I was speaking with my neighbor, who hates politics. Like me, if she paid attention at all, it was at the national level. I am very disappointed with our representatives in D.C. But here, locally, we vote politicians into their first offices and by voting in good, honest, hardworking fellow citizens, we set the bar going forward for good politicians at the state and national level.
Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil made the famous comment that “All politics are local.” As of November 5, here in my fine little suburb, we’ll be voting for two positions on the City Council, one for the Mayor, two for the School Board, one for the water district, and one for the Fire Commissioner.
Any reader of mine probably knows by this time that I am a PCO. That’s Precinct Committee Officer. Somebody asked me what that means. Well, here in Washington state, it is divided into 39 counties, and those counties are divided into districts and those districts are then broken down into neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has both a Democrat and a Republican PCO, whose job it is to keep their neighbors informed on issues and candidates and we do this by walking our districts or calling or emailing. Surprisingly, some people really enjoy being interrupted at home and, not surprisingly, others take umbrage. While we are supposed to have both Democrat and Republican PCOs for each neighborhood, quite often you have only one or the other or even none at all. We have a local newspaper that publishes once a week, but doesn’t deliver to every neighborhood. It is available online and without question is tilted to the left. Still and all, we got something to help keep our citizens informed. As the election creeps closer and closer, you will see individual candidates, hopefully with some supporters, on busy intersection street corners, waving signs that say: “Vote for So-and-So.”
I got started in this from listening to my local radio a.m. stations. I stumbled upon some conservative local talk show hosts that kept me up to date on what was happening in my city or nearby Seattle. I began off and on to pay attention and soon found I had gradually drawn away from listening to music and was more and more interested in what was actually happening in real time in my city, state and nationally. One of my favorite local stations went from talk radio to pop music and we lost some truly good coverage of issues. After a year, the local station brought back the talk show format with new hosts because the others had moved on. So, that’s the background. One of the old ones, Kirby Wilbur had gone forward to being very active as the Chair of the State’s Republican Party, but it was due to Kirby’s talk show that I got involved in my community and involved in local politics. He asked for people who were interested to reach out and contact their District’s Chair. (Hint: your district is listed on your voter registration I.D. card)
Volunteers are worth their weight in Gold and they’re a pain in the butt:
To my surprise, I was welcomed eagerly by my District’s Chair and within about a week, I was an appointed PCO for my neighborhood. Later, I had the joy of walking into one of my precinct’s voting booths with my ballot and inking in the circle next to my name. (You’re appointed if the seat is vacant, but then have to run on the ballot if two or more want to run as PCO.) Turning in my ballot, I couldn’t contain the grin on my face and said to the observer, “I got to vote for me!” (Okay, amateur hour, but the closest I plan to running for office – too many
skeletons adventures in my younger days.)
You attend meetings once a month, help candidates run for election, write letters to the editor, sometimes even walk in parades. Now, about those monthly meetings… Whomever is District Chair runs those meetings and depending on their ability to conduct a meeting, those meetings can be hell on wheels. That is because everybody in the room can comment and those comments can go on forever. The hardest thing for me to do is sit still in those meetings and try to keep a low profile, to try to keep from seizing an imagined gavel and slamming it down to say, “Next comment!” Some are good, but most are long winded and I find myself circling the drain as the meeting drags on.
That said, I have found getting involved in my local community and trying to be part of the solution versus part of the problem very rewarding. I am on first name terms with my State Representatives, my Mayor, the City Council and a wide variety of leaders. I’ve made wonderful friendships with people who are like minded. Not an easy thing to find in a sweepingly democratic county, let me assure you.
I posted in an earlier post my lament that out of 49,000 registered voters in my city, only 7,000 had voted in the primary. Argh! These are your taxes, people! This is who keeps your water running and tasting good, your lights on and costs down, these are the people who will make sure someone comes when you call 911! Argh, again!
The Local Birds-Eye View:
Most recently, our local newspaper hosted debates for the candidates running in local elections. It took place at the local country club and surprise! surprise! was standing room only by the time the debates started. My friend, Maureen and I met at 4:30 p.m. at the local Subway for a meal and then arrived in time for a front row seat at the debates.
As a former Toastmaster trainee and then competitor in speech contests, as well as 30 years in business, I found myself listening from that point of view. I highly recommend Toastmasters, by the way, for learning how to conduct a meeting, how to debate and think on your feet, as well as learning to not stumble with the “um…., um…, um…, ah…, well….” verbiage. We actually had someone who would hit the clapper every time you said one of those during your speeches and kept track of how many you said. The clapper was made of two castanets that slammed together in unmistakeable style. It also taught me concentration. Clearly, most of our candidates were not Toastmaster graduates. There were a couple of moments that still have me either wincing or grinning.
The biggest wincer came from the audience. A person, granted the mike, deplored the lack of diversity on the City Council and, most especially, the lack of diversity within the audience. He wanted to know what the candidate would do about it. Sadly, every candidate gurgled out how in favor of diversity they were instead of pointing out that all of us had access to the same information of when the debates would be held and somehow we had made it a point to attend the debates. The woman sitting next to me qualified for two diversity categories – or maybe more – for she was both Black and a Woman (please note my courteousness in initial capping those diversity groups). She was fit to be tied that diversity had entered into the discussion. “God, they want to turn us into Seattle!”
The grins, hidden behind my hand clapped over my mouth, came when one of the city council candidates in his two minute conclusion speech designed to demonstrate why you should vote for him had a core meltdown and went off on the current incumbent Mayor who was sitting in the front row and just about to go on for his debate. Needless to say, his opponent looked really good in contrast and I’ve no doubt will carry the vote. In the debate between the incumbent and his opponent for the water utility board seat, the dainty opponent, who is a retired librarian, stood up and said something to the effect, “I began running for this position because I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. In the time I’ve been running, I have had a chance to get to know my opponent and I had no idea what a good man he is and how well qualified he is for this position. His staff is just excellent and were very helpful to me.” …While never outright saying she was endorsing her opponent, that is in fact what she had done and we were all sitting in our seats, just stunned.
See what you miss at the local level?