One can argue that city and school elections make as much difference in our lives as the state and Federal elections that get much more attention.
Think about the city departments that our mayors and council members supervise. Fire and police services come to mind immediately. Water, sewage, and roads and sidewalks. And don’t forget libraries, parks and swimming pools. Then there are street lights, bike lanes and walking paths. Garbage service. And zoning. Decorations and celebrations.
And cities occasionally build impressive extras like Nampa’s city auditorium and Caldwell’s Indian Creek Plaza.
School districts focus on kids almost exclusively, but still offer a variety of services. Getting kids scheduled for required classes is central, but there is also transportation, meals, sports, arts, and electives. There is counseling, nursing, and services for those with special needs. And when additional space is needed, we expect board members to understand the research, listen to children and parents, meet with consultants and builders, and then make decisions that will affect the whole community.
We elect citizen boards responsible for hiring and supervising the professionals who run the day-to-day operations because we want someone from–and open to–the community to represent us. And we expect these individuals to understand the needs, options, and legal framework involved. We count on them to look into the future and anticipate the consequences of each action.
And for this we pay most of them absolutely nothing except an occasional free meal and health insurance.
And It’s surprising if even 20% of the registered voters cast a ballot.
Admittedly, it takes effort to pick your candidate in low-budget races without even a voters’ pamphlet from the county. And party labels wouldn’t help much. As one Boise Council member says, “There’s no Republican or Democratic way to get clean water to homes.”
There are better ways and worse ways, but party platforms don’t provide a guide.
Since most of us will be voting on fewer than five positions, however, it’s not too difficult to get informed. We can research one seat a week or divide up the task with others. Thanks to our libraries, we can access the Internet. Most candidates have a FB or web page, and we can do a Google search on each name. Complete candidate lists for Ada County are at https://adacounty.id.gov/elections/candidate-filings/; for Canyon County, https://www.canyonco.org/candidate-filings/. (Some county residents will find there are no contested races for their neighborhood.)
And you can watch for the Idaho Press to publish some candidate surveys.
Who do you want as a candidate?
Someone who cares about every member of the community.
Someone who can see the big picture and still work to nail down each detail.
Someone who can articulate their ideas to other board members.
Someone who understands negotiations and teamwork.
Avoid single-issue candidates who don’t express an interest in the variety of problems board members must tackle. And, although it can be hard to discern, try to avoid those who are more interested in the title and prestige than in our community.
I personally don’t believe people who’ve lived in the community for less than a year will get enough feedback from friends and neighbors to represent us well. And I’d never trust a candidate who doesn’t want his full name on the ballot. Why would he hinder web searches?.
You can apply for an absentee ballot through Friday, Oct. 22 (https://voteidaho.gov/). Early voting will start Monday, Oct. 18, in Canyon County and possibly even earlier in Ada County.
Voting is a serious responsibility. Do your best.