OPINION – I was asked recently “Why does involvement in local issues matter?” Let me explain my rationale.
In short, the answer is because we are most directly affected by what happens locally. For instance, trash collection is a local issue governed or managed by our local city governments.
Granted there may be many elected officials in Washington D.C. that some would like to deal with by “taking the trash out.” Yet, getting rid of the other guy’s crazy congressman does not empty our own dumpster. Getting that bin emptied takes local officials.
Imagine your frustration if you hauled the trash container out to the curb in the morning and returned home at five o’clock and hauled it back out behind the garage … full. You would be on the phone demanding answers, and not from your congressman. You would want your city councilperson to have an explanation. Local access matters.
Pull up to a signal light that is not working, and look around. Everyone that has not already been crashed into is on the phone reporting the risk to whom? The local officials are expected to respond, not Congress.
The list goes on, almost unnoticed. Is a group home for recovering addicts being proposed? You can count on the neighbors being at a local meeting to voice an opinion.
I think I have made my point. What baffles me is that local political races seem to generate the lowest voter turnout of all elections. Presidential elections generate the highest turnout.
Yet, we tend to complain the loudest and longest about the president. We then gripe about other statewide races. Then we bark about the other guy’s congressman, and ultimately about our own House member. There appears to be a correlation between voter turnout and the amount of complaining that is actually done? Perhaps we should dial back on participating in national elections, in order to get a better president. What say you?
Ok, yes; the previous paragraph was hyperbole. Yet, there is a principle that is demonstrated. Local government is generally more responsive government. We complain for months about our national government and we tend to get diversionary comments from those elected officials. Yet, when we call about missed trash service, well, trash service is readily restored in most cases. The same responsiveness usually applies for the other local issues that arise.
I contend that, despite my brashness above, more local participation would not make local government worse, it would intensify the desire by local elected officials to serve well.
As I read various comments from candidates for local office (and I have done so for many years) I see candidates speaking in generalities, or isolated issues. I share what I see is the weakness in both.
When I see a candidate pontificating about supporting law enforcement (a generality) I want to rush out and vote for them early and often. Obviously, if they support law enforcement, every other candidate must hate the police and want crime to run rampant through the streets. Isn’t that the only logical conclusion? Vote for me because I support law enforce . . . therefore, my opponent has to have a different opinion, which would be hatred for law enforcement.
Ahhh. My sarcasm just seems to wax eloquent today.
At the opposite end of the gamut is the candidate speaking about isolated issues. For instance, when a candidate takes a stand that the animal control facility is in crisis and therefore they must be elected to fix the crisis, two things seem apparent. First, all the other candidates must hate animals and want them tortured. I have seen some tortured logic from candidates, but never a desire for tortured animals. Secondly, the problem with focusing on isolated issues is that they, at the local level, unlike at the national level, tend to go away in a reasonable amount of time after they are brought to light.
The local candidate, that a community ought to be seeking out, is the one that is open-minded and demonstrates an ability to view all issues from a positive and rationally sound perspective. Such a candidate has the ability to incorporate past actions of the community into their analysis. Although willing to speak directly and with confidence they are not reactionary. This type of candidate, when presented with an issue, focuses on solutions rather than on whom to blame.
Once upon a time there was an old cobbler that made a man a new set of shoes. Eventually the man came running through town ringing his bell to get attention. He then began to defame the cobbler because his new shoes wore a hole in his socks. The mayor being a wise leader asked two questions. “How long have you had the new shoes?” “Two months” was the answer. Then the mayor asked “And, how long have you worn your socks?” “Two years,” came the reply.
A good choice for a community leader is the one that hears the ringing of the bell, but then discerns the root of the problem. I encourage far more citizens to engage in local decision making, not simply at the polls, but at all times. Weigh carefully all experience and wisdom of all the local candidates. For when the bell tolls, we ought to be concerned about why it tolls, not simply that it does. We can know better at the local level than at any other time or place.
That is the WAY I see It.
A survey of our local candidates can be completed at my blog wwwjr.wordpress.com.
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William Way is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News. Additional writings may be found at wwwjr.wordpress.com.
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