Monday, November 4, 2013

Week of 11/04/2013

Local Elections Matter!
– by David Matthews 2

“Remember, Remember The Fifth of November…”

The Fifth of November may be best known as Guy Fawkes Day, but for this year here in America, it is also the first Tuesday of November, which makes it Election Day.

Now I know some people are thinking to themselves “But it’s 2013!  There’s nobody running for Congress or the White House this year!”  Well that’s true.  With the possible exception of a special election to fill some sudden vacancy, Washington really has nothing to fear this year.  And President Obama certainly wouldn’t have to worry anyway because he can’t run for a third term thanks to the U.S. Constitution.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be paying attention to who is up for election or re-election this coming Tuesday!

Quite the contrary; you probably should pay even more attention your state and local ballots.

Here’s something to think about: this past year, my local government decided that the taxpayers should buy a golf course.  And a vacated historical hotel building.  And another vacant building in that same area just to tear down and turn into green space!  And all the while, budgets are being slashed to the bone and homeowners are being told they will have to cough up some extra money in property taxes.  The county itself is going through a severe turnover crisis as several of their employees, all experienced managers, have resigned en masse.  The county sheriff here had to resort to some old-fashioned political campaigning to get the money he wanted for his department, including a few letters-to-the-editor.  Can you imagine that?

Meanwhile, a nearby county is trying to get rid of strip clubs, despite an overwhelming number of taxpayers saying that they shouldn’t even try and to just leave the clubs alone.  The legal bill for that county’s self-appointed crusade is expected to be in the millions as they try to prevail in the court system.  And the people waging this self-appointed self-righteous “crusade” are certainly not the ones that are footing the bill for it, so they really have nothing to lose.

This is all local, folks.  Not even state-level stuff!  The taxpayers have to fund all of this through local taxes.  Local car taxes.  Local property taxes.  Local special-option sales taxes.  And that’s not counting all of the taxes that you have to pay for local schools!  That’s a separate governing body and a separate pile of bills for everyone to pay!  (And, yes, that’s even if you don’t have kids.)

All of these things are handled or otherwise overseen by local politicians that are either sworn-in or appointed through local elections.  People that you, as a local resident, put in office either through your vote or your non-vote.

And let’s get brutally honest here… these people get in power because most of their constituents really don’t pay attention to these kinds of elections!  They know that many of you don’t care about elections if it doesn’t involve a member of Congress or the President.  Why bother if there are only a couple of races that really don’t interest you, right?

That’s the power of the non-vote, folks.  Your apathy, your indifference to local elections actually fuels the arrogance of the local politicians.  You don’t care enough to vote in the local elections; therefore you won’t care what the local politicians do with your tax money.

So I have to ask you… do you like how your local government is being handled?  Did you really want to pay for a golf course?  Or to buy a vacated building in the historic district?  Or another vacated building to just tear down and grow grass on?  Did you really want your taxes to go up?  Did you want to go through several episodes of looking for experienced managers to find someone capable of working with the people that were voted in?

No?  Then why did you vote for these people?  If not actively, then certainly through your non-vote.

It’s funny how the same people that complain endlessly about “government” being bloated and wasteful seem to be very quiet when that “government” is local.  All of that talk about “throwing the bums out” gets hypocritically muted when the “bums” are in your own community, and may even be your own neighbors.

How do you expect the career politicians and their special interest masters on the state and federal levels to take you seriously if you don’t give a care about the political crap that goes on right in your own back yard?  They see your indifference to the local games.  A lot of them come from those local offices.  They know how easy it is to get away with everything if you, the electors, just don’t care.

And, by the way, I’m not the only one thinking this.  Time and time again I open the newspaper or I turn on the TV or radio and I hear all of those so-called “political experts” say the same thing.  They talk about how you, the great unwashed, just don’t care for these elections.  They speculate as to how low the turnout will be and how badly the incumbent local politician will win over any possible challenger.  Only they don’t say it with disgust like I do.  They say it with pride and confidence.  They say it with the tone of the status quo reminding the great unwashed just how pathetic and hypocritical they really are.

This is why I urge you, if you care one whit about holding politicians accountable, to start with the politician next door!  Don’t let them and their friends get an automatic “buy” into local government.  Take the time to get informed about who is running for the local governing bodies.  Shock the political “experts” and actually show up at the polling place on Election Day this year and cast your votes according to the candidates you think would do a better job.  You’ll certainly shock the system if you do that, and the people in power, even on a local level, will have no choice but to pay attention.

There is a dirty little secret about Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Day.  Guy Fawkes wasn’t a hero.  There was nothing brave or heroic in what he did.  He was a fall guy for the conspiracy that tried to blow up Parliament and kill the King of England, but was stopped before it could happen.  He was a failure.  He was a poor sap that was taken captive and made an example of by the reigning government.  In fact, it was King James I - the intended target of the “Gunpowder Plot” - who ordered a celebration be made as a public reminder that the status quo was still in charge. 

And yet, Fawkes still did the one thing that most people here have yet to do when faced with a system of power they object to.  Fawkes at least tried to do something.

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