay bills and feed and educate family members because of the horrific economy, this is not going to happen any time soon. Most people just don’t have the time to pay attention. As far as your view that the Sun is being biased reporting on in particular your latest voting fiasco, what do you suggest we do? I have heard and read many people suggest we cancel our subscriptions. Does that mean that we will then only have you and a few other self appointed bearers of the truth to get our facts from? No thanks.

  2. 2 On August 3rd, 2008, Jackie said:

    As far as being a “self-appointed bearer of the truth” this blog (and most in my opinion) are more about perspective–that of the authors–than a primary news source. Voter apathy has been around for awhile, but it seems to be getting worse, and my point above was that we must not give up on democracy. Appointed boards, whether it’s school committee or something else (where will it end?), take the responsibility of choosing our leaders away from the people. Instead of giving up on representative government, we must find ways to reconnect citizens to our community. The internet offers many options, not only blogs, but also cable access to government meetings such as streaming video through LTC. Better voter access, such as election-day registration, which unfortunately stalled in the House last week after passing in the Senate, will also help. As will substantive, accurate newspaper reporting. We are all busy. How do we get folks to realize that not only is it in their self-interest to be involved and vote, but that it is their civic responsibility?

  3. 3 On August 5th, 2008, Lynne said:

    You know, maybe there’s a link between the unfair (yes, unfair) reporting from the Sun (man, they hate the schools, the teachers, and the Board, and take every opportunity to bash them) and the lack of people who want to take such abuse?

    Gee, I wonder.

    No one’s asking for less tough reporting, if it’s fair and asking good questions. The Sun does not. It is an impediment to good democracy, and as I have said, if The Museum shut down tomorrow no one would miss it.

    We need some newspaper competition in this town. Unfortunately, no, a bunch of (mostly) editorial-style opinion bloggers are not enough competition and no one has ever suggested that, not even once. Certainly not me. Still doesn’t mean that The Museum ain’t doing more harm than good.

  4. 4 On August 5th, 2008, Fred said:


    Not being one of the “insiders” I don’t get your reference to The Museum but I know bashing the local newspaper has gone on forever. As unfair to you as my reference to bloggers as self-appointed bearers of truth may seem, I also think it’s unfair to label the Sun as wrong on all accounts. Do they do nothing right? It would be great to have some newpaper competition in the city but that is not going to happen with the state of paper media. Maybe some of you bloggers could work with our local paper and offer to write your points of view in contrast to theirs. If they denied you that opportunity maybe I could see your point of view.

  5. 5 On August 6th, 2008, lowellgirl said:


    Is there anything you like about the paper? I think people would be more open to your criticism if you pointed out a story here and there that you enjoyed.

  6. 6 On August 7th, 2008, Lynne said:

    Lowellgirl: You are obviously not a frequent reader of my blog.

    We on LiL (and here and RH.com as well) have consistently praised and relied on stories at the Sun when the quality merited it. However, lately, that quality is completely diminished (might have something to do with a lot of the best jumping ship, perhaps?)

    You have spent time on three blogs defending the Lowell Sun. I have to wonder what your personal stake is in regards to the Sun. Are you related to an editor, or perhaps an employee? You should maybe disclose your conflict of interest if you have one, because you sound like a repetitive shill. No offense, but you have no credibility right now with me. (Because as I said, you obviously have formed your opinion without even bothering to read my blog very much or at all. Makes me wonder where you get your opinions.)

    Fred: There is no working with the local paper. There was, once, but the leadership there has made some decisions not to bother to answer the legit questions that are asked by us or anyone else. Hey, I’d love to love the local paper. But I’m not going to polish a you-know-what either.

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