Every couple of years I write a blog for HeadCount or for local blogs in Raleigh about the importance of voting in local elections. I recount the numerous important jobs local elected officials at the municipal or county level have, and how directly their work impacts our lives.
You know what hasn’t happened? More people voting local.
Okay, so perhaps I am not a notable author, with enough cool persuasive power to make it matter to most. I will admit this to myself. In fact, these days I’m primarily a stay-at-home-mom with two boys, a homeowner, a citizen advocate, and I’m even having a PTA meeting at my house tomorrow morning. Perhaps I’m not cool at all.
So now that I’m not worried about it, I’m just going to lay it out for y’all once and for all.
If you are not WOKE to the importance of casting your ballot on Tuesday (or whenever you next local election is) then you are not WOKE at all.
The systems of government that most directly impact your experience and the day-to-day lives of people around you are LOCAL. The national noise, as that is really all it is these days, trickles down to affordable housing subsidies, public schools equity, etc. The LOCAL choices are the ones that put that money and policy to use, and keep us all going while Washington is dysfunctional.
Are you moved by Black Lives Matter? Guess who controls local police forces? MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS. You want a shakeup in your police force to confront racism and abuse of power? VOTE LOCAL.
Are you worried about the EPA and how doomed our environment is? Guess who can do more to protect your water supply or green space than the Feds? Your LOCAL GOVERNMENT. They give all the permits, they make all the rules.
Are you shocked at how expensive it is to live? Maybe you are just out on your own, working an entry level job, or in college, or grad school. No hope of saving because the cost of living is overtaking your every waking moment? Most of us are. Even at my ripe old mom age I struggle with this battle daily. You know what helps? LOCAL GOVERNMENTS working with developers to keep the cost of living down. What does affordable housing even mean you might ask? Well, it’s making life affordable for people who make about $45,000 or less. Maybe you know someone like that.
But if you are reading this, I’m going to assume you have a certain amount of privilege as most of HeadCount’s fans and followers do. I know I do. So let’s break out a little more. Public education today is under a full assault. Maybe you’ve paid attention since DeVos created so much controversy. But it started at the local school board level and has infiltrated the states for well over the last decade. Don’t believe me? Look at how much PAC money has gone into school board races nationwide. DeVos is the icing on the cake. So while for-profit charters get rich off of school choice, you know who suffers the most from this? Whose lives will be defined? Primarily poor and/or minority kids. They’ll mostly stay poor, minority adults if they don’t fall into the school-to-prison pipeline (look that up if you don’t know.) It is systemic racism at the most fundamental level and it starts with LOCAL GOVERNMENT. If you think you’re WOKE then please vote for school board.
Discrimination in the workplace. Now this one is tricky, right, as the Constitution and SCOTUS have really set the bar on these laws. However, you see LOCAL GOVERNMENTS working to push the envelope to be more inclusive. Remember the “Bathroom Bill” in North Carolina that hit the national news for prohibiting transgender individuals from entering the bathroom of their gender identity? Perhaps you know how it started? The Charlotte City Council passed a municipal ordinance extending rights to and specifically protecting gay and transgender employees. That LOCAL GOVERNMENT act incited a major debate that is forcing the country to consider transgender individuals as a protected class.
But that is not where it ends; San Francisco legalized gay marriage forcing the dialogue that has led slowly but surely, not too many years later, to the national recognition of marriage equality. Legalized weed? Hit cities long before states laws. Public health care? Also started on the local level. Pretty much every major political move you see in Washington was incubated locally. There is immense power in local politics. And you should be paying attention.
The majority of donors and voters in local elections are men, white, over 50, and middle class to upper class. So who do local politicians represent? Old white men. Who are the people getting experience and going into state and national offices groomed to respect the most? Old white men.
If you are motivated to see your community grow, to embrace change, diversity and a wide range of interests then please, for the love of whomever you praise, VOTE LOCAL. Tuesday is the day in the majority of cities and towns across the country. Show up, be heard, and change our nation from the ground up.