Local elections are more important than you think

Published 9:03 am Monday, April 23, 2018

With the May 1 primary only a week away, it is important you vote in this election.
There are so many issues facing our city and county and state governments. Local leadership is important. Yes, we will elect a new governor this year and a new U.S. senator, but those primaries are not until August. Next Tuesday, May 1, we will decide which of our local candidates will be on the August General Election ballot. This is a crucial local election.
But if recent history is any guide, most Tennessee residents will choose not to participate in these primary elections.
Why is it important that you vote in the May 1 Carter County Primary? According to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, Carter County’s budget for fiscal year 2016-17 included budgeted revenues of $45,013,608 and the vast majority of that money came from local property owners. If you own a home, a business, or other property (like your vehicle, for example), you are one of those taxpayers. Property taxes are a tax that people love to hate but, unless you’ve paid off your mortgage, it can be easy to forget you actually pay these taxes every year.
Put it in a different way. The people chosen May 1 will decide how that money will be spent. Choosing who will be at the table to make those decisions is wildly important.
Of the local budget, a large portion of that money, more than $6 million goes to public education. There are 14 public schools in Carter County. This is a system that touches nearly every family in the county and city, either as taxpayers, parents, employees, or students. Policy decisions made in this arena impact everyone and can certainly change entire lives.
In most communities, there is only one group of highly organized, trained, and in some cases heavily armed citizens: The men and women of the local sheriff’s department. They wield legal powers that are off-limits to most citizens. They can put you in jail, search your car, or subject you to questioning about where you’ve been, where you are going, and why you are going there.
The police play an important and valuable role in preserving public order and ensuring safety.
Oversight of the sheriff’s department is a major responsibility of local officials. They serve as a vital check and balance on the power of the police to ensure that laws are enforced in a fair and responsible way. When they fail to provide appropriate oversight, trouble soon follows.
Anyone that has experienced a Carter County winter knows the importance of local government after a heavy snowfall. While state trucks may be tasked with opening the highways or state roads, the trucks with “Carter County Road Department” painted on the side are most warmly received by residents. The arrival of those trucks usually signals the ability to finally get to the grocery store and make it easier and safer for you to get to your job. Paying for those trucks and ensuring their efficient deployment is a job of the local road superintendent.
Though citizens interact with local government for everything from business licenses to marriage licenses, it can often be most challenging to get information about local government. Electing local officials committed to communicating with citizens is the most effective way of knowing what is going on in the county and holding local government accountable.
In local elections, each vote has more weight. A county race may be decided by a few votes, whereas a national election likely depends on a margin of a few thousand, at least.
The May 1 primary election is critical, not just for Carter County, but to ensure a strong nation built on local democracy.
Don’t stay home because you think local elections don’t count for much. They count for the decisions that affect your life.

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