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Think ‘local’ and ‘now’

Just when you think you have heard all the political talk you can stand, here comes a community call for rapid, concerted action. The time is now to attend to things close to home. We need to get not only serious but involved. I know the national presidential campaigns are energizing and compelling. I have had extraordinary experiences with history-making ideas and people and so have you. Who would have imagined that former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the former television host of ‘Today’ and ‘NBC Dateline’ Jane Pauley, and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would come to Southern Indiana to talk to us? Indiana is right in the thick of picking the next president, and Southern Indiana is a target zone. What a ride!
But we are also electing those who will directly affect our state and local policies and programs. These candidates aren’t as visible on television, bumper stickers and headline news. We don’t hear their names and ideas discussed in coffee shops or around kitchen tables. They may be jumping up and down yelling, ‘Listen to me ‘ what about this belief ‘ I will do such and such.’ But few cast an eye in their direction or listen.
Ask yourself: What does each of these officeholders do? What are they responsible for that affects my life? You might be surprised and a little scared at the answers.
I often boil down the differences between the two major political parties by asking where they think they should get the money that runs our communities and where they think it should be spent. The answers involve the philosophies that guide our taxing structure and thus our economy and our own pocketbooks. This isn’t just about accounting and business systems. It is at best about social justice, opportunity and responsibility.
Most issues are not partisan, political issues. They are local concerns and are resolved that way. When you look at a local candidate, ask yourself what you know about his or her decision-making skills, core beliefs, character, ability to communicate, attitudes toward others, and knowledge of the issues and the community. Think about the things that are important to you and decide if you are picking a person that will help the community get on the path to where you want it to go.
I must confess, I have gotten in a voting booth and realized that I hadn’t researched some candidates. Merely voting for a person because we recognize their name certainly doesn’t move us ahead. We need to ask questions, discuss with others and study the options. It may not seem as much fun as rehashing sports events, speculating on the stock market or talking about who said what at a party, but it is going to make you smile broader in the new year.
People often say, ‘Don’t talk about politics or religion in polite society.’ Well, we didn’t talk about these things with each other, and look where we are today. We don’t know how or why we got to an economic crisis that hits us at home and in all the homes around the world. We don’t understand those around us, let alone those on the other side of the globe. And we are scared to death that everything is beyond our control.
Well, this is our time to know that we indeed do have a say in what happens in our lives. We are not victims with no brains, skills or venue to stand up and plan and make changes in our lives and the life of our community. We here in Southern Indiana can have a big role in determining such things as how our towns will function, whether we are just commuter bedroom communities or complete, thriving, more self-sufficient communities. We know that where we shop, what schools we support and how we interact with our neighbors all have enormous impact on our own homes. We know that public policy and practice can aid or hinder our ability to act on our plans for our families and our communities. What are we doing to affect public policy and practice?
I challenge you ‘ today, yes, you, this very day ‘ to talk with at least two people about a state or local race. Ask their opinions and check out with them the qualifications of the candidates. If you have a question of a candidate about a stance they take or an action they plan, give them a call and make them accountable for an answer.
Now is the time to put candidates to your tests. They will respond; believe me, I know. And if they don’t, that tells you something about how they would respond to you as a constituent in the future.
Because it’s so important to talk about this election’s local candidates as well as the national ones, to think deeply and to make good decisions, we invite you to go to our Web sites at or Here you can see videos of local candidates telling you what they will do, job descriptions of the offices and your sample ballot.
Because maybe the greatest thing up for grabs in this election is our very ability to handle a participatory representational democracy. Are you up to it? Do you really care?