A Unifying Concept
Local election season is upon us in my home state of Wisconsin. A handful of Wisconsinites – myself included – will head to the polls tomorrow (Tuesday, April 4, 2017) to elect candidates to our school boards, municipal governments, county governments, and judicial positions, and some of us will vote on local referendum questions. We will exercise political liberty to choose how we will be governed at local levels. We will enjoy local control.
And that sounds nice, right? Local control is one of those loosely defined ideas that pretty much everybody agrees with on its face – because, well, who the heck would argue against it? Despite our foolish 21st century habit of offloading local problems to national government, the concept of self-governance remains well-ingrained in our American psyche – so local control intuitively makes sense to us. But have you ever really thought about local control? Do you know why local control is one of the most practical ideas ever?
The answer is simple. Just consider what went down last week in Woodruff, South Carolina or Finney County, Kansas. Or think about the challenges facing Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon right now. Or recall the way that Bridgewater, Vermont Selectboard Member Mary Oldenburg voted on that one issue the other week.
No idea what I’m talking about? Me either.
Ignorance is Practically Acceptable
I literally have no idea what is happening in any of these communities. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of any of these communities until I started playing around with Google Maps over the weekend.
(My apologies to Mary Oldenburg for the kind of creepy shout out… What are the chances that I randomly select you as a locally-elected official among all your peers across America?)
But here’s the thing. I don’t have to know what’s up in any of these communities, and neither do you. Local members of these communities have the power to govern themselves through local control, and they exercise their political liberty based on their firsthand knowledge of their local circumstances. Ideally, they pay local taxes for local services to address local issues. And, importantly, they do all of this without interfering with other communities’ abilities to do the same.
Additionally, when something goes wrong in a local community – there’s a crisis, an elected official fails to represent their constituents’ interests, budgets go haywire, or whatever – it’s relatively easy for members of that local community to quickly correct the problem. There’s no need to establish a 501(c)4 organization or spend millions of dollars to elect someone new to local government. If your one neighbor Jim is misbehaving in his council seat, you round up a few of your other neighbors and get Susan from down the street elected instead.
Like I said. Practical!
Casting Practical Votes in Hometown, USA
Consider my real life experience in casting votes tomorrow. In addition to voting for local candidates, I’ll also be voting on three separate referendum questions related to the building of a new high school in the Verona Area School District. They are (essentially): should a new high school be built? Should new athletic fields be built next to the new high school? Should operational funding be authorized for the new school right away?
I know my local community of Verona, Wisconsin. I know the value we place on education. I know how much we’re growing. I know how Epic Systems Corporation has impacted our local circumstances. I know where the current high school is, and I know where they’re proposing to build the new school – and I know that the distance in between is not that far, and that the current athletic fields are nice. I know how all these proposals will impact our local property taxes.
Why do I know all this stuff? Because I live here. I don’t need some massive bureaucracy or thousand-page report to tell me about local circumstances. I don’t need to spend hours upon hours educating myself about local issues. I can make well-educated votes about local issues because my daily experience gives me firsthand knowledge about my local situation.
Thanks to local control, my fellow community members and I will steer our community in directions we value by means of our votes tomorrow. And all you outsiders will remain completely unaffected by our choices. And that’s practically beautiful if you ask me!
What’s a good example of local control happening in your local community right now? How would the matter become complicated if it was dealt with through your state or national governments? Please share your feedback in the comments section below!
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