Another election season looms in Del Norte County. Soon voters will be filling spots on the City Council, Harbor Commission and School Board. They'll settle the runoff for district attorney and choose a new county auditor.
These are nonpartisan races, which affords an excellent opportunity for locals to truly engage the issues at hand if only they can resist the temptation to replicate what they see happening in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento.
It's hard to remember more bitter political divisions than the ones at play now in our national and state capitals. In fact, it's becoming easy to forget that all of us, Republicans, Democrats, what-have-you, are striving for the same things: a healthier economy and the individual freedom to enjoy it as we see fit as Americans.
Instead, party-line dogma prevails. In D.C., that means the minority party opposes anything the majority proposes. It's an atmosphere so partisan that it's easy to imagine a cycle in which the minority party actually hopes for short-term failure so that it can regain power; after which the new minority party will hope for failure so that it can regain power.
Don't be so cynical as to think it's always been that way. For much of American history, political leaders have been willing to cross the aisle and seek nonpartisan solutions to our problems. We can insist on a return to those more-productive times, or we can continue to sink into our own partisan camps.
If the atmosphere weren't so poisoned, issues like a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City would not become litmus tests for our perceived loyalties. C'mon folks, this isn't a tough one to find middle ground on: Of course we should preserve the constitutional right to freedom of religion by allowing the mosque. At the same time, of course the Muslim leaders pushing the proposal should find somewhere else to build it. If they don't, they deserve criticism for their monumental insensitivity. Then we move on, letting it become one more symbol to the world that America truly is the land of the free.
In Sacramento, legislators seem to have perfected the art of non-compromise. Once again, there is no state budget. Once again, we're on the verge of issuing IOUs. Once again, our state employees, including plenty of Del Norters, are getting bounced around by legal battles over furloughs that cut their pay one day and restore it the next.
The only ray of hope comes from polls showing that state voters are likely to pass Proposition 25, which would eliminate the requirement that a two-third's vote of the Legislature is required to pass a budget. That requirement was no doubt established to force a bipartisan approach to budgeting, but since there is no longer any bipartisanship to be found in Sacramento, let the majority rule so that we can at least avoid the dysfunction of having no budget.
That measure is on the Nov. 2 ballot, which brings us back to the local offices that are up for grabs. Let's hear from City Council and Harbor Commission candidates about how to improve our downtown and our waterfront. Let's hear School Board candidates' ideas for preserving and improving pubic education even in the face of budget cuts. Let's hear about how we can better work together.
It's not that Del Norte doesn't have divisive issues of its own, and sometimes they do fester into dysfunction. But let's not emulate what's going on elsewhere in our country. We can do better than that, and a healthy, positive local election season is a good place to start.
- The Daily Triplicate