Monday, November 2, 2009

Who are YOU Voting For??

I’m posting a day early to remind you to vote. I know it’s not an exciting year to be voting. You might not even know that Tuesday November 3, 2009 is Election Day. Many of us don’t worry about local elections. I used to feel that way. I only voted if there was a President at stake or some big referendum that was splashed across the front page, otherwise I let the people who obviously knew much more than me figure out the local politics. Here’s why that’s pretty stupid. It took me over 30 years to figure it out, so I apologize to all my neighbors and former-neighbors for my ignorance.

Local elections affect you MUCH MORE than national ones do. Sure, the presidential election is pretty exciting and we like to get fired up about it, but as much as I adore our current president, I am aware that the president doesn’t truly affect my daily life that much. What does affect my life is the decisions made by the local politicians – the township supervisors, my state representatives and senator, the county judges, the sheriffs, and the school board. These people have the power to ruin my real estate value and my children’s education. They can increase my taxes, force me to jump through legal hoops, and decide how late my children can stay out and whether they will ever be old enough to drive a car. In short, the decisions they make have a huge impact on my quality of life.

It’s easy to complain when new laws or new stores or new developments or new taxes are forced upon us, but unless we vote in the local elections (and do more than just pull the party lever), we have no one to blame but ourselves. I realize I may be too late to inspire many of your to find your polling place on Tuesday, but I hope this causes you to think for a moment about your own local elections. My old excuse was that there were too many names and I didn’t know any of them. Because I didn’t. But now I do. I’ve attended opportunities to hear from the candidates and read their literature. I’ve read the endorsements of our paper (for what it’s worth) and the letters to the editors. I’ve listened to anyone brave enough to hike up our driveway or call me on the phone. In some cases I’ve been able to speak to the candidates themselves. One thing I’ve learned is that any local candidate that is flowing with cash, most likely has someone with ulterior motives providing that flow. Many local positions are virtually voluntary with minimal reimbursement for expenses. The people who run for these offices do it because they are citizens who care. Sadly, just like Washington, local politics can be rife with “lobbyists” and “outside interests”, but you’d never know it unless you get involved. Don’t vote for someone just because they have lots of fancy signs. If you don’t know who you’re voting for and why, it would be better for all of us (including you!) if you stayed home.

I’m certain that I’ve offended plenty of people who believe that politics is something we shouldn’t talk about. (I offend the people who don’t want to talk about religion too.) But it seems crazy to me that something as important as our government is taboo in our daily conversations. We need to talk about this stuff - especially at the local level. As I said before, local politicians are not typically flush with cash, so it’s not easy to get their message out. It shouldn’t be completely their responsibility either. We need to step up and get involved. We need to find out who’s running and what the heck a “township supervisor” or “orphans court judge” does. Otherwise we are simply part of the problem.

Which brings me to how this is connected to Kid-friendly Organic Life. We need to vote for politicians who will move the wheels of government towards a more kid-friendly organic life. Voting is our most powerful tool, particularly when it comes to local decision makers. Recent local elections in my neck of the woods have been decided by one vote. One vote! If I want to improve the quality of my children’s education, one thing I can do (besides make sure my kids do their homework and respect their teachers) is know who I’m voting for when it comes to local elections. If I want laws that protect my children and this planet, they won’t happen unless the elected officials are people who are also interested in protecting my kids and this planet. If I would like to see more organic farming, I need to support the local officials who protect our farmland and believe organic farming is a more sustainable way of life. I’ll never know how any local politician feels about any of these things unless I make an effort to find out.

We know every crummy detail of our president’s and our governors’ and too many of our senators’ lives, but we don’t seem to know squat about the people who run our local government. I think that’s backwards. I hope that, if not this year, then next year, you will get out and make an informed vote in your local elections.

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