Thursday, March 20, 2008

Learning the Election Lingo

This column originally appeared in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle on Saturday, March 15, 2008.

It is once again election time in the area, and our local communities are gearing up for their annual exercise in democracy.

While voters have been turning out in record numbers for presidential primaries and state elections in recent years, the level of participation in town elections has been much more disappointing. Some of that may have to do with a lack of understanding of the local process as compared to the state and federal elections.

So being the intrepid and fearless local columnist I am, I decided to try and help people better understand politics on the local level.

To that end, I thought I would help explain some common terms used during the local election season that might not be interpreted the same way outside our little area. Those who have been here a while no doubt totally understand them, but those without experience in local election lingo might find this helpful.

Therefore, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I offer a quick list of local election and governmental terms and their definitions:

CONCERNED CITIZEN’S GROUP – a group of people working towards a political goal you agree with.

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP – a group of people working towards a political goal you disagree with.

TOWNIE – a person who has lived in a community their entire life or 30 years, whichever is longer.

MEDDLING OUTSIDER – everyone who does not fall into the previous category.

POLITICIAN – someone who spends most of their time claiming not to be a politician.

DEDICATED PUBLIC SERVANT – a politician who is dead, retired, or currently doing what you want.

LEVY LIMIT – the amount of money a community raises from taxation which the state says is enough, the taxpayers say is too much, and the town employees say is too little.

TOWN MANAGER/ADMINISTRATOR – person who gets paid to take the blame when things go wrong, and direct the credit to elected officials when things go right.

COMMITTEE – a group of people formed to slowly beat the life out of all good ideas.

CHAIRMAN – the committee member who arrived late to the first meeting.

MUNICIPAL FINANCE – a system for handling money which contradicts all common sense and normal business practices.

POLITICAL AGENDA – a list of things a politician you do not agree with wants to achieve in office, and that you are determined to stop.

LONG RANGE PLAN – a list of things a politician you agree with wants to achieve in office, and you are determined to help.

TOWN MEETING – a system designed to make citizens think they have some power in order to perpetuate the real system in which they have little.

CANDIDATE’S NIGHT – an evening where politicians running for public office try not to say anything that might make you want to vote against them.

CLEAN CAMPAIGN – an election where both candidates agree to hide each others faults from the public.

OVERRIDE – something used to start and end political careers.

FRIEND – what a politician calls people who worked on his or her campaign.

CONSTITUENT – what a politician calls people who did not work on his or her campaign.

ACTIVIST JUDGE – a judge who issues rulings you disagree with.

PRUDENT JURIST – a judge who issues rulings you agree with.

AD HOC CITIZENS COMMITTEE – this is Latin for “Just Kidding”.

CAMPAIGN PROMISE – when a politician promises to provide something that either already exists, or is impossible to achieve.

LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE – what a politician says when he or she does not want to make a difficult decision on their own and make someone angry.

NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST – very intelligent, good-looking, well-rounded individual highly skilled at pointing out everyone else’s shortcomings.

Any questions? Class dismissed.

Bill Gouveia is – as you might have guessed – a local columnist. You can read his column here every Saturday, and reach him at

No comments: