Election Day is now less than two weeks away. Thankfully. I think we can all agree that national politics is a dumpster fire, and we'd like the outcome to be determined as quickly and peacefully as possible.
But the office of the president is not the only box on the ballot. This November, we the people will also select both state and federal members of Congress, county officers, city council members, school board members and judges. I would argue that local elections actually affect our daily lives in more noticeable ways than whatever is happening in the White House.
As you fill out your ballot or prepare to go to your polling place Nov. 3, I urge you to carefully consider the candidates in each of our local races.
On the county level, you'll see commissioners and soil and water conservation district supervisors. County commissioners make decisions about road and bridge construction, budget for the needs of county residents, ensure that the county's various departments are being administrated smoothly and advocate for the needs of the county at the state and federal level. Soil and water conservation district supervisors establish priorities for management of local soil and water resources.
City council members create legislation that impacts how city residents live. They have the power to grant or deny permits for economic development and new business. They delineate funds for the police department, engineering projects and public works (like city-wide snow removal). They set a budget that affects your taxes.
School board members decide how the school district will accommodate the growth of the student body over time. They approve or reject the building of new schools and make policy that affects how students learn.
The school board is unique because it isn't split into districts or wards — each board member governs the whole school district boundary. In the District 518 race, there are four open seats and five candidates. Voters may select up to four candidates on the ballot, and whichever four get the most votes will be the next school board members.
Judges listen to criminal and civil court cases and make rulings based on the facts. Sometimes they have to determine whether or not a defendant is guilty, a plaintiff is owed compensation or a child should be removed from a home. When criminal defendants are sentenced, judges consider the agreement made by both sides of the case and decide whether the requested sentence is just.
I had the privilege of covering three out of the four candidate forums hosted by the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, which renewed my hope in the ability of members of a civil society to get along, find practical solutions to problems and take care of each other. Each candidate (of course) has their own opinions, and I did see opponents disagree with each other at times. But I didn't observe vitriol in their responses. I trust that each candidate genuinely cares about their community and wants to make it better, even they have different approaches to local issues.
It takes courage to put one's name forward as a candidate for public office. Let's not let the drama happening in Washington overshadow the day-to-day decisions made by our local elected officials. Let's vote with information in hand, having studied the ideas of our local candidates and ready to work with them to make our community even better.