Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 76
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for February 15, 2001

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

Once again, we’ve experienced an abysmal turnout at a local election, followed in due course by editorial hand-wringing about the state of public indifference. Yes, there are excuses – it was only a primary, people are satisfied that the City is generally well-managed (which I agree with, despite my criticisms of various specifics), there are no major issues, etc. However, I think that the major reason for voter non-participation is not apathy, but ignorance.

By ‘voter ignorance’ I mean to say that voters are uninformed and they have no means to become informed – they are ignored. While I normally think it’s the voter’s responsibility to attempt to become informed, this time we had little opportunity. We saw no candidate forums, no debates or discussion groups, no public meetings; just a short newspaper interview that didn’t ask any hard-ball questions.

If we want to see some turn-out at local elections, let’s make it easier to overcome our ignorance about the candidates. Why can’t our civic groups (or even the Political Science Club at CMSU) sponsor candidate forums? Let the candidates give short talks, followed by questions from the audience. Maybe a local radio station (public or commercial) could invite each candidate on for a 30 minute or one hour interview with live call-in?

Maybe we could identify some issues to ask candidates about. City Council candidates could be asked about spending priorities, park issues, competitive wages, taxes, economic development, tax support for a money-losing bus service, West Pine Street, etc. School Board candidates could be asked about testing results, growth, balancing school funding with school accountability, etc. All could be asked specifics about their background, and asked to explain whatever axes they have to grind. Such an approach could illuminate the challenger who’s researched the job and expose the incumbent who doesn’t have the knowledge that incumbency should provide.

Will anything happen to inform the electorate in time for the April election? I doubt it. We’ll probably have to continue to depend on coffee-shop talk and paid ads and hope we don’t make a serious mistake.

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