While we desperately want it out of our lives, politics is one of those things that is always present and lurking in the background waiting to pounce. We just completed a stressful and divisive national election. One would think we could escape politics for a bit, but, alas, that is not the case.
Last week, Mayor Gary Graham announced he wasn’t going to run for another term of office and would retire. Soon thereafter, City Clerk Phil Goodwin announced he was going to run for the office in April. Alderman Herb Roach announced late last spring that he was planning to run for Mayor as well. Both candidates were present in the Christmas parade last weekend, along with a few candidates for alderman.
One political season ends and the next begins to bloom.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining or attacking any of these men for beginning their campaigns. I’m happy there are people stepping up and throwing their hats in the ring. They should be commended. I’m a big believer that local elections are way more important than national contests. Your alderman impacts your life in a more direct, concrete way on an everyday basis than your congressman ever will. My point with this column is to encourage every one of you reading this to not just roll your eyes and dismiss the April elections because you’re “sick of the politics.”
I’ll give you an example of why the April elections matter. The O’Fallon Library Board has asked for their tax levy to be raised. In order for that to happen, the city council must raise it, as it is tied to the city’s finances. The Library Board trustees are appointed by the mayor and are confirmed by a vote of the city council. For the people that are upset about the library’s tax levy going up, the April elections are where you can cause change. With that said, I’m not advocating change for change’s sake. A “throw the bums out” mentality isn’t healthy and leads to some good men and women being ejected from office when they shouldn’t be. A board that experiences a brain drain, when all of its experienced members are removed, is an ineffective and dangerous animal. That tends to be when crazy things can take place that impacts everyone for years to come.
What I’m advocating for is community involvement and engagement. There are only a handful of people who attend city council meetings. Maybe more watch on television… I can only hope so. However, no one attends Library Board meetings. No one attends Township Board of Trustee meetings. Rarely does anyone attend most school board meetings. We’re all busy, I understand. But if you can’t attend the meetings, reach out and make an appointment with your local elected official or school administrator to find out about what they are doing. Nearly every unit of government in O’Fallon and Shiloh posts their meeting agendas and even their packets online, so you can research issues beforehand. Take time to sit down and ask questions. You are the taxpayer and they work for you.
I’d also like to take a quick moment and make a shameless plug for my staff. I pride myself on the fact that the O’Fallon Weekly has a presence at every O’Fallon city council regular meeting and Shiloh Village Board meeting. Additionally, we either cover in person or circle up with the superintendents of all four school districts in O’Fallon and Shiloh about their Board of Education meetings. We’ve recently begun attending Library Board meetings. We attend each meeting of the O’Fallon Township Board of Trustees. We are trying our best to make sure you are kept up to date on what these boards are doing. Are there more meetings to attend? Yes. Are we working on trying to staff them as well? Yes. Until I have a representative at every meeting of a body working with your tax dollars, I won’t be happy.
Ultimately, there are good men and women in O’Fallon and Shiloh serving in elected and appointed positions. They are all working hard to make this area a great place to live. They may have different ideas as to what that means, but they can all agree they want to leave their town a better place than when they first arrived. This election season isn’t one to be avoided or ignored. This is the one to embrace.