Tag Archives: local elections

Hoping, as always, for a big voter turnout

I spent most of my nearly 37 years in daily journalism as an opinion writer and editor and as such, I spent a lot of energy exhorting residents of the communities where I worked to vote in local elections.

I implored them. I pleaded with them. I thought of different ways to say the same thing — which was to “get out and vote.”

Each of those efforts produced mixed results. In Oregon City, Ore., in Beaumont, Texas, and in Amarillo, Texas, the calls essentially were the same: The local level is where government makes the greatest impact on your daily lives. Don’t cede the responsibility of picking who you want to sit on your city council, your school board, your county commissioners court to someone else.

Well, we’re on the verge of another municipal election in Amarillo.

This one is guaranteed to produce a significant change in the makeup of the governing council. Three incumbents aren’t seeking new terms. That means the next City Council will comprise a new majority. Mayor Paul Harpole is bowing out; Place 2 Councilwoman Lisa Blake decided against seeking election to the seat to which she was appointed in 2016; Place 3 Councilman Randy Burkett is forgoing a re-election bid for a second term.

A new majority is going to take office after the May 6 election. Not only that, we’ve got a new city manager, Jared Miller, who’s already seized the administrative reins of power. He’s making his own mark on City Hall.

Will this be the year when a healthy percentage of eligible voters actually cast ballots? Oh, I do hope so.

After all, this is where government makes the decisions that affect us. It’s where we pay to pave our streets, provide cops on the beat, firefighters to keep us safe, to ensure clean drinking water, to provide safe and clean parks, to pick up our garbage.

These are important matters, folks.

How about making your voice heard on Election Day? It’s less than one month away. Do not let your neighbors — or total strangers, for that matter — make this decision for you.

Once more, with emphasis: Get out … and vote!

I’ve displayed this video already on this blog.

I want to show it once more as Amarillo and the rest of Texas vote today for local officeholders.

My friend Chris Hays, the general manager of Panhandle PBS, makes a passionate case for why it’s important to vote in these elections.

The short answer? The local offices have more direct impact on our daily lives than the offices at the state or national levels.

And yet … voter turnout for these City Hall, school board and college offices tend to attract dismal turnouts.

The Amarillo City Council election might pull greater than average numbers when all the ballots are counted this evening. City officials will boast about attracting, oh, maybe 20 percent of those who are eligible to vote.

Big bleeping deal!

This is one final plea for those who haven’t yet voted to get out and do so.

It is far better for everyone if you make these critical choices for yourself rather than relying on your neighbor to make them for you.

After all, your neighbor just might have a different view of how your community should work than you do.


Your vote really does count; honest, it does

Do me a favor.

Take a couple of minutes to watch this video. It’s an instructive lecture from the general manager of Panhandle PBS on why your vote matters, especially at the local level.

If you live in the Texas Panhandle or far away from this part of the United States of America, this message is for you.

Chris Hays put this video together to promote a public affairs program to be broadcast Thursday night on Panhandle PBS. The “Live Here” segment airs at 7 p.m. and it features a candidate forum for the 16 people running for all five seats on the Amarillo City Council.

The video, though, speaks to voters across the country. Many voters don’t take part in their local elections, thinking apparently that their vote doesn’t matter and that the people who run for these offices don’t really do anything to affect citizens’ lives.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s the local elections that matter most to us. We ought to be voting on the people who set policies for our households, as well as for our children’s education.

Texas communities are conducting elections in early May. The turnout for most of them is expected to be paltry, dismal, shamefully low. Amarillo has had its share of tumult in recent months, so there might be a slight uptick in voter participation here.

What about where you live? Are you going to hand these critical decisions over to someone else, let your neighbor decide how much you pay in local property taxes?

Don’t do it. Your neighbor, or the folks across town can’t speak for you. Only you can speak for yourself.

One way to speak is to cast a vote for the candidate of your choice running for local office in your hometown.

Before you decide to sit this one out, take a peek at the video here. Maybe it’ll change your mind.


School board elections matter, too

I think I’ve been scolded by a couple of followers of this blog for an apparent error of omission.

I posted a blog about the importance of municipal elections and then was reminded that, yep, school board elections matter just as much as those that elect city representatives.


I stand corrected.

The blog noted that local elections determine how much we pay for essential local government services. It also took note of an important public affairs program — “Live Here” — being broadcast soon on Panhandle PBS about the upcoming local elections.

School board elections, of course, allow us to choose people who set local educational policy that has a direct impact on our children’s education. Allow me to include community college board elections as well; Amarillo College also will elect regents in May and they, too, play critical roles in setting higher education policy here at home.

Lest we forget, in Texas the largest single line item in our property tax statement every year is for public education. That’s how it is in our home, where the Canyon Independent School District tax obligation is by far the largest single property tax we pay annually.

The thesis of the earlier blog post remains intact: Local elections matter the most to us and we need to pay careful attention to the people we want representing us at City Hall — and on educational boards.