My vote didn't count.
As I explained in an earlier piece, my state is so ruby red and my CD so bright blue that the outcome of national-office elections was preordained. Mitt Romney took our eight electoral votes and Cedric Richmond will return to Congress as our representative. I could've stayed in bed and not a thing would've changed.
But there are always the little issues to consider.
A rather rambling narrative, but it does have a point, I promise.
When I first moved here, the Greater New Orleans Bridge, also known as the Mississippi River Bridge, was a single-span bridge crossing the river from the foot of Calliope Street to the West Bank. Years later, a second span was built, opening in 1988.
Heading to the West Bank on the original span of the CCC
A contest was held to name the new twin span and the winning entry, "The Crescent City Connection," is now the official name of the crossing. (My favorite entry, "The Car-Strangled Spanner," was kicked out early).
There was a great hullabaloo made for the grand opening of the second span. City officials found the woman who'd been the first to cross the old GNO Bridge when it opened in 1958 and allowed her to be the first to drive across the new bridge, although some bridge cop screwed up and let in traffic from another ramp, so a city tow truck preceded her, in a strangely appropriate irony.
Less celebrated was the imposition of tolls on the new CCC. It was still free to cross to the West Bank from New Orleans, but it cost a dollar to go back, giving an idea of the relative attractiveness of the two locales.
Looking up at the CCC from the Algiers on the West Bank
Still, people understood that building the new bridge cost money, money that had to come from somewhere. The tolls also paid for upkeep and the installation of lights on the spans. Not only do the lights look nice at night, but they act as backup navigational markers for river pilots steering down the main channel of the lower Mississippi. The video below begins with of view of the CCC just before dawn. Lovely.
Over the last few years, as our state has turned redder and more tax-averse, a movement has grown to stop collecting tolls on the bridge. After all, the anti-taxers argue, the bridge has been paid for. Why should it still cost a dollar to cross it?
Pesky details like how we're going to pay for continued maintenance of the spans or where the electricity to light those lovely lights is going to come from are ignored.
As is another question relating to the bridge tolls. You see, the bridge is only one part of an integrated system of river crossings that include two ferry lines, one from Algiers Point to the foot of Canal Street and one from Jackson Avenue (currently routed to the Canal Street landing) and Gretna on the West Bank.
The bridges aren't the only thing with the "CCC" label.
Not to worry, though. Our famous tax-virgin governor, who's made our state the leader in Republican "laboratories of democracy" gutting of public services, has a plan. We won't need bridge tolls to maintain ferry service anymore because the invisible hand of the market will come to the rescue.
That's right. The state Department of Transportation and Development is taking bids from private companies to take over the ferries. And its a sure bet that, with the efficiency of the private sector, the ferry tolls are sure to remain at their low rate of a dollar per crossing, right?
This dismantling of an integrated, working multi-platform transport system was such a radical idea that the government couldn't simply make it happen by fiat, but was required to put it up to the voters of the parishes affected by the move. The question of lifting the tolls (without, conveniently, any mention of ferry service privatization) was on last week's ballot.
The vote was close, so close we still don't know the fate of the bridge and ferries. Currently, the unofficial tally stands at 154,375 in favor of retaining the tolls and 154,367 against, a margin of eight votes. The final count will be made Tuesday.
The total votes for president and congressional representatives were much, much higher.
The point of the story, which I did promise to get to eventually, is this: it's not just every voter that counts, it's every vote. When I heard of the long lines at Florida polling stations caused not only by the number of voters but the length of the ballot, stuffed with constitutional amendments and such, I was actually happy it was taking so long. That meant a lot of people were actually reading and considering and voting on those changes, which all the citizens of Florida will have to live under.
The future of New Orleans' river crossing system will have been decided by a few dozen people, none knowing his would chance to be the deciding voice, but all willing to make the effort to make that voice heard.
One voice, one vote, can affect the life of a city or a nation for years and generations.
If it is cast.