You'll get the council you deserve

By Paul Archipley | Sep 28, 2011

On the positive side, voters have a good lineup of choices among eight City Council candidates who are interested in serving their fellow citizens.

On the flip side, if the August primary and last week’s Candidates’ Forum are accurate gauges, those citizens are woefully uninterested in the future of their community.

In August, less than 26 percent of registered voters bothered to cast ballots. At last week’s forum, fewer than a hundred showed up to hear candidates’ views on the issues.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and similar dangerous places, people gamble with their lives for the right to live free in a democratic country.

In America, we have Monday Night Football or Wednesday night reality shows that garner more interest than the future of the tank farm site, commercial service at Paine Field, police and fire protection, or the scourge of ferry traffic.

At the national level, we’re seeing widespread anger with government. The latest CBS News/NY Times poll showed that just 12 percent approve of the job Congress is doing.

Yet, last year the national turnout for the general election was less than 41 percent. The 60 percent of eligible voters who didn’t cast ballots are no doubt among some of the loudest critics.

It’s easy to criticize elected officials; they sometimes make it too easy. Still, whether they’re running for the local school board or for president of the United States, they have made a conscious decision to serve, often with little or no compensation.

The president makes $400,000 per year. Not bad if your decisions didn’t  have worldly import.

Brad Pitt reportedly makes $20 million for one movie. Alex Rodriguez makes about $185,000 per game. Other top actors and professional athletes are similarly well compensated. What does this say about our priorities?

Everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Hunter S. Thompson has been credited with the saying, “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.”

Reading your local paper each week, watching 30 minutes of news each day, spending a couple of hours at a rare candidates’ forum every election cycle – these are minimum requirements to educate yourself about your local, regional, national and world communities.

People don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone.  And then it will be too late.

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