Three spots apiece on the county Board of Supervisors, City Council and Harbor Commission. Two on the School Board. A state Assembly post and a brand-new congressional representative.
It's not all about the presidential election or the governor's initiative to generate more revenue through higher taxes this year. Del Norte voters have work to do at the local and regional level as well.
And while those national and statewide elections can be polarizing, here's hoping the closer-to-home decisions can be based on issues and candidate qualifications instead of labels.
A recent letter to the editor complained that while the local
electorate leans conservative, most of our leaders are liberals. To
which we reply: Huh?
Then come more elaborate follow-up questions: How exactly does one
determine the overriding political philosophy of Del Norte elected
officials? And even if we succeed in doing so, should that determine how
we vote in local elections?
These are nonpartisan offices, so we can't vote a party line even if
we were lazy enough to want to. Maybe certain criteria could be employed
to determine whether someone qualifies as a liberal or conservative:
how a School Board member voted on the relocation of the teen health
clinic, perhaps, or whether City Council members and county supervisors
are calling loudly enough for rollbacks in the prices of garbage
collection that were negotiated during a recent contract extension.
The letter-writer lamented the departure of Charles Slert from the
City Council, saying we'd lost a conservative. Well, maybe, but it's
difficult to see what role his alleged conservatism played in helping to
run the city. He generally voted with the majority andndash; do all the City
Council members qualify as conservatives?
Slert was the staunchest Council supporter of maintaining the
downtown Business Improvement District - since renamed the Downtown
District - with its mandatory fees administered by City Hall. Does that
make him a liberal?
And how does one establish the liberal or conservative credentials of
Harbor Commission members? Perhaps by whether they voted to hire
attorney Fred Kelley Grant to help cut through bureaucratic red tape
regarding tsunami recovery assistance?
Grant declined the $10,000 commissioners wanted to pay him, saying it
wouldn't be money well-spent since harbor officials already seemed
comfortable with the timeline for repairs. So were the commissioners who
sought to hire him the conservatives or the liberals?
If citizens want to decide how they'll vote based on candidates'
stand on a particular issue, that is certainly their right. But we will
be best served if voters worry less about assigning labels and more
about candidates' qualifications and willingness to work hard in leading
Del Norte during particularly tricky times.
What's so tricky about them? After all, government agencies,
especially at the state level, are cutting spending and services, and
isn't a reduction in the size of government something the majority of
Del Norters want? The truth is, however, that we are more
government-dependent than most areas - many of our more-affluent
residents are employed at the state prison or by grant-funded
institutions, and many of our poorer residents are heavily dependent on
So maybe we don't necessarily want less state spending in Del Norte,
but plenty of us do want less state and federal control over what we do
here when it comes to land-use development and access to natural
resources. Again, however, it's tricky. Federal and state regulations
aren't going to magically disappear, so we have to figure out how to
work through them, or around them, to make this a better place to live
and work now, as well as a viable legacy for our children.
A place with more opportunities and fewer vacant storefronts.
Meanwhile, the School Board members we choose in November will help
direct education reform efforts vital to our young people. Perhaps their
stand on the various reform possibilities is more important than the
relocation of the Teen Health Center?
Attaching political labels and voting accordingly is a flawed
approach. Let's find the candidates who are most capable of navigating
Del Norte through rough waters churned by economic turmoil and seemingly
endless layers of government regulation.
Through its reporting and organization of upcoming candidate forums,
the local newspaper stands ready to help.
- Del Norte Triplicate