While the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gets by far the lion’s share of political headlines, there are many other races and issues on the ballot in November.
It’s easy to forget that.
The local and state votes are as meaningful – I would argue, more so – than who becomes our next president.
What condition are our roads in? Is the local school district seeking a renewal or an increase for technology, new buildings or general expenses? What about House and Senate seats, both statewide and national?
I see some judgeships on my ballot, too. If you’re like me, you don’t know much about those candidates. Time to do a little research.
Here in Ohio, there’s a U.S. Senate seat up for election that’s almost as contentious as the presidential race. The incumbent, Republican Rob Portman, and the challenger, Democrat Ted Strickland (a former governor), are waging high-profile, often mud-slinging campaigns, and have been for months. (Actually, many of the most vicious ads are paid for by PACs and not by the candidates themselves. That’s worth noting.)
I’ll be glad when the election is over for more than one reason.
The smartest candidates, especially in their radio ads (since I’m on the road a lot, I listen to the radio several hours a day), don’t even say what party they represent. They tout their stance on an issue or two important to them, often in a positive way.
I wish TV ads were modeled after radio ads. They’d be much more productive.
Our local newspaper recently published its election guide. That’s a great place to begin your research of the candidates and issues in your area. Ours was done in a Q-and-A format, allowing each candidate to answer specific questions in his or her own words. I can judge for myself how well each candidate responds.
We also can see which candidates did not take the time to respond.
That actually is more of an issue in the local League of Women Voters guide, available at local libraries, social service agencies and senior centers.
I was surprised. You’d think the League of Women Voters would be as impartial as anyone. Why not accept the free publicity?
You also could visit www.vote411.org and enter your street address to get a “one-stop shop” for election related information. This works in any jurisdiction across the country.
In Lorain County, Ohio, you also can visit the Board of Elections site, http://www.loraincountyelections.com/, for lists of candidates and issues. In Saginaw County, Mich., where my family lived for 27 years, check the county clerk’s elections page, http://www.saginawcounty.com/clerk/elections.aspx.
The League asked challenging questions, such as: “What should the federal government’s top three priorities be in setting a sound energy policy?”
Or, for a state House of Representatives race, how about this one: “When the Ohio legislature takes up the state biennial budget next year, what if any changes should be made to how funding is allocated between traditional public schools, charter schools, online schools, and state funds to nonpublic schools (including vouchers)? What accountability standards should be required of such schools that receive state funds?”
Answers to those types of questions offer good insight into the minds of our candidates.
There are several dozen issues in our voters’ guide. Obviously, many of them are specific to certain communities, so I won’t get to weigh in on a lot of them, but countywide issues and local requests in my jurisdiction are topics I need to know about.
For example, my county is seeking a small sales tax increase to be split between the transit authority and the county general fund. Worth supporting? I need to decide.
I’ve seen numerous yard signs for Issue 35, an addiction services levy. Heroin and opioid (pain-killer) addictions are severe problems around here, and, in the words of our election guide, “The county is asking for help in funding local drug addiction recovery centers as the need is outpacing the support available.”
That issue impacts more lives in this county than who our next U.S. president will be.
At least two neighboring jurisdictions are seeking levies to stabilize funding for firefighters. Worth the cost?
There are a half-dozen or so school levies on ballots across our county. One is a countywide renewal for a career technical training school. I’ll also get to vote on a local school bond issue (Issue 23), in which our district is seeking money to build new elementary and middle schools. The district plans to reduce the number of buildings and replace aging, outdated structures with state-of-the-art schools in strategic locations around the city. If we approve, the state will pay the lion’s share of the costs (those are tax dollars too – we can’t forget that), but the local share will be significant.
The school district has made its case. Am I buying it?
As voters, we need to do our homework on behalf of the schools.
Making a difference
Who will we elect as our next president? That winner will dominate the headlines on Nov. 9, no doubt. But addiction services and local schools will have a more immediate impact on our lives.
And a longer-term impact, too.
Hillary and Donald, neither of you is as important as you think you are. You’ll be around for four years, maybe eight, and that’s all (unless your spouse gets elected too). Local issues preceded you, and they will outlast you.
Get out of our way, actually. Let us live our lives. And tell the U.S. Supreme Court to lighten up, too.
We have more important issues to worry about.
Like how our children are going to be educated. And which roads will get repaired next.
Happy voting. See you at the polls.