BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
The guy writing this article is currently very frustrated and very excited, simultaneously!
With elections in three cities (two finished and one upcoming) where significant Armenian communities are present, needs, expectations, and challenges arise. Challenges can be met, not necessarily easily, but they can be met and bested. But to do this, people need awareness. They need to put things in perspective. They need to connect their minds to reality, their actions to the desired results.
Everyone agrees that we can achieve what we set out to do. Yet precious few seem willing to deliver what’s necessary. One of my greatest frustrations is a mindset that has developed quite a bit of currency and goes something like this: “The phone calling, necessary to inform and mobilize voters, is something that should be done by the kids.” Really? Allow me to ask you: If you receive such a call, doesn’t the voice of an adult, explaining the gravity of the issues at hand, have more impact on you? This is not to say that our students shouldn’t be doing this also. Obviously, it’s part of the education and training they deserve to get. But there is no magic age after which we become “too good” for this kind of work.
Then, there’s the phenomenon of not voting. It would be one thing if someone had some principle, based on which they refused to vote. An example is Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose teachings evidently forbid such participation. Personally, I find that despicable and irresponsible, but, at least it’s a principled stance. What is utterly incomprehensible is the “voter” who’s told me that because of some disappointment with an elected official two decades ago, that person refuses to EVER vote again. Then, there’s the one who used to vote, but a few years ago, stopped, and won’t even say why, much less allow a discussion of those reasons. Of course there are those with an overly heightened level of cynicism, (baselessly) contending that “my vote doesn’t make a difference” or “my vote doesn’t count”—these folks should read Raffi Hamparian’s article from last year citing examples of razor thin victories, and how those are becoming more common. And, the “classiest” ones are those who are just too plain lazy to vote, even when the ballot is delivered to the mailbox (as is the case in Burbank).
Now, on to the (mostly) good news. In Glendale most of the Armenian supported candidates won. Congratulations to Ara Najarian, Zareh Sinanian, Greg Krikorian, Armina Gharpetian, Ardashes Kassakhian, and Rafi Manoukian. Unfortunately, both, in the City Council and School Board races, our candidates placed first, third and fourth. I’m not sure of why this happened in the school board race. I am fairly certain of what happened in the City Council race. One of the three candidates supported by our community chose to advocate bullet voting for him, ONLY. This generated a reaction on the part of the other candidates and their supporters. As a result, the candidate who was advocating a vote for him ONLY got fewer votes than the other two. More votes for BOTH our third and fourth place finishers would have knocked out the second place finisher (who was not being supported by our community). Hopefully, next time, community solidarity will be maintained, and all our candidates will get elected, be they Armenian or not.
Speaking of next time, it may come sooner than Glendalians expect. Since Rafi Manoukian got elected as City Treasurer, he stepped down as a councilmember. Now, depending on whether the council appoints a replacement (which means a subsequent special election for that seat being held by June 2014) or can’t come to an agreement (resulting in a special election being called very quickly), the people of Glendale will be voting again. Let’s hope we can continue building our political maturity.
There are signs that sophistication and electoral savvy are indeed spreading. A number of people from the Armenian community of Glendale have commented to me that they voted or didn’t vote for candidates based on various considerations (very sensible ones), not the candidate’s nationality. Growing pains are just that, painful, but, they also bode well for the future.
In Burbank, too, the news was (mostly) good. Three of the four candidates supported by the Armenian community won election: David Gordon and Jess Talamantes to the City Council and Larry Applebaum to the School Board. Armenian turnout was unprecedented for an election with no “hometown favorite” running. This too, speaks to the increasing level of sophistication of Armenian voters. But, more could have been accomplished if more members of our community were actively engaged in the election. But this too shall come with increased sophistication.
In Los Angles, with the election still about a month away, endorsements are pending. I’ll address those in two weeks. Meanwhile, if you’re a permanent absentee voter living in that city, be sure to keep you ballot. If you’re not an absentee voter, when you receive your sample ballot, you can tear off the back cover and request an absentee ballot. Either way, just be ready to vote, vote, vote, in the May 21 election for Mayor, City Controller, City Attorney, and City Council.
With this jumble of good and bad news, I hope you see why I’m conflicted!