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Why Are Local Elections Important

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Why are local elec­tions important?

1. Money
Accord­ing to the Office of Pol­icy and Man­age­ment, local gov­ern­ments spent more than $12 bil­lion in fis­cal year 2010-11 and the vast major­ity of that money, about $9 bil­lion, came from local prop­erty tax­pay­ers. If you own a home, a busi­ness, or other prop­erty (like your vehi­cle, for exam­ple), you are one of those tax­pay­ers. Prop­erty taxes are a tax that peo­ple love to hate but, unless you’ve paid off your mort­gage, it can be easy to for­get you actu­ally pay these taxes every year.
Put it in a dif­fer­ent way. The peo­ple cho­sen on Nov. 5 will decide how that $12 bil­lion, or roughly 5 per­cent of the state’s total econ­omy, will be spent. Choos­ing who will be at the table to make those deci­sions is wildly important.
2. Edu­ca­tion
Of the $12 bil­lion spent by local gov­ern­ments, $7.29 bil­lion of that money goes to pub­lic edu­ca­tion. There are 1,165 pub­lic schools in Con­necti­cut edu­cat­ing 569,237 stu­dents, accord­ing to the State Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion. This is a mas­sive sys­tem that touches nearly every cit­i­zen in Con­necti­cut, either as tax­pay­ers, par­ents, employ­ees, or stu­dents. Yet every com­mu­nity is dif­fer­ent, con­fronting unique oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges. Pol­icy deci­sions made in this arena impact every­one and can cer­tainly change entire lives.
3.  Pub­lic Safety
In most com­mu­ni­ties, there is only one group of highly orga­nized, trained, and in some cases heav­ily armed cit­i­zens: The men and women of the local police force. They wield legal pow­ers that are off-limits to most cit­i­zens. They can put you in jail, search your car, or sub­ject you to ques­tion­ing about where you’ve been, where you are going, and why you are going there.
The police play an impor­tant and valu­able role in pre­serv­ing pub­lic order and ensur­ing safety. But as has been seen recently, the sole pos­ses­sion of such awe­some power can be accom­pa­nied with abuses. Last week a fed­eral jury con­victed two East Haven police offi­cers, Den­nis Spauld­ing and David Cari, of vio­lat­ing the civil rights of Lati­nos by “stop­ping and harass­ing Lati­nos with­out rea­son, some­times punch­ing, slap­ping and kick­ing them while they were handcuffed.”
Over­sight of the police force is a major respon­si­bil­ity of local offi­cials. They serve as a vital check and bal­ance on the power of the police to ensure that laws are enforced in a fair and respon­si­ble way. When they fail to pro­vide appro­pri­ate over­sight, trou­ble soon follows.
4. Roads
Any­one that has expe­ri­enced a Con­necti­cut win­ter knows the impor­tance of local gov­ern­ment after a heavy snow­fall. While state trucks may be tasked with open­ing the high­ways or state roads, the trucks with “Town of …” painted on the side are most warmly received by res­i­dents. The arrival of those trucks usu­ally sig­nals the abil­ity to finally get to the gas sta­tion or gro­cery store. Pay­ing for those trucks and ensur­ing their effi­cient deploy­ment is a job of the local offi­cials that will be elected on Nov. 5.
5. Infor­ma­tion
Though cit­i­zens inter­act with local gov­ern­ment for every­thing from dog licenses to mar­riage licenses, it can often be most chal­leng­ing to get infor­ma­tion about local gov­ern­ment. Elect­ing local offi­cials com­mit­ted to com­mu­ni­cat­ing with cit­i­zens is the most effec­tive way of know­ing what is going on in town and hold­ing local gov­ern­ment accountable.

 

 

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