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Monday
Oct 20th

The brass tacks of local & state elections....And why YOU should care

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keeshaCandidates have filed. Lawn signs are printed. The 2010 elections have begun. We all know it is not a presidential year so why should we care about state and local elections?

There are a great deal of important seats up for election. This year, in addition to Governor and Lt. Governor, every state house seat, every state senate seat, 10 Minnesota Court of Appeals judges and three Minnesota Supreme Court justices are also up for election.

Hennepin and Ramsey County elections include Ramsey County District Court judges in every district, Hennepin County Soil and Water Supervisor, Hennepin County Park Commissioner, Hennepin County Commissioner, Ramsey County Commissioner, Ramsey County Sheriff, Ramsey County Attorney and Ramsey Conservation District Supervisor.

The City of Minneapolis has school board directors up for election as well. There are a lot of other county and city offices, check your city and county websites to see what seats are up for election.

Local politics are key to the quality of our day-to-day lives. National politics have drama; they're sexy. We can and should pay attention to what happens on a national scale, but local elected officials have a direct impact over the community issues that we care about more than any president. As citizens, we want better schools, safer communities, clean parks and good roads; we want better opportunities for the next generation. Local officials set the policies that determine how our schools are administrated, how county tax money is distributed, which and how many police officers are hired and local tax levies.

Decisions are made daily that impact the opportunity for our children to learn; school closings, teacher and union negotiations, and then some. We see how decisions about county programs affect economic opportunity. Decisions surrounding law enforcement influence how and when individuals enter the criminal justice system. Then there're judicial decisions that impact our lives from civil and criminal district court outcomes to appellate decisions that interpret Minnesota’s laws.

The Governor, House and Senate make key decisions on taxes, programs and policies. Federal programs may give money to the state, but it is the state and local elected officials that determine how that money is spent and what communities receive the benefit of federal monies distributed to Minnesota.

Local politics are less pomp and circumstance; fewer dollars spent on advertising and candidates without a 'glam squad'...or $500,000 wardrobe expenses. These are your neighbors asking to take on leadership of your community. Talk to them. Find out what matters to them. What are their priorities? Do they match yours? Do they understand the requirements for the office for which they are running? What experience do they have with students, schools, administration, finance and strategic planning? What are their views on governance?

Taking on political leadership is more than empty platitudes and adherence to principles in the face of changing political realities. Are the candidates promising to govern? Are they thinking about factors and events that may impact the ability to meet the demands of the county, school system or the state? Do they understand the communities involved? Assumption of political leadership is not just giving pretty speeches, it is a responsibility and a commitment to serve all citizens within their constituencies.

As a citizen, it is your duty, your right, to stay abreast and informed of the process. Decide what is important to you. If you don't know what the issues are, ASK. Get to know your local candidates, go to your local debates, attend the meet-and-greets held by the candidates.

Remember, these local races elect the officials that make decisions about YOUR daily lives, from tax rates to what schools are closed. Ask the hard questions, don't be intimidated or shy, get the answers you deserve and get ready to vote in the primary on August 10, 2010!

Keesha Gaskins is the Executive Director for the League of Women Voters Minnesota and the League of Women Voters Education Fund. Gaskins holds a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law, and served as a law clerk for both the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Keesha graduated with honors from St. Cloud State University with a dual major in Political Science and Criminal Justice in 1996. She is a frequent lecturer on issues related to redistricting, election law, history of women in American politics, Minnesota’s electoral system and democratic reform. For more information, visit vote.lwvmn.org

 

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