By Garen Yegparian
It’s an odd numbered year and a number of the cities and other governmental entities hosting the largest non-homeland Armenian community will be holding elections between now and the end of Spring. Some are one-shot–plurality-vote-getter-wins arrangemen’s (such as Glendale). Others are of the two-stage–primary-and-general variety (such as Burbank). All are non-partisan–though you wouldn’t know it listening to some people’s analyses of whom to vote for and why. All attract their share of crackpots–hapless and hopelessly unelectable candidates–and–given it’s the LA basin we’re discussing–Armenia’s.
Even if you don’t live in one of the charter cities that have these elections–such as Pasadena and Los Angeles–you might still be voting since school and community college districts frequently span multiple municipal jurisdictions. The most obvious examples are the Los Angeles Unified School and Community College Districts. While in most cases all the dates are nicely aligned–some are not. Burbank is in the LACCD–but with completely separate dates for its municipal election.
But beyond my obvious civic spirit and desire to keep my compatriots informed of opportunities to empower themselves through the ballot box–why am I writing this? And be sure–there’ll be more on this topic before Summer arrives. I want to sadly admit that the unflattering description of some candidates given above applies to Armenia’s as well.
Since we have a large concentration of Armenia’s in these areas–many seem to think an "ian" at the end of their name entitles them to election. Forget considerations of electability–service to the community (Armenian and broader civic)–and impact on the Armenian community.
Here are a few samples from the current crop of candidates. One is on a mission to change policy in the jurisdiction where this candidacy has been declared. Of course it matters little that this crusade is as utterly unsupported by the facts–as George Bush’s weapons-of-mass-destruction-in-Iraq argumen’s. Another–who I would consider a friend–has not been active in civic life–yet thinks it appropriate to run for office. Two others have done nothing but sow discord in our community. A raft of others just plain haven’t an ice cube’s chance in hell of getting elected–yet insist on running. Fortunately–some have the sense–decency–and grace to withdraw when they see their chances of winning are slim.
You’ll argue–"Hey–it’s their right; this is a democracy governed by levels of representative government." True enough. But–since many of these Armenian candidates are running with the tacit or overt expectation of Armenian community support–then that community’s interest must be factored into all considerations. We’d all agree that we want to see more Armenia’s attaining elected office and progressing to higher such positions. But when large numbers of Armenia’s run–specifically more than the number of seats up for election–then they all get hurt because the Armenian vote scatters among all the candidates–rendering them less likely to win. Also–the funds available get diffused–hurting everyone’s ability to purchase electoral necessities. Credible and useless candidates alike get hurt.
So do us all a favor–if you’re one of these people–withdraw. If your friend is one of them–talk him/her out of it. We’ll all be better off.