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Si se puede writ local

Submitted by on Friday, 10 October 2008 One Comment

I’m grumpy in the morning to begin with, plus you can’t be involved in political reporting for as long as I was without developing at least a veneer of cynicism.

Which is why I’ve snarled at one particular city council campaign sign every day this week on the way to school. “About action. About time,” it promises.

How naive, I’d scoff . And please, I know you don’t have Karl Rove or James Carville on staff, but could you at least come up with an original slogan?

Then I thought about our city council over the past few years and realized that one person has made a difference. Not necessarily in a good way, either.

He’s pro-business and pro-NIMBY, opposing a homeless shelter because it’s not the city’s responsibility and a small office-housing development in an upper-middle class neighborhood. “What!? You want to put apartments where?”

His side lost on the apartments – the plans had been approved long before the NIMBYs got their shorts in a wad — but something positive came out of it.

Now when a project is planned or a zoning change requested, the city puts a big-honking sign on the lot in question. Big-honking enough that you can see it from Sacramento in plenty of time to get involved if you choose.

So even though I disagree violently with this guy’s politics, I have to admit: He’s made a difference.

Which makes me wonder why we seldom give local candidates the benefit of the doubt and a bit of our attention. Why am I willing to believe “si se puede” nationally but scoff at “About action. About time” in my own city?

It’s not just me. Look at returns from any election in any city in any state and you’ll see ever-dwindling numbers of votes cast the further down the ballot you go. Few people would skip voting for president; many take a pass on city council.

It’s as if we’re able to see the big picture — we get that health insurance and taxes effect our lives — but forget that tiny backyard decisions can have just as big an impact. We object to firing squads but tolerate hometown waterboarding.

There’s a risk in that, and not just for quality of life. Everyone knows of a dunderhead passed up the political food chain because he was a city councilman and then a state legislator or governor. As if having served automatically qualifies someone for higher office. Eventually, we wind up with morons in Congress — sometimes the White House — because we were asleep at the start.

It’s true that too often locally we’re left with choices between “a dead person would be better” and “hold your nose and vote.” But it’s still a choice, even if the options reek.

After I’d downed enough coffee this morning to get over the grumps, I took at closer look at Candidate Action, as well as the other four folks running for two seats. I found distinct choices. Two folks I pretty much agree with, one I’m neutral on and two I’d vote for the dead person before filling in the bubbles beside their names.

It’s a sharply divided council right now, with the NIMBYs and the sane folks battling to see who comes out on top. One person will indeed make a difference.

Thank you, Candidate Action. My cynical reaction to your sign guilted me into being a responsible, informed voter. And I’m going to vote for you.

Si se puede? I believe you can.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg.

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One Comment »

  • julie said:

    I know so very little about politics. I read the occasional post and read the comments on the few political posts I’ve attempted, but I hate to involve myself because people get so offended, no matter what is said. Anyway, I’m having a hard time with this election. I will vote for Pres., but I was just telling my hubby that I’d much prefer to vote ONLY for the local politicians. To me, that’s the most important. The ones who can affect change closer to home. This campaign season is a messy one, but this country needs change and I hope everyone does their part and gets to the polls. Great post.