By Judy Ferro
A friend once said he never voted because politicians were so good at deception that he felt he would just end up voting for the biggest liar.
I didn’t have an answer for that, so I asked another friend, Jack Fisher. After a moment of thought, Jack said, “Tell him to vote local.”
It makes sense. Vote for candidates whose friends and critics live nearby, candidates without public relations teams, candidates who are out there speaking for themselves.
Yet voters don’t turn out in droves for local races. In city elections, few of the candidates live more than 10 miles from their farthest constituents. Yet turnout is about half that for elections with statewide candidates on the ballot.
Why? Perhaps too many of us commute to work and don’t know a lot about our community. Low-budget campaigns mean most candidates don’t do mailings, much less advertisements. Television covers only heated local elections; voters in Boise have no reason to be interested in profiles of candidates from Notus, Melba, Wilder, etc.
Plus, there are no Ds or Rs after the names to give out-of-the-loop voters a clue — and most candidates claim to be fiscally conservative.
Well, this week is the last chance to talk to friends, read newspapers, ask questions and make up one’s mind about the city races. These are factors I consider:
Character. Family, length of residence, club memberships, religious affiliation, etc. are meaningful, but mainly as clues to the central question: Does this candidate expect to serve or to be served? Is the ego big enough for him or her to stand firm when necessary, but not so big that winning every conflict becomes more important than serving?
Intelligence/Knowledge. Good decision makers know the basics of government, can comprehend detailed information, and know where to go and who to talk to when they need information. Wednesday night one of the Nampa Council candidates said that taxpayers paid 4 percent on urban renewal loans and only 1¼ percent on public bonds. That scored points with me, for I hadn’t realized rates would be different.
Contribution to team diversity. We elect a team rather than one person, so the council has insight into more of its constituency. We need variety not only in gender and race, but also in age, economic status, contacts and occupation. We wouldn’t want a council made up entirely of contractors any more than we’d want a baseball team made up entirely of shortstops, but it is good to have someone who can estimate costs and review designs.
Ability to prioritize. Any city could benefit from more funding for police, fire departments, libraries, streets, beautification and outreach to businesses and tourists, as well as lower taxes.
Most council decisions aren’t between good and bad, but between good and good. They can be tough. A councilperson must be willing to hear all sides, to compromise and, when the time comes, to say, “I support this because…” and stick by it. It’s a hard skill to judge, but certainly we distrust those who promise too much.
Agreement on some important issues. The probability is high that no candidate will agree with you on every issue, so it is your turn to prioritize. Are you willing to support a candidate who agrees with you on getting more police on the street even if he or she disagrees about more funding for roads and on continuing urban renewal?
We can never really know about most of these things. It’s our duty as members of a republic, however, to do our best. Happy researching! (Video of the forum for Nampa can be found at kboi2.com, and video of the Caldwell forum is available at kboi2.com and idahopress.com).
Judy Ferro is the state committeewoman for Canyon County Democrats. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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