All politics is local

Published 6:06 pm Thursday, September 24, 2015

Although there is no presidential election, gubernatorial or state legislature elections this year, it is important that voters in the municipal elections this fall go to the polls, vote early or vote by absentee ballot.

After all, it’s the city council, board of aldermen or board of commissioners that directly affect the financial pockets of those they represent. It’s the city council that sets that property-tax rate. It’s the board of aldermen that sets fees for some municipal services. It’s the board of commissioners that determines whether to spend taxpayers’ money on a new garbage truck or build a new town park.

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr., former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is closely associated with this phrase: all politics is local. Municipal elections are about as local as it gets. What does the phrase all politics is local mean? Simply put, it means that politicians should appeal to the everyday, mundane and simple concerns of those who put them in office. It’s those personal concerns, not the large and intangible ideas, that voters care about and want addressed.

Let a city council begin talking about raising property taxes at the same day the U.S. Congress is discussing a foreign-aid plan, and see which subject is talked about more at the local diner the next morning. Bet you a cup of coffee it’s the proposed increase in the tax rate that draws the most comments.

Sadly, municipal elections, unless there are controversial issues or candidates, don’t tend to draw large numbers of voters to the polls. That’s a shame. Municipal councils and boards have more influence on voters’ daily lives — for the most part — than governments at the state and federal levels. A city council appoints people to planning boards, historic preservation commissions and other advisory boards. The people on these boards help shape policies, guidelines and rules for a city, town or village. These board members help decide what types of growth are appropriate for a city, town or village and where that growth should occur. These board members help determine what type of fences are allowed in a historic district. These board members make suggestions concerning changing the name of the city-owned airport.

Don’t think municipal elections are all that important? Think again.