Make Good Choices

Steve Woodhouse

As I’m sure you saw, tomorrow is Election Day in Marion County. Though I provided details about each City and School Board ballot, there is something I felt more comfortable discussing in a column.

I know I previously shared my opinion about the importance of getting the right people on your local school board, I don’t think it can be stressed enough. Children are too important, as is money.

Beyond being the State’s largest expense, school districts also receive the lion’s share of your property tax dollars. In Marion County, school levies range from over $13 to over $18.

When you’re in the ballot booth, think about it. Who do you think is most trustworthy, sensible and caring for not only the needs of our youth, but for you as a taxpayer? Even those who don’t own property still pay income and sales taxes, which benefit schools. It’s not a decision that should be made lightly, let alone by a small percentage of the electorate.

I don’t have exact figures, but I am certain that turnout for these local elections has been below 10 percent in some Marion County precincts. If not that low, it has been below 20. Yet, unlike the general elections, which receive more pomp and circumstance, it is your school boards and city councils that have a greater impact on your day-to-day life.

I’m never going to stop repeating the fact that the Legislature and the federal Department of Education have handed down too many mandates to local governing bodies. However, we as a society are much more likely to be able to influence the best ways to address these mandates at the local level. A board or council might have to follow these rules, but there is some room for determining how it is done and how much money is going to be spent on it.

Effective local elected officials, like your mayor, council member, or school board director, can also work to get changes made at the statehouse. It’s not easy, but legislators can listen to these officials, especially if they are aware that a school board member has the full support of several registered voters behind his/her words.

City leadership is also very important. I find it very refreshing to have so many contested races this time around. In the 15-plus years I’ve covered Marion County elections, I think this is is the most competitive local election I’ve seen. It’s great to see so much interest in the election, and the awareness of how important it is.

City levies vary around the county, but that’s okay. It should be up to you as a citizen and your council to determine what level of city services you can and should provide. Not everyone is going to have a public works department the size of Pella’s nor can every city afford to maintain streets on the budget size of Hamilton’s.

But what we need to remember is, who on the ballot shares your goals for city services? For city growth? Do these people share your vision for the future? Is that future attainable? Do you agree with how they propose to get there? What changes do you want to see with which they agree and will stand up for?

You’re much more likely to get through to a city council member when it comes to change than a legislator, Governor, U.S. Representative or anyone else further up. As I’ve stated before, the great thing about local elected bodies is that it is a lot harder for them to hide from you and hide what they are doing.

In closing, please get out and vote tomorrow. The future of our county is in your hands.

Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.