You see Thomas "Tip" O'Neill—a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress— once declared, "All politics is local." At the time, he was explaining how the problems and concerns of towns and cities around the country affect the actions of their representatives and senators in D.C. THAT is true, but it the local officials who have the greatest impact on our everyday lives. We so often forget this reality of life because the big BUCK campaigns and brouhaha that take place in the Fall elections. TH*NK about how much we depend upon the decisions made by the local officials and board members in maintaining (and administering) the critical services we need for our very safety, health, and existence? These folks are the real unsung heroes of representative democracy in America. Their powers are pretty much capped, they cannot arbitrarily print money - or issue debt, and they must deal with public animosity face to face with no “buffer staffs” or PR firewalls.
It is the true face to face campaigning that tends to occur in these Spring elections. This is the real retail politics. These races for public office usually do not depend on huge campaign budgets, prime time television ads, or highly publicized debates. Instead, they use more basic approaches and give us a vivid picture of democracy in action. There is a bonding and a dialogue between the candidates and the electorate that is really missing to a large extent in the Fall election cycle.
The decision to run for local office is clearly NOT done for personal gain, or to fulfill any egotistical power/clout needs. It requires a sense of community, dedication, and toughness of skin that defies the normal laws of natural selection and self-preservation/ well-being. Still... people choose to run for office and serve their friends and neighbors in so many necessary capacities. I tip my hat to them and want to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt thanks to all. My late father, Ted, was a local mayor for something like 27 years and held the job until he literally dropped over. He once told me that you are lucky if you have pleased 51% of the people 51% of the time. I’m not so dedicated as my father, but I will participate and help those elected by serving on boards and ad hoc committees set up by them.
Those selected/elected in Tuesday’s elections will be facing a particularly long and difficult row to hoe now. Never in my lifetime have I sensed so many challenges rising to the surface in an environment having ever-so-limited resources and revenues. The present financial/economic and business status quo is far from any rosy scenario – even though our corner of Ogle County in Illinois is doing amazingly well when compared to travails barraging the rest of this nation. Local entities cannot depend on the largesse of Springfield and Washington DC to cover our financial shortfalls. Let’s face it, both Illinois and the Federal Government are broke, and are only theatrically putting on the “don’t worry be happy” faces that governments are known to do. Local units must get by with revenues generated by the existing proceeds from property taxes and sales taxes – enough said!
Please take the time to vote in Tuesday’s elections. TH*NK about how much we all depend on local officials, and are impacted by their decisions. If you see any of them face to face, please tell them you appreciate their dedication and sacrifices for all of us.
I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on April 6, 2009.