Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Proposal to extend voting rights in DC to non-citizens: good idea, misses the point

While I don't have many reservations about residents, whether or not they are citizens, voting in local elections ("DC, other cities debate whether legal immigrants should have voting rights," Washington Post), at some level I think it misses the point, not unlike my concerns about extending the voting franchise to sixteen year olds, as has been done in Takoma Park ("Youth voting in Takoma Park sparks interest in other cities," Gazette) and Hyattsville, Maryland.  Note that 59 16- and 17-year olds voted in Takoma's 2013 local election.

For example, the rate of voting amongst DC's registered voters in the 2014 General Election was 38/4%.

There is a great amount of concern expressed about the precipitous decline in political participation as measured by voting, at all levels--local, state, and federal.  For example, see the report, THE CIVIC AND POLITICAL HEALTH OF THE NATION: A GENERATIONAL PORTRAIT from The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement or calls for universal service obligations ("The Case Against Universal National Service," The Atlantic).

For 30+ years I have argued that civic disengagement is derived from an educational and engagement process that is not designed to build within citizens a sense of agency--a belief (along with the capacity and skills) that they have the power within to effect change at many scales.

My line was a comment on the disbelief by elected officials in the drop in voter participation:

After being educated for 13 to 17 years in relatively authoritarian settings--where you're talked at and don't interact--how realistic is it to expect, upon graduation, that we become active, free thinking, participating members of American society?  (including voting...)

Another concept I came up with in college was the difference between intensive versus extensive use of resources.

Through extensive resource use, organizations grow by using more, while intensive resource use is marked by using what you have more efficiently, and by reducing waste and increasing efficiency as your use of resources grows as your organization grows. (Originally, I came up with this idea to explain why the Japanese automobile industry was able to surpass the US-based automobile industry.)

Growing voter participation rates by adding new demographic segments is a form of "extensive growth" of the voter base, when the most significant problem is "intensive" or the failure by people already eligible or registered to participate in voting (among other civic activities).

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