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All Politics Is Local

Stewart Tongue
The campaigning for the upcoming United States Presidential Election started well over a year ago and will continue right up until Election Day. Commercial media coverage has been constant, persistent and whether you believe it has given you the information needed to make an informed decision about either candidate or not, it has managed to give you almost nothing to think about regarding the far more important local elections that all Americans will have the chance to vote in during the same time period.

Local elections impact the daily lives of most citizens more than national elections in just about every way imaginable, and yet they are given almost none of the public attention span by commercial media outlets.

Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill served as Speaker of the House, the highest ranking member of the majority party in the national House of Representatives from 1977 until his retirement in 1987. He had been a Representative in Congress for 34 consecutive years and had represented two congressional districts from Massachusetts during that time. Of all the things he accomplished, he is still best remembered for saying: "All politics is local." A simple four word quote that rings as true today as it did when he said it.

It's easy to debate why George W. Bush has been a good President or a bad one, why Rush Limbaugh is a patriot or a windbag and to focus on an Obama vs. McCain two man race. However, the day-to-day things that affect your life inside and outside the United States are controlled to a much greater extent by the millions of seemingly smaller decisions made every day by local officials who are elected in almost complete anonymity.

Whether or not the trash gets picked up from your curb every morning is entirely a local issue, there is no Federal sanitation pick-up service, and if you are aware of the catastrophic effect that cessation of sanitation services has had in Naples during the past year — you can start to understand why simple things like managing local services is so important.

The current Democrat-controlled Congress has grandstanded for months about the fact that they finally mandated a national increase in the minimum wage, and that is quite an accomplishment given how long it has been since the last Federally mandated increase was put into action, but anyone paying closer attention is aware that eighteen states had already raised the minimum wage for workers in their local jurisdictions during that time instead of waiting for the national government to take action.

Similarly, while a passionate debate about universal health coverage has been taking place nationally, the State of Vermont has already passed laws that guarantee health care for every person under the age of 18 residing within its borders. Many other States have stepped forward with supplemental Veterans benefit packages that fill in gaps for returning soldiers left open on the federal level as well.

Most recently, Jon Huntsman, the Republican Governor of Utah pushed through State legislation that requires government employees to work ten hours per day during a four day per week schedule instead of the more traditional five day per week system. The change affects more than 17,000 employees (slightly less than 80 percent of the entire Utah State workforce) and will allow the government to save millions of dollars by closing many government buildings on Fridays. The most significant impact of the change will be an environmental one as lighting, heating or cooling of dormant buildings will be unnecessary each Friday and experts predict much less traffic congestion. During a time when the entire country is struggling with record oil prices, it is the States not the Federal Government that are taking meaningful action.

For webmasters in the adult online marketplace, local rather than national decisions are usually the most significant decisions that will affect them as well. On the legal level, while it is true that Paul Little aka Max Hardcore was prosecuted by The Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the case was tried in Florida in front of a jury comprised of Florida's State residents. So, while legal experts take steps to appeal the case on a Federal level through the court system, similar proceedings are possible under many State laws and local prosecutors may feel emboldened due to the results of these high profile federal cases. Furthermore, educating the citizens of various regions about the importance of their First Amendment freedoms becomes exceptionally important at the local level because there is no such thing as a national jury.

If you have loved ones overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan there may be no more important issue to you this November than the outcome of those troop deployments. However, for most webmasters the problems in the next several years that they deal with personally are more likely to stem from landlord-tenant disputes, divorce laws, homeowner association covenants, contract disputes and school board decisions. All of those items and countless others are decided almost entirely at the local level.

When you elect a new President, a new Senator or a new Representative, their impact on the more glamorous and 'sexy' issues like federal income tax rates is undeniable, but the other names many citizens vote for that same day with little or no information beyond the political party affiliation written next to each candidates' name have even more control over your daily life.

Let's imagine that the Congress and President take steps to reduce your federal tax burden by lowering your tax rate five percent and in turn they cut the amount of money they grant to your State for infrastructure projects. Your state legislature (the other people you elected) may end up raising your state income taxes by seven percent to cover the shortfall in revenue and the end result to you could be a tax increase overall, even if it isn't a national one.

The true beauty of our federalist system of government is that the nation is able to let individual States experiment with changes in the law, incentives in the local tax codes and other solutions to difficult issues. Then, when one of these municipalities provides a working solution to an existing problem the federal government enacts a similar law on a national level. The problems arise when the citizenry turns a blind eye to who their local officials will be and the creativity of regional government is stagnated by forces of corruption or incompetence.

In the coming months the United States will have a new leader. The importance of that decision can not be overlooked, but focusing on it to the exclusion of your local elections in the same period of time is a clear disservice to yourself and your community. As with all things, knowledge is power, and fortunately thanks to vast improvements in independent media outlets during the digital era, gaining meaningful information about local candidates is easier than it has ever been before.

Just about every candidate running for office of any kind has their own website with contact information clearly stated upon it. Unlike national candidates, if you pick up a phone and call your local assemblyman or email your local town supervisor they will almost always respond to your correspondence. Going straight to the source is an excellent way to get information about any candidate or incumbent politician.

Watchdog websites like www.VoteSmart.org are also available and provide a wealth of information to anyone willing to spend at least a few minutes deciding which local candidates they really should be voting to elect. The site gives you clear objective information and is staffed by people from both a liberal and a conservative point of view.

As with all information, it is up to the voter to decide what is important, what is believable and what is propaganda. That being said, can anything really be worse than just pulling a lever next to a local politicians name because you think it 'sounds cooler' than the opposing candidates name — especially when that person may in fact be the one enacting new laws that govern your favorite hobbies, your marriage, your child's education and your family's financial security?

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