Editorial: Local politics are important

The great thing about America is that most issues boil down to who runs for office and who gets elected. That’s true all the way down to local offices, where it makes a big difference who the people decide to elect.

Local officials generally play a larger role in our day-to-day lives than people elected to higher offices. Important land use decisions are made locally, how our water is protected and how our waste is disposed of is decided locally, the staffing of our police and fire departments is decided locally, recreational needs are addressed locally, and the condition of our streets and roads is largely up to local elected officials.

That’s why even though it is only February, it’s not too soon to start thinking about who you would like to see in a number of local offices that will be on the ballot next November. This is an “off year” in politics, so all elections are local — nothing higher than the city level, and all the issues are nuts-and-bolts ones. Where should we spend our precious local tax dollars? Who can do the best job of luring extra state and federal dollars to our area? Who really cares about the environment and is willing to make tough choices to protect it? Who has the experience and drive to help attract more good jobs to our community?

Oak Harbor has just gone through a contentious series of meetings on two controversial topics. Should a large shopping mall be allowed south of town, and should farmland to the west be broken up into thousands of lots for development? Right now the shopping center is off the table, but it’ll be back. The most ambitious effort to develop farmland is also on hold, but it too will likely be back. Who we elect in 2007 will have a lot to say about those proposals and many others that will be coming our way.

Mayor Patty Cohen’s position is up for election this year, as are the City Council seats held by Paul Brewer, Sue Karahalios and Larry Eaton. In a democracy, everyone needs competition, so don’t be afraid to run against them or to help find someone who will run. It’s not rude to run for office, nor is a negative campaign required. Just find someone with some good ideas and plenty of time to devote to public service.

The situation is similar in Coupeville where a well-entrenched mayor, Nancy Conard, is up for election, as are three Town Council members, Marshall Bronson, Bob Clay and Molly Hughes. If you would like to see a new direction in Coupeville, now is the time to get politically active.

There are also positions available on the fire district and hospital district boards, and with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District. All of these positions have a direct impact on the health and welfare of Whidbey Island residents.

Make a difference in your community by getting involved in local elective politics. For information on how to run, or what seats are available, contact the Island County Auditor’s Office at 679-7366.