Monday, February 11, 2008

Wanted, A Few Good Citizens

By Rudi Kohler
Wasatch County Democratic Chair

Democracy has few requirements on the lives of average citizens. It is possible for John or Mary Q. Public to go through life without ever voting or even being aware of the issues that affect his or her life. Awareness and voting, however, are not sufficient for democracy to exist. In order to vote, there must be someone to vote for. Someone must step up to the plate and be willing to sacrifice a part of their lives in service of this thing we call democracy.

People offer themselves to serve for many reasons, not all of which are altruistic. The best serve because they genuinely feel that they can improve the status quo. All too many serve to enrich themselves, their families or the group(s) they are affiliated with. Some serve to promote a specific agenda which may be good or bad depending on whether or not you support the agenda. Our leaders, from the local to national level, reflect one or more of these reasons.

Every year is an election year at some level but 2008 is more important than most. The national race has riveted a great deal of attention that will draw almost all voters to the polls in November. While at the polls, they will notice a number of names at the local or state level that they may not be familiar with. These people will not have the household name recognition of a McCain, Clinton or Obama, but they will have an equal impact on your lives.

At our County level, four of the seven council members have terms that expire this year. They include Steve Farrell, County at Large – Seat B; Mike Kohler, Midway –Seat E; Kipp Bangerter, County South – Seat G and Kendall Crittenden, Heber South – Seat D.

Two positions are open at the state representative level. These are for Mel Brown of Legislative District 53 (only precinct 11 in Wasatch County) and Gordon Snow of Legislative District 54 (remainder of Wasatch County).

At the moment, neither the above six Republicans or any opponents from either party have formally announced their candidacy in 2008. This is not unusual in that the deadline for filing is March 17 and candidates rarely announce before then. This brings us back to the central point of serving in a democracy. It is possible that these six individuals truly represent the wills of most County residents and should be returned to office if they wish to run again. It is also possible that the incumbents do not represent the beliefs of the taxpayers and need to be replaced.

On the County level, voters should consider their positions regarding the following questions. Are you happy that the rural character of the valley is being preserved through land use ordinances? Do you feel that enough emphasis has been given to the valley’s recreational opportunities for both children and adults? Do you believe that our leaders are focused on developing the quality of our existing retail and commercial areas or creating laws which will permit more commercial zones? Are you content that the economic development occurring in the valley is to create high paying positions for existing residents or more low paying jobs for new residents or outsiders? Do you believe that our elected officials are acting without conflicts of interest or supporting policies that are leading to tax increases?

On the state level, have the incumbents supported your positions on educational quality, teacher compensation, vouchers, city incorporation, healthcare, guest worker issues, the environment, privatization of public recreational facilities, conflicts of interest, gifts to public officials and scores of other issues?

If you think your elected leaders are doing a fine job, by all means show them your support in November should they run again. If not, perhaps it is time for you to step forward and declare your candidacy. If you wait for someone else to do it, you risk that either no one will or whoever does may not be closer to your position than the incumbent.

Running for office is not trivial but neither is it impossible. Although most of the issues on the County level are non partisan, whether we like it or not, each candidate has to either declare affiliation with a party or run as an independent. State issues tend to be more partisan with almost every incumbent affiliated with one of the two major parties. If you do choose to consider running, you should contact either Dan Mathews, the Chair of the County Republican Party or me, Rudi Kohler for the Democratic Party. The Party is not as important as the integrity and positions of the candidate. I urge each of you to consider running for office or encourage someone you know who shares your values to fulfill an essential part of the democratic process.

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