Other Voices: Party politics and local elections
October 18, 2005
Party politics are an important part of our state and national government. They allow people to express, through the ballot box, differences in ideas of what government should or should not do. Political parties have certain “guiding principles” that are shared by voters who are satisfied with their cause, or mostly satisfied. Sometimes voters cast their ballots for what they consider the lesser of two evils, forgetting G.K. Chesterton’s warning: “Whenever you choose the lesser of two evils, don’t forget you have chosen evil.
Local elections are far different from state or national. This is particularly so in Nevada County, for a variety of reasons.
Here, “guiding principles” have little or nothing to do with the problems local government face. Fixing streets, enforcing local laws, planning or otherwise, approving or disapproving projects for land development are just some. Laws relating to animals, bicycles, noise and business enterprises are a few of many others.
Nevada County is a community of people with varied needs and desires. Some are relatively wealthy landowners who are still divided on environmental and other local issues. Some have modest homes and are also divided in a number of ways.
Most people are concerned with their own home properties, if they own homes. Renters are frequently looking for ways to have “affordable housing.” Some of our residents have well-paid employment; others are not so fortunate. However, these people cannot easily be defined by party politics. Each has his or her own special problems, needs and desires.
We find the same local needs in users of the public schools, Sierra College, NID and church goers.
For these reasons, the injection of party politics tends to keep local government and voters separated in thinking of their own needs and desires. Party politics get in the way of our figuring out local problems that have nothing at all to do with state or national problems.
Therefore, it would be helpful if our local Democratic and Republican committees refrain from mixing local candidates – who really understand local issues – with those people who are more devoted to national or state politics, to the detriment of doing the already very complex job of taking care of the multitude of very different and difficult local problems which are very important to all of us. Another issue of party politics is that it confuses tasks, and some people simply don’t vote in local elections. None of what was said does away with the good of party politics where it has its very important place in larger spheres of government, it just shouldn’t intrude on local issues.
Harold Berliner is a resident of Nevada City
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