More reasons than usual to vote local
Three weeks from today, before the sun comes up, the polls will open in every Connecticut town to elect mayors, councils, boards of selectmen and school boards.
It's the odd-year, municipal election process, typically having about the lowest of all voter turnout numbers. But there is plenty more that is odd, and nothing typical, about 2017. It follows a presidential election in which record numbers of Americans registered to vote; it comes part way through the first year of an administration that variously horrifies or thrills the citizenry; and it could unfortunately be historic if it takes place while the state is operating without an adopted budget.
No federal or state offices are on the ballot in Connecticut, so it may not seem to matter much who runs a town. The local leaders can't control state mandates, let alone negotiate world peace. And what's in a name? A forest of lawn signs doesn't help most voters know who they'd be voting for or what the candidates support or oppose. They can't even put faces to the names.
Local elections matter because they are the closest thing most citizens have to control public affairs. Most of the people who would trouble to run for local office and carry out its obligations have learned how hard it can be, and how thankless. Yet they are just a phone call or a text away when a citizen raises an issue.
Leadership begins here. These are the people who know they will have to make a town or a school system work even if the belated budget axes far more than the community can afford to lose. They are the ones who will be listening to residents' complaints.
Their offices are the low rungs of a ladder that most of them will never care to climb but, like career politicians at all levels, they know better than to ever underestimate the grassroots. Unlike some higher-ups, they practice the virtues of thrift and compromise for the common good because they have to. Most Connecticut small towns really run pretty well, despite the challenges of funding, because leaders are there to get it done.
Last week U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, announced her decision to run for re-election rather than running for governor. Collins has stood out for several years as an independent-minded senator who will vote according to conscience — most recently, effectively scuttling one of the repeated health care repeal moves. Collins said she continues "to believe that Congress can, and will, be more productive." That she would stick with it, when others are surrendering, is one good model of leadership.
Another is the new president of Gateway Community College in New Haven which, like the towns, depends heavily on state funding. Paul Broadie is at the same time the president of Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, and he told the New Haven Independent that the colleges will do more with less. That kind of calm leadership works well at every level.
Three weeks is plenty of time to figure out who can lead your town through the state's fiscal sewage overflow with an attitude of "Keep calm and carry on." There are several ways to check out the candidates:
- Some towns' Republican and Democratic town committees have websites or Facebook pages, and some of those are far more informative than others. It's worth looking. (Committees that don't use social media should consider the option for voters who do.)
- The Day, the League of Women Voters and other organizers are holding debates.
- Candidate interviews will begin running in The Day and www.theday.com Oct. 21.
Election Day is Tuesday Nov. 7. If you are not registered to vote in your town, do so by mail, online or in person by Oct. 31, or on Election Day if if you turn 18 or move into town after that. The website of the secretary of the state has all the rules and options.
The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.
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