"Election in a Non-Election Year"
- 11/06/2013 by BN Aziz (WBAI)


Later today I'll drag myself to my nearby polling station, not reluctantly
but somewhat mindlessly. I admit it: I don't know the names of political
candidates or their party affiliation in today's election. Who will I vote

So why bother? It's a state of mind I probably share with most other voting
age Americans today.

These 2013 polls are not even called 'mid-term elections'. Those happen next
year when congressional and senate seats are contested. They're immensely
important because they decide which party holds the majority in Congress;
this in turn will determine the potential of the presidency, also who'll
chair the influential US congressional committees. As we see in the current
administration, although Democrats hold a slim senate majority, most reforms
proposed by the president are blocked in the House of Representatives.
Confronted by an unfriendly majority Republican Congress, Obama's power has
been hugely diminished throughout his tenure.
Any chance to correct this comes only next year, when American media do
their job to inform and prepare us for the various national races, at least
the close ones, and when some major controversies are hotly debated

But what about today's election? Since it's not a 'president-creating'
event, we voters hear little about it. (Forget about world citizens usually
enchanted by US elections.) Today's contests are local, or town elections;
today we pick our community administrators and vote on referendums having to
do with our environment, our taxes, our employment programs. You may have
heard about New York City's mayoral battle, and the races for two
governorships-in Virginia and New Jersey. But I don't reside in any of those
places. Today, I can only vote for my local council, the judge, and our
rural equivalent of mayor. Ho hum.

First, in many regions of New York state (and perhaps across the country) a
lot of those names on the ballot are unopposed. Yes, only one candidate;
thus no real choice for us voters. Second, our local media-regional
newspapers, community radio and TV stations--devote little attention to
these races. So finding out about candidates calls for a major personal
effort-- for me, at least. The few  banners posted on tress and lawns around
town listing names- Helen Lee, Tom Sush, Andrea Reynosa, e.g., don't
indicate their political party. To find that I need to peruse a special
(finely printed) listing in a local paper. Or I wait until I arrive in the
polling station. (One notice I read carries the Democratic Party logo, but a
rider says 'paid for by the candidate'-hmm, what do I make of that? This ad,
for Reynosa, says she stands for 3 P's-Protect, Preserve, and Promote. Not
very helpful. Besides, she's running for Tusten Town Council and I can't
vote there, whatever I may think of her cryptic 3 P's agenda.)

Maybe I should take a rain check and wait for a 'real' election. Problem
is: I believe in local governance and its role in our democracy.

The municipality is where things are done, or not done, that directly affect
my daily life. Here's where property and school taxes are levied; here's
where roads are maintained, power lines repaired, school standards are
checked, where our library is funded, where construction codes are
monitored, where police are posted, where our town court and fire department
are, and where the budget for community health and welfare services is

Our Town Supervisor (local mayor) and her Councilmen and women may receive
only part-time salaries of as little as $15,000. Yet they decide the
allocation of budgets of half a million dollars and more. They do the work
that maintains the roads and electric lines, rain or shine, keeps schools
running and controls crime.

It's my Town Council's initiative that may win state and federal grants for
major local projects-- grants that boost employment, support the arts, build
social centers, repair roads, bridges and streams, supplement school
educational programs, allocate funds for the needy. In effect, it is these
almost quasi-anonymous women and men to whom I owe my safety, my
opportunities and the quality of day-to-day life I enjoy-- through our
winter storms, at my free library and parkland, and in the pure water I

Excuse me. I better get to the polls before closing time.
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