September 24, 2004 > Vote Last First
Vote Last First
Fremont Councilmember Dutra has asked citizens to consider local issues first when confronted with a thick ballot. He explains that by concentrating on the local scene prior to evaluating national and regional races, voters can make sensible decisions based on fact rather than leaving these choices to simple name recognition, second-hand knowledge or pedantic and flawed reasoning. I agree!
It is at the local level that "the rubber meets the road" and voters can make a noticeable impact. This is not to say that regional, state and national issues are unimportant, but each vote in a smaller pool of voters carries significantly more weight than in larger groups of voters. If, for example, 100 people vote in an election where the winner must have over 50%, that candidate will need at least 51 votes. A single vote is equivalent to approximately 2% of the votes needed. As the numbers of ballots increase, the weight of each vote decreases so in a group of 200 voters, each now represents 1% of the necessary tally. In close elections, that small percentage can spell the difference!
Our local scene will be heavily impacted this year by votes for mayors, councilmembers, school boards (interviews in our next edition), college boards and hospital boards (October 26th edition). These people and bond measures are focused on the local area with immediate and personal impacts on our neighborhoods. Talking with them is just a phone call or email away. Contact information is of public record and can be found through your local city clerk or county registrar of voters. Candidates are usually open to discussion and welcome citizen input.
People you know or can get to know are asking for your vote, either for money, to solicit continued support for the job they have been doing or to let a new face have a chance to make important community decisions. Community forums are being advertised and local groups are inviting candidates to speak about their qualifications and ballot measures. If you get a chance, take time out to match a name with a face and listen to their arguments. Put together your own group of concerned citizens and neighbors and ask the candidates to stop by to discuss their ideas.
Catchy slogans are common in political campaigns but reveal little. There is a certain amount of selflessness in the political arena, but it can be a labyrinth of deals and deception too. Clear answers that make sense should be required, especially if denouncing another's viewpoint. If one vision is flawed, has another that sheds light on a preferable alternate been given? Strength of character and trustworthiness is essential for leadership. While it is practically impossible to agree with every decision made by someone during years of controversial issues, the essential question is if you, the voter, trust the individual asking for your support. If trust is missing, the earnest tones of smooth politicos cannot replace it.
The old adage that "figures lie and liars figure" can find traction in statistics often used to bolster budget arguments. At the state level, it is abundantly clear that the legislature is mired in partisan politics and has no fortitude to do what is necessary to put its house in order. We have sent several local high profile representatives to the political altar in Sacramento and they are soon drowning in the same mess we hoped would change. It may be business as usual in the capitol, but we have an opportunity to banish such behavior from the local scene.
When the public is told that their government has planned wisely for contingencies and emergencies and staff is continually lauded for their good works, the results should reflect such actions. If rhetoric and results are at odds, which do you think should be questioned?