Put National Politics Aside, Think Local Governance

By: - August 20, 2018

Everything we hear in the national discourse when it comes to national politics has a spin, an agenda, and those that report it want to make sure we only hear their preferred side.

The Republican Party is full of far-right-wing racists and the Democratic Party is full of liberal socialists. At least that is what the mainstream media would have you believe. Day in and day out, minute by minute the media tells us how evil, crazy, unhinged, unfit, unpatriotic, and how corrupt each side is. The story is always the same. The other side is terrible and destroying the country on purpose. Which side that is depends entirely on which news outlet you follow. In fact, according to the media, both sides are treasonous depending on the time of day it seems.

The stories that are reported as “facts” are often so patently false, poorly sourced or just made up out of thin air that they are unbelievable. At least you would think they are, but again and again, we see people that should know better, those that definitely do know better, and those that merely parrot the narrative over and over, telling us the story is true.

Politics is a Mess

The political landscape is a minefield. Navigating just exactly where to step or which direction to turn is daunting. The political hit machine of the opposing side chews up and spits out good people right and left. Those that are trying to do something useful, those with conviction and generally good people are just not equipped for the mud wallowing that is required in modern-day politics. That is a real shame as it quickly convinces good people to stay out of the line of fire in order to protect themselves and their families.

Today, if you venture into politics, you, your family, your friends, and just about anyone you have ever met will be fodder for the other side. Personal attacks are the name of the game these days. I know this first hand as my husband ran for a countywide office—the depths of the personal attacks, outlandish accusations, and outright lies were not something we were prepared for. In the end, he was not successful, but we both decided we would never subject ourselves to such vitriol again.

It Is Not Just the Media

Forget about the press for a moment. Have you watched any of the hearings that seem to be continually going on? Those hearings, investigations, and inquiries always dissolve into a fight between parties. No one is trying to get to the facts. It is all about protecting a position.

In the recent hearings into the Trump collusion investigation, I watched as one side did everything they could to stop any and all questioning from the other side. Why? If this is an investigation, doesn’t it seem that all sides would want to know what went on? Instead, it is all grandstanding, delay tactics and such clear partisanship (on both sides) that nothing gets done. Politics as usual.

How Does a Person Go About Making a Difference?

Forget national politics and try local governance. Answer a few simple questions if you will. When was the last time you went to a school board meeting? How about a meeting of the city council or the county commission? Do you even know who sits on your city council? Do you know the name of your county commissioner representing you? These are the individuals whose decisions affect local people on a very personal level.

If a Senator or a member of Congress votes to support a “pet pork project” or a bill that has consequences at the national level, chances are it will have a minimal effect on you. They don’t know you, your situation, your needs and, frankly, more than likely don’t care.

Juxtapose that with the decisions made on a continuous basis at the local level. If your water rates are changed, or your property tax is adjusted, this makes a personal difference in your life. Road repair, trash pickup, utility rates, ordinances, city/county budgets, projects, and more all have a very particular effect on the local population. This is where you can make a difference.

Many say that their vote doesn’t matter. It is only one out of millions, but that is not true on the local level. In the community where I live, elections have been won and lost by literally one vote. At the local level, your vote absolutely matters.

Smaller cities still rely on paper ballots. (Credit: YouTube/TOMO News US)

Local Communities Face Humongous Challenges

Today, the small town ethos of our parents and grandparents is gone. Our local communities are rife with challenges that run the gamut from natural disasters to school shootings. These tragedies can bring a community together or tear it apart. Every decision at the local level makes a difference.

Droughts, fires, rains, tornados, or hurricanes all must be dealt with on the local level by local leaders. Employment, personnel matters, law enforcement, safety, and security are the business of the local leadership.

County Commissioners don’t decide national agendas, but they do decide if they can purchase a new fire truck for the community. They determine whether the road you live on gets fixed. They make an everyday decision that makes a real difference in the people that live in the community. The school board decides on the school superintendent, school principal, and teachers. They set teacher salaries and even choose what type of food your child gets at school.

Your city council members decide everything from your local police chief (or if you even have one), city ordinances, proclamations, resolutions, zoning and planning, code enforcement, public works, animal control and much more. They have statutory authority to impact your day-to-day life.

“It’s always interesting to see how people get engaged in the process some with full knowledge of the broader process and challenges and other only out of emotions. ” (Credit: Facebook/Daniel Pacheco)

Recently I took on a leadership position as the city administrator in our local town. I never knew the level of constant decisions that have very profound effects on our local population. It was eye-opening. My duties and responsibilities as defined by the state and municipal statutes are extensive—from records management, conducting city elections, being the general accountant of the municipality, and everything in-between.

What I have learned is that serving in a leadership role in local government is an immense responsibility. Public service is vitally important, hard, tiresome, and yet extremely rewarding. I work with city council members, residents, and all those unofficial community leaders that have ideas, concerns, and needs. When you can create conditions that result in real, tangible, and positive changes in your community, there is no better feeling.

The visionary leadership and influence a local leader can have in shaping public policy, being an agent of positive change, and taking that stand to make those decisions are precisely what they do every day. It is what they should do, and that is the very definition of governance.

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