Help make the increasing public interest in politics continue

By on January 30, 2009

Based on the ratings from the various candidate debates and televised speeches leading up to the November presidential election, combined with the increased voter turnout on election day, and general raised political awareness of the public; and it is safe to say that the public has become more intuned and informed of national issues than in the recent past.

A more informed and engaged public can only be a positive thing, and we hope the increased attention on public issues remains as a long-term trend.

Locally, the next opportunity for the public to remain informed and engaged will be April 7, when local elections are held.

While it is important for the public to be active and informed when selecting their national leaders and representatives, it is at least as important for the public to be the same when selecting their local public officials. As much impact as national decisions may have on each citizen’s life, the decisions made at the local level have a much more immediate, direct impact on one’s day-to-day life.

Your local elected officials are the ones who decide the location, amount and type of growth that occurs—or if any growth at all occurs. They put in the sidewalks in your neighborhood; they make sure your communities are safe and clean; they try to address the concerns raised by the public.

Because of their influence on your day-to-day life, becoming informed about local issues and candidates and then making a wise decision on election day will have more direct impact on your life than any vote you cast for candidates at the federal level.

Because of this, we hope to see the increasing awareness and involvement leading up to the November federal election continue into April and beyond. No one can deny that times are tough at all levels of society, and the public must take the responsibility for the actions of the people they put into office.

It is not enough for people to merely complain about the government and how officials “don’t get it” or that they are “all corrupt anyway,” and then do nothing more. The public must begin to share some of the responsibility for the ineffectiveness and corruption of the elected officials they send to office.

The fact that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was re-elected in 1996 while under investigation for corruption is just the most obvious, and disheartening, example of the public not taking their responsibility seriously.

If you want real people making real decisions to benefit the public and not themselves, either vote the right people into office or run yourselves.

In April, you get the chance to pick the elected officials who will have the most direct impact on your lives.

We ask that you do your best to find out as much as you can about the candidates and their positions; then choose wisely.

But the public’s responsibility doesn’t stop there. It must continue to remain informed and engaged, and hold those officials accountable. Because if they do not do the job effectively, you get the opportunity to replace them with someone who will.