The electorate in local elections is lazy.
Sorry to be so blunt, but I feel honesty is needed now more than ever.
I read a post on Facebook last week that left me with a deep feeling of disappointment in the approach some people take to the polls. After a lengthy rant, the post concluded with: “vote out all local incumbents.”
I find comments like this to be the problem with social media. For the narrow-minded, it gives validity to opinions that do not deserve validation at all. That goes for opinions on other subjects, as well. But this is America and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, no matter how blatantly ignorant that opinion may be.
Please allow me to paint a picture that should enter your mind before you go cast your vote.
In a one-factory town, most citizens will rely on the factory for income and, in turn, most other small businesses rely on this factory to employee citizens and pay them a respectable wage so the citizens can shop, buy their cars and eat at their restaurants. The lone hometown bank needs the factory for people to finance housing and the local car dealer needs to sell cars, and he needs people with money to buy them.
But one day the factory closes. It is inevitable – the town will collapse on itself. But it will not happen tomorrow, or the next day or the next. It will take time.
It will take years for the decision of factory brass to move the plant to Mexico to ruin the town. Laid off employees will find work elsewhere and move from the town, taking their sales-tax dollars with them. Other laid-off employees will receive decent severance packages and have money to live for a few months – but they will be cutting back on luxury. The job market in surrounding towns will become saturated and some former factory employees will struggle to find work.
Some stragglers will have enough in savings to endure the hardship. Others will find lower-paying work at the local burger barn or shrimp shack. But over time, the income for the town that was once thriving will slowly dry up. Too many houses will hit the market and prices will plummet. The local eatery will either be forced to cut workers, hours or shut the doors because eating out is now a luxury most cannot afford. The local car dealer will not be able to move cars to the jobless. Some homes will face foreclosure. Even the local football team will struggle to raise money because the factory will not put up its annual $10,000 corporate sponsorship. The city will see a sharp hit in sales tax and property tax income, forcing a rate hike on the already financially-drained citizens to meet payroll for the police department. Crime will likely go up, too.
It will take a few years, but the town will collapse and become a haven for scammers and loan sharks preying on the poor with high-interest advance payday loans.
But five years after the factory has moved on and the rest of the dominos continue to slowly fall, it would be unfair to take out blame on a county commissioner who was elected three years ago for the climbing tax rate. Perhaps that commissioner, councilman, alderman or mayor has bright, realistic ideas for a turnaround. But because the lazy voter promotes the rally cry to oust incumbents, you vote for someone else who runs on the failures of many years ago and convinces you that incumbents are the problem. Incumbents aren’t the problem. After all, who elected them?
To be clear, I am not signing off on any endorsements – incumbent or political freshman – either could be the best selection depending on the race. But voters must not cast a wide net and lump all elected officials together.
Become educated. Request voting records with local offices, read the newspaper and actually speak with those who are running and determine who is worthy of your vote.
Your vote is just that – it is yours. Yours to cast. Your decision to make.
Don’t be lazy with it. If you are then you should not spread blame on the politician. You only need to look in the mirror.
– Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He is a Tennessee Press Association award-winning writer and photographer. His column, “From the editor’s desk” won TPA first-place honors for best personal humor column. He can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Click here to follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29