[Part 7 and conclusion of a series]
by P. Orin Zack
"Emulating Hong Kong?" The wiry old man with thinning white hair shrugged off his oversized backpack and flipped through the information packet he'd just been handed. "What does a modified GA have to do with Hong Kong?"
Norman Knox, a 30-something commercial real estate agent who'd recently had his fixation on profit margins forcibly perforated, gazed at the crowd streaming past them for a moment while he figured out how to safely backpedal the glib remark. Volunteering for community-service duty felt like overdue penance for years of chasing after a pot of tainted gold. They were standing just inside the entrance to the city's newly renovated sports stadium, which was filling up with an electorate that didn't reflect the population of any district in the city. The only thing they seemed to have in common was that even though they entered as strangers, they quickly engaged with one another, and were deep in discussion well before they reached the stands. It was nearly ten o'clock, and the meeting was about to start.
"I'm sorry," he said over a nervous laugh he thought he'd outgrown in college. "Forgive me. My-- my mother's a librarian, and I forget that not everyone's addicted to research."
"Look, kid, there's no reason to talk down to me. I may be homeless right now, but I got a Masters in Chemistry before you were born and medical expenses ate my life savings. So let's try that again. What does Hong Kong have to do with a city council election?"
"Well, you have to admit," Norman said, gesturing at the stadium, "this isn't exactly the usual kind of election."
"Well, yeah," the man said. "It's closed. That's why we're doing it with a General Assembly. So what?"
"Try it this way. Representation in this country has always been based on where you live -- city council, state assembly, house and senate, even judicial and sanitation districts. But thanks to Buster Flange's change to the city charter, the 99% now have a virtual district, and anyone who chooses to be part of it gets to vote for their council member."
"I know. I've read the Sidewalk Spectator, which was a damn sight easier to understand than the blather in the fish wrap this city calls a newspaper. Would you get to the point already? I'd like to find a seat."
"It's just that Hong Kong's done this sort of thing in a big way. A third of their legislature represents functional constituencies like this one. But this city's the first one in the US to try it. We're making history here by following in their footsteps."
The old man harrumphed and picked up his backpack. "One," he said. "One of Hong Kong's FCs is like this. The rest of them are just lobbyists in legislator's clothing. If we're making history here, it's because the people forced this change. There was a lot of money riding on getting the first PAC into the front door of government. But they lost anyway."
"Hey, it was a fair election. There were over a dozen choices on that ballot. The commissioner even called for a recount!"
"Of course he did. The money lining his pockets depended on one of his cronies coming out on top. Maybe you ought to sell real estate or something. You're lousy as a teacher."
Norman was about to object when he felt a hand on his shoulder, so he turned to see who it was. "Frank! Marty!" he said uncomfortably. "What are you two doing here?"
His business partners glanced at one another. Frank, who was taller, smirked. "Looking for you, numbnuts. After that meltdown you had talking to JonesCo yesterday, we figured you'd gotten burned out and needed a vacation."