By David Kennard
Take time on Tuesday to go to the polls and vote.
A slate of candidates will be elected to represent you in the town council, making this one of the most important Election Days around here.
Local elections historically draw very few voters, which is a shame since local elections are those that have the greatest impact on your life.
Your locally elected town officials make policy decisions on how much you will pay in taxes, what roads will be funded, how much of your money will be spent on public services and a host of other real life issues that may make your life easier or harder.
We normally think of Election Day when we are picking a U.S. President, but there are many, many layers of politics and bureaucracy between you and the White House.
On a local level, the layer between you and the people that impact your life on a regular basis is very thin, maybe a phone call or a visit to the town council meeting.
Everything from flooding issues to neighborhood garbage pickup to traffic lights to local sales taxes are decided by the people you will vote for on Tuesday.
Unlike in some past elections, we’ve seen more candidates seeking public office than there are seats available, meaning we have some passionate people who want to get some things done.
We’ve put some effort into helping you decide who to vote for on Tuesday. You can find out detailed information at https://goo.gl/JfMDu9. We put this simple Q&A together to give you an idea of who may represent you at town council.
Because they will represent you, you should understand what’s important to them.
Here’s a quick list of the top issues that your candidates suggested they would work on in the next four years:
Job growth: To thrive, every community needs a stable or growing economy. A diverse source of jobs of all skill levels is required. Your town council influences the types of jobs that may locate here; this is done through tax rates, zoning laws and annexation, among other things.
Public safety: Effective, appropriately funded police and fire departments are critical to our town’s success. Low crime rates, and quick response times for emergency crews help lower our insurance rates. Town council members should be engaged in this area, providing the resources that enhance our public safety. The town also also has a hand in public health issues by ensuring garbage is collected, water and sewer service is provided, as well as access to quality health services.
Transparency: Residents should feel confident that their elected officials and town employees are operating above board with full transparency. Budgets and other spending should be made available for easy public inspection. Regular audits should be published. The public’s business should be done in public, with opportunities made available for the community to speak or make comment on local issues. Your town council should be responsive to your requests and ensure confidence in the voting public.
Population growth: As more residents flock to our area, we must demand a plan of smart growth from our town council. They must have vision and provide organization to what otherwise could turn into unorganized sprawl. Our town council must ensure that planned communities and housing projects be well thought out with a plan for sidewalks, lighting, sewers, schools and access to other public services. Annexation should be done to benefit our town.
Preserving identity: One of the top priorities our new town council should be concerned with is preserving our identity as a community. We have a rich history here that we should promote as our town grows. Funds must be earmarked for community centers, parks, museums and other assets that help build our community identity. Regular festivals, concerts, parades and other events bring us together. Our town council should encourage this kind of community building.
Finally, we should look for a candidate that demonstrates the ability to work together with others on the council to achieve these goals. Too often we see a candidate with their own agenda and little vision. A functional town council should comprise strong leaders who know how to work together for the benefit of our community.
Likewise, your vote shows your commitment to our community as a resident. Please take a half hour on Tuesday and vote.
David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.