Why to Vote Today

[Statements, opinion, and views expressed in this column are those of the author named and are not necessarily those of the EllwoodCity.org and Thought Process Enterprises team.]

I’m guessing a lot of Ellwoodians, probably the majority of Ellwoodians, won’t vote today. I’ve never voted in a local election. However, I’ve gotten a bit interested in local politics- interested enough to take 10 minutes to vote.

In national elections, there’s no shortage of excuses to not vote. Between gerrymandering, the electoral college, and the general feeling that both parties and all politicians are corrupt, it’s easy to make an argument that one vote doesn’t matter.

However, with local elections, one vote does indeed matter. Candidates might only win by 19 votes, so just a slight increase in turnout can change the results.

But does it matter who sits in the borough council or on the school board? I think it does. The council has power over local taxes, local ordinances, the police department and utilities. More importantly, the council is in the midst of an attempt to revitalize Ellwood, especially the downtown. The school board has control over property taxes and your children’s education.

These are all things that directly impact us in the borough and surrounding townships. Even if you dislike Ellwood and plan on leaving within a few years, the policies of our local government officials will have a direct impact on your life.

A volunteer organization, the Kitchen Cabinet, hosted a Meet the Candidates event and both of Ellwood’s newspaper covered the sessions and have had additional coverage on the elections. You can learn all you need to know about whom to vote for on your smart phone while eating your morning grits, Ellwood’s most popular breakfast.

So here are some points on what to look for in a candidate:

  • Has a visible presence in the community and is accessible to the public.
  • Presents solid, specific ideas on what the borough/school district needs.
  • Has a reputation for honesty.
  • Has qualifications (previous experience/education) but keep in mind a bachelor’s degree is no guarantee of expertise.
  • Most importantly, will hire the most qualified person for a position, not who they like the most. In a small town, nepotism isn’t always bad. However, it’s one thing to hire your nephew’s friend’s girlfriend to handle the register at your pickled tuber store; it’s another to hire your drinking buddy for an important borough position.

Lastly, bear in mind that incumbents should be able to answer many questions better, because they have experience and knowledge that newcomers don’t.
Things that don’t mean much:

  • Anyone can say they love Ellwood City. If someone is running for a high-stressed, low-paying (or no paying) elected position, I assume they care about the community. I don’t care if a candidate has 100 clones that will build 100 houses in Ellwood and stay here for the next 3000 years. I only care about what he/she’s doing in the next four years. Focusing on how much one loves Ellwood is just emotional propaganda.
  • Fiscally responsible. Anybody running for any position (except maybe judges) can say they’re fiscally responsible to appeal to taxpayers. It’s another generic statement.

What Ellwood needs is a council and board that will work together, appreciate input from members and visitors, and has the best interest of the community at large.

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