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This year Village of Lansing voters had something they don't often have: choice.  Each office that was up for election had two candidates from two parties that had different points of view.  Most years members of the Community Party, a non-partisan party (there is some irony in that phrase!) of interested and engaged villagers who care deeply about the welfare of their municipality.  But this year there weren't just opposing candidates, but there was an opposing party.  This was good for villagers even if the outcome was the same.

I am not arguing that the Community Party members who have continued to be elected are doing a bad job.  I think they are doing a good job.  But in our country that should never mean they should go unchallenged.  Because there are many peripheral benefits to a contested election besides just who wins.

I have had this conversation with Community Party members, and they argue that their system works, that the Village is well maintained.  They acknowledge that many villagers don't even know they live in a village, but think, instead, that they live in Ithaca.  I have often wondered if that is why voter turnout for village elections is low.

One of the truths in politics -- real truths, not fake news -- is that people tend to stay quiet unless they are angry about something.  You wouldn't believe the number of public hearings I have attended where no public showed up!  But when they do, oh boy! do they!

The Preservation Party came about because the members of a neighborhood were angry about the rezoning of a property near their homes.  But once the members decided to run they were forced to address a much broader range of issues.  Even the incumbents say that they learned on the job, and another term was an opportunity to put what they learned to the benefit of the Village.  So I usually give challengers a little bit of leeway on their specificity on a range of issues, though I do want to know how they think and what they would do if elected.

All of that is to say that no result would have been terrible.  It's a democracy.  people vote, and then the Mayor and Trustees vote.  So it's never up to one person, and that is how it should be (and how it actually is).

Those side benefits are important, though, if the winners take a thoughtful approach.  As issues are raised it provides an opportunity to look at different citizens' points of view, to rethink issues and either take a new approach or confirm the one you have already taken.  When some folks are mad enough to run for office (no small commitment) it is saying something about the community, because even a small group of unhappy citizens are members of the larger community.

The other benefit is that it reminds incumbents that they are serving at the pleasure of the voters.  That is not to say the current batch don't already know that, but I have to say that sometimes a reminder of something I already know helps me to clarify my thinking.

So I say congratulations to the winners of Tuesday's election, but I also congratulate the challengers for making the election a truly democratic exercise.  In a perfect world voters should have choices, should be informed of the substance of those choices, and made their choices based on the merits of each candidate's stance on real issues that affect people's lives.

In today's especially imperfect world the Village of Lansing came closer to the ideal, simply because voters had a choice.  That is what makes a democracy great, and the Village should be basking in that greatness this week.

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