This post originally appeared in this weeks’s Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com
With early voting started and Election Day just 12 days away, this column and next week’s will focus on why our municipal elections are so important and how to cast your vote to have the most impact. They won't be about endorsements or trying to sway your opinion, but hopefully they will encourage you to do a little candidate research and head to the polls on or before November 3rd, Election Day.
We all know voter turnout always seems to be lower that everyone wants and should expect.
Many people only vote in Presidential election years. Others also vote in the State and Federal elections that occur in even numbered years, but those numbers fall way off when you start talking about the municipal elections that occur in the odd numbered years. Those are the ones occurring now.
The ironic thing? These local elections are the ones that touch people’s lives most directly and with the most impact. Yet, in many cases voter turnout falls into the single digits.
Local Government hires your police and fire departments. They set a big chunk of your property tax rate. Local elected officials deal with planning decisions that impact the value of your home. They provide funding to make sure your local parks are available and maintained.
Do you need a new stop sign or street crossing to ensure your children’s safety on the way to school? Do you have questions about noise ordinances? Do you have concerns about that rezoning sign you just saw down the street?
Those are all things handled by your local government or at the very least your local government is the starting point for getting them resolved. However, getting them resolved also requires you have elected officials who are willing to fight for the right solution. If you don't have that then you often won't get anywhere.
Local elections are another opportunity for voters to inject new blood into the system and because local government can act much more quickly than the State and Federal levels results can be seen quickly.
Take for example what has happened in Davidson since the the last election just two years ago.
In 2013 Davidson’s Board swore in two new members - Stacey Anderson and Beth Cashion.
Since then, the town has embarked on the process of hiring a new town manager after the announcement earlier this year that long-time manager, Leamon Brice, would be retiring. The town will also be getting a new town attorney after the recent announcement of the resignation of long-time counsel, Rick Kline.
Over the past two years, the town government has shown more respect for property rights with the changes made to its affordable housing ordinance and the approval of the Narrow Passage neighborhood. Yes, those were very tough discussions, but the town ultimately showed more flexibility than it has in the past.
Davidson town hall has also become more open with Davidson being the only North Mecklenburg town to make its meetings available via streaming online. Commissioners have also changed the format of its monthly citizen “chats” in an attempt to bring in a wider audience.
Davidson even passed a resolution questioning aspects of the I77 HOT lanes project. While some might have considered the resolution to be a bit mild compared to what it could have been, an action like that would have been all but unthinkable in years past. Davidson does not rock the boat when it comes to issues like this, but this time it did.
Did all of these things happen solely because two new commissioners joined the Board? More than likely not. However, it’s equally safe to say it is very likely some of them would not have occurred without two new faces as the result of the 2013 election.
So, if you have not already made your decisions, spend some time over the next few days learning about your candidates. Check out MeckBOE.org for links to candidate websites. Find out which ones you believe will actually fight for the things you support.
Then, most importantly, go vote!