The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
The election for City Council is over and we have a winner. Local business person Deborah Arwood won with 38.71% of the vote, while the three other candidates split the remaining 61% of those who correctly completed their ballots. It’s good that Warrensburg’s entrepreneurial community will continue to have a strong voice in management and progress of the city. Arwood’s commitment to downtown revitalization will help keep that program on track.
But, Arwood’s victory isn’t the entire story. She was selected by just 324 of the 6,707 registered voters in Warrensburg; the official turnout of 827 voters comes to about 12.5%. According to County Clerk Gilbert Powers, about 50 additional citizens spoiled their ballots by voting for 2 of the 4 candidates; only one position was open. The upshot? Fewer than 5% of the registered voters have selected a key leader for the city.
What’s behind the dismal turnout? I’m sure there are lots of reasons. Many people vote only in Presidential elections. Others only get excited when a tax is on the ballot. This election was non-partisan, so the political parties didn’t work to get their loyal voters out or go soliciting votes in the care centers. However, I think the key problem is local media coverage.
Our media make money from the elections. The county pays them for printing the pages of sample ballots. The candidates pay them for advertising space and perhaps for printing services. Our media should do more to help identify key issues and highlight the differences among the candidates. There’s no sense in cutting off the radio debate after an hour – or in not reporting it in the paper. There’s no reason to not cover campaign events or to not provide campaign schedules. There’s no reason to wait to provide interviews until 3 weeks after absentee voting has started. There’s no reason to not allow or encourage letters backing various candidates.
Warrensburg voters – please remember that many of us who live outside the city limits have a vital interest in the future of the city. We contribute to the economic base and pay sales taxes, but we have no say in selecting city leadership. To those few who voted, our thanks for making a good selection.
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