I'm curious how you'd define "grassroots"

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Friday March 27, 2009.

On my drive home this evening, I was listening to the Cory Farley Show (not responsible for bad websites) on the radio. His guest today was Dave Aiazzi, Reno City Councilman and friend to mrjerz.org. I say that because I like Dave Aiazzi, and you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

One of the cooler things about Farley’s show, which I just began listening to this week as it moved tot he afternoon drive spot, is that there are a ton of regulars who call and he seems to know because of that. They go by their first names, and he recognizes them on hold. Then there was the guy who called today and used his first and last name. He wanted to get at Dave, it seemed. It was Bob Fulkerson (again with the bad site).

If you don’t know, Fulkerson is one of those dudes whose organization tends to oppose just about anything that might make something grow. I’ve always loved that irony about the political term “progressive.” In actuality, I have some respect for Bob Fulkerson. I’ve spoken to him and he was gracious enough to send me some documents for use on Reno Baby! I also agree with him (sort of) on why he called the show today. He called in support of a bill before the legislature that would change the way city councils are elected. Currently, only the primaries are confined to the actual area the councilperson will represent. The general election takes the race citywide. This law would confine the general election to the ward as well.

I’ve long thought the way our councilpeople were elected was a terrible way to do it, and feel like only my ward should be electing our representative. We have an at-large councilperson (and a mayor) to theoretically represent the interests of the entire city. There’s no reason why someone across town should have a say over what my councilperson does. This was Fulkerson’s point. Aiazzi countered with his own point—that it should be up to the voters to decide. He said he doesn’t think the legislature should make the rule for Reno. I agree there.

Then Fulkerson left the rails. He used, as an example, Aiazzi’s 2004 run against Patty Melton (and presumably her husband in 2008).

His example was this: in 2004, Melton and Aiazzi both received 42% of the vote in the primary (confined to the particular ward). The remaining 16% was divided among some other candidates. This meant that Aiazzi and Melton would square off against only one another in the general election (citywide). In that race, Aiazzi raised $140,000 and Melton raised $40,000. At that point, he described Melton as the “grassroots” candidate. If Cory Farley had mentioned the show’s phone number at any point in the next fifteen minutes, I would have called in. I was livid.

Here’s the thing. In all the time I worked for the one local television station that put candidates on the air to discuss issues, and all the time I’ve been a part of the local online community, I’ve never even seen Patty Melton in person, and I’ve never come across her online until searching for her site tonight. Dave Aiazzi, on the other hand, is everywhere. I see him walking around local events, like the outdoor West Street Market and the River Festival. I see him hanging around at local spots downtown, like Imperial (he stopped by and said hello to all of us at the blogger dinner Wednesday night). He helps out with the Reno Bike Project. And I see him leaving comments on this site and many others. Oh yeah, Artown, anyone? He’s also a member of Reno Baby! and he’s not afraid to jump in there and mix it up. That’s about as “grassroots” as it gets. The fact that he raised more money is likely due in part to that, and in part to the fact that he’s a trusted, thoughtful decision maker.

On the other hand, I was especially disappointed to hear him dismissed like that by a guy who, when I spoke to him on the phone, I personally invited to become a member of Reno Baby! (he’s still not), but I do see him hobnobbing with a particular assemblywoman who also has snubbed similar invitations to stoop down to the level of regular people. As far as I’m concerned, Dave Aiazzi could teach Bob Fulkerson a thing or two about “grassroots.” But the bigger question is this: does P.L.A.N. really view someone as publicly visible as Dave Aiazzi as non-grassroots? Aren’t they the one group who’s supposed to be in touch with what the real people of the community want?

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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