Yesterday, around the United States, millions of people went to the polls. They voted on important measures, elected mayors, city council representatives, school board members, and tax measures to support various needs in the community. Although millions of us voted, we remained a minority of registered voters, which means that a minority of Americans decided all of these issues. This is disturbing to me. If we're to be a representative democracy then the citizenry need to take seriously their role in the process. It's not enough to complain. If you don't like the way things are going then exercise your right to vote, because if you don't, someone else will.
The election results in the city I inhabit were deeply disappointing to me. Representatives of the Tea Party took control of the City Council. An experienced and nationally respected council woman, Robin Beltramini, lost in her bid for the mayor's office to a person who has been a Tea Party instigator. Now this faction will have to govern. They have suggested that we can do all manner of things, while whittling down the city staff and rejecting the reality that there is much less money coming into the city's coffers than before. For instance, the library's budget has been cut in half. You can't offer all the services once provided with that kind of budget. We're fortunate that we have a highly regarded volunteer fire department, which reduces costs to the city immensely. We have a fine police department, which has made the city one of the safest in the nation, but how will that be maintained if police officers have to be let go due to budget woes. One of the complaints about the city from this faction is that the employees are too well-paid. But as folks in the private sector like to remind us, if you want quality you have to pay for it. If what Troy pays it's highly regarded staff is diminished, will they not go elsewhere. Already many of our top staff have left to take better paying jobs in neighboring cities. These are disturbing trends that will speak loudly to companies thinking about relocating here, as well as possible new residents. Why choose Troy when it seems to be going backwards in time, rather than moving forward?
These are the kinds of issues that require our attention, and our votes impact them.
Now, I'm disappointed, but I'm also committed to the pursuit of the common good. I believe that there remain on the City Council people willing to listen to reason. I plan to contact one of those city council members, a person who has been aligned with the winning faction and have a conversation about my concerns. I believe that he might be willing to see other sides of the coin. I'm hopeful, even in my disappointment.
But at the end of the day -- if you want to see good things happen in your community you need to be an informed voter and you have to vote. The old saying is that "all politics is local," and yet too often we only come out to vote when there is a Presidential election. That simply won't do the job of a democracy.