Now that the national elections are over it may be time for citizens to turn their focus and civic passion onto our towns, and county. While the federal political scene may be more “sexy,” it is our dour, plain local government that probably has a bigger impact on our lives. Not only does local government affect us the most, but also it is where our votes and involvement can make more of a difference. My guess is that most of the people who vote during the so-called “off-year” elections tend to be more partisan. This means that those decisions that matter the most to us are made by a few select men and women who have risen high in the party ranks and hold strongly to their particular political paradigms.
It also means that anybody who can work himself into that small sphere of power can wield more influence. In no way do I mean to insinuate that there is always a nefarious intent behind these political dealings. A union boss or business lobbyist is simply looking out for the best interest of the particular group they represent, but there are times when that interest may run counter to what is best for the majority of people. If more people would vote in local elections it would mean that our elected leaders would be accountable to a larger, more diverse group and that may cause them to be more balanced in their decision making. The union boss may be able to produce a few hundred votes or the business lobbyist a few thousand dollars in campaign donations, but that would hold very little weight if an elected official had to answer to a few thousand educated passionate independent voters whose vote went beyond party affiliations.
The holiday season is upon us when we attend many social functions. Maybe rather than talk about the so called “big” national issues, maybe it might be more interesting to talk about those things closer to home. Who do you think would be a good county executive? What do you think about the county deficit? Who’s your county legislator? Town supervisor? Mayor? Did you vote in the local election? Have you ever attended a town or county meeting? You actually may find that you argue less and question more because my guess is that we don’t know as much as we should about the things in our own backyard.