Perhaps Syria has been the most prolific headline in your Feed for a few days but other news has been brewing. And while perhaps not a true missile to missile comparison, there are local stories every day that arguably impact your daily life on a greater basis than events oceans away. Some local stories may even involve surprisingly strong displays of power themselves. Such a story has been unfolding in Hall County, Georgia, in the City of Gainesville. It involves the saga of a local, established business attempting relocation after being told by the landlord they must move from Sherwood Plaza after 11 years.
If you dig deeper into a few details well beyond what the local reporters are able to provide ( Sherwood Plaza business owners face uncertainty about shopping center’s future ), this seemingly classic story about a zoning dispute clearly illustrates how immense the consequences can be of low voter turnout, especially during a special election. In December 2015, the City of Gainesville, with 10,500 eligible voters, held a special municipal election where just 471 people delivered the winning candidate a victory ( Run-off Winner Claims Seat on Gainesville City Council ). That winner from 2015 cast the lone vote in opposition to allowing the impacted business permission to relocate across the street into a professional office building. The vote was 3-1 in favor but apparently under an unusual city rule, a majority wouldn’t work in this case as approval requires 4 votes. And in another odd twist of city rules, the business seemingly will not be able to re-apply for permission again to relocate into the same building for an entire year. Now that’s power. Or some may use another word.
To summarize, one lonely vote in opposition was able to stop the wishes of a prospective new Landlord, the wishes of a long-term established business owner and the preferences of likely dozens upon dozens of clients of the relocating business who would no doubt prefer the business remain near. Curiously, an online version of the newspaper article linked here omits, for whatever reason, the name of the official who cast the opposing vote. The name does, however, appear in the less circulated print edition. Any guess why the name of the dissenting vote would be removed protected in the more heavily circulated and accessible online version?
At any rate, I think it is fair to ask was this opposition vote a representation of the 471 voters who selected this elected official? Was the vote a representation of the 10,000 who made the affirmative choice not to vote in December 2015? Who did the vote represent? The landlord? The official? The business owners in the proposed location?
In a city of roughly 39,000 people, 471 people were able to have a voice that has thus far proved extremely powerful in this particular business owner’s ordeal. Exactly how much power will those voters and more to the point, the official they put in place exert during the remainder of the term? I have often said perhaps to figure out why we have the problems we do with Washington in particular and with Congress specifically, maybe we only need to look inside our own City Halls.