Now that the national elections are over, it's time to turn our attention to the races that really matter. Washington and Springfield can do their respective damnedest to screw up our checkbooks, but the decisions made in our local government bodies and school boards affect us far more than anything the major leaguers can dream up.
The quality of the neighborhood school will affect the your home's value more than Springfield's vote on gay marriage. The number of advanced courses at the high school will have a direct correlation to the college your child attends. Class size has long been shown to affect a student's ability to learn. The atmosphere of learning, the quality of teachers, the extracurricular activities offered-- all these are determined by the local school board.
Want to build an addition? You need a permit to do that, and you'll have to conform to ordinances determined by local zoning boards and village commissioners. Always have to go around the block to enter your bank's drive-through? A planning commission recommended that. Police and fire, public works-- unless you're in an unincorporated area, your town is making sure your streets get plowed when it snows and the firemen come quickly when you need them.
Not only that, most of our state and national leaders began their political careers as a local official. Don't like the gal in the statehouse? Blame the uninformed voters in your neighborhood who started her career on the park district board. The people you vote onto your local boards today are likely to be on the ballot for Springfield and Washington down the road. Want to shape the national conversation? Start at home.
Consolidated elections are April 6, 2013. Petitions are in and your local newspaper should be printing the names of the candidates for local races. Get to know them. Try to stay off the comment sections of local online news sites- they're poison. Instead, shoot the candidates an email or give them a call. These are local races, and the candidate is most likely going to respond. If there's a candidate forum, watch it.
These are the races that matter. This is your home. These are your streets and schools and parks. Make an informed, rational choice as to who is best to run them. If not for civic pride, do it for your checkbook.