Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Full Text: As Merger Looms, Consider This Pitch for Slate Elections

This post appears as letter to the editor in the August 25th edition of the King's County Record.


Sussex and Sussex Corner are moving toward what seems like an overdue conclusion of merger. A merger will forge a new political map and electoral model, so discussions on democratic renewal are more important now than ever.

The proposed council would consist of a Mayor and 7 councilors; the councilors, however, would not all be chosen by the same election. Sussex Corner and Sussex boundaries would persist as two separate wards with two representatives each on the new council. In addition, 3 councilors at large would be elected from the amalgamated Sussex.

This model seems like a good sell on the surface, but it's actually very flawed in trying to fairly represent citizens. The Town of Sussex has triple the population of Sussex Corner. Why would they have each two seats? Inherently, Sussex Corner councilors would be elected by fewer electors than their council peers, but would have the same voting authority. Because of over-representation of the wards, the proposed model would create three tiers of public legitimacy among elected representatives with equal authority.

Instead of a ward model, we should be considering a slate election model like Montreal and Vancouver use. With a slate model, mutually-endorsing groups of candidates run together on a shared set of values and policy goals. Slate affiliations are indicated on an otherwise unchanged ballot. Slate elections try to steer municipal politics from popularity contests toward robust exchanges of approach to solving real community problems and creating thriving spaces to live, work, and create.

With the brokering of a merger, Sussex and Sussex Corner have an opportunity to make a really smart change in the way politics are done. Slate elections are a no cost added strategy to buck the slow death of the status quo and set a renewed Sussex apart as an innovative rural community.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rewording "The Queer Community"

I've already made this point in a letter to the Canadian Press Association, but it's Pride in Ottawa, Moncton, and Saint John this weekend, so I feel the point should be driven home a bit harder. We need to be pluralizing "queer communities".

The choice of using "community" versus "communities" is a political choice, whether intentional or not. These word choices present two incompatible politico-linguistic goals directly competing for the 'proper' way to describe queer people in a group setting.

Singular "community" represents a facade of solidarity and common struggle. The singular word choice is used to invoke rights claims and identity politics. While strategically useful, this language is inaccurate and inadequate.

By feigning politicized sameness over an infinitely diverse group of people, difference is erased and hegemonic narratives are elevated as representative. Consider the common criticisms of Pride celebrations being oriented toward white middle-class gay men.

Intersectional theory teaches us that all social contexts (race, religion, nationality, ability, class, etc...) subjectify individuals in a simultaneous and interrelated way. No single social description has authority to define a person or group of people.

The singular queer community has tenuous cohesion at best. Major cleaves are obvious considering gender diverse, religious, and politically partisan queers. The oversimplification of a singular queer community also tends to exclude straight queers who are proud members of kink, drag, arts, and activist communities. Straight queers practice the verb queer; they take it upon themselves to queer the spaces and cultures they exist within by actively challenging norms of heterosexuality and gender conformity.

It's time for queer communities to start defining themselves by consensual membership, rather than assumed sameness. My chosen community is so much smaller than mainstream queer activism would have you believe, and that's the way I like it. I don't want to be lumped in with people who share nothing other than queerness; Caitlyn Jenner, John Baird, and Dan Savage are not members of my community. Artistic and activist tendencies define my community far more than gender and sexual identities.

The struggles of queer people are complicated by the every other social factor of our lives. Rather than ignoring and erasing difference, we need to recognize celebrate it, and we can start by actively pluralizing "queer communities".