22 January 2020

[Ryan Ralston] - Beloved Newton

This is not a new year, new you piece. Resolutions are not my thing.
When we look ahead to 2020, there is much to be thankful for. Feel free to fill in those blanks yourself.
2019 presented itself as a challenging year for all bodies of Newton County government. Feel free to fill in those blanks yourself.  
This morning, I listened to a segment on the radio about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his principle of The Beloved Community.  The term, first coined by Josiah Royce, was later popularized by Dr. King. 
The Beloved Community was where social issues like racism and bigotry were replaced by understanding and compassion. Love trumped hatred. Peace superseded war. Conflict was unavoidable but could be resolved peacefully through open lines of communication. 
Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community and reconciliation as the end goal. 
It is that sense of community, juxtaposed with the upcoming elections that will be examined.
There’s no place where our voice can be heard more so than our own backyard. When we bypass local elections as though our voice can’t be heard, we guarantee it won’t.
There may not be a more exciting (or depressing) form of politics as the U.S. presidential race but for those registered voters in Newton County, our local elections are a great opportunity to become politically engaged. The election of a city council member or county commissioner has a tremendous impact on our community. Our local politicians act on issues equally as important to us, such as; building and zoning, licensing, infrastructure, ordinances, millage rates, school funding, and parks and recreation. It is essential to vote and make our voices heard. Without civic engagement, our concerns go unaddressed. 
Progress begins by first electing candidates who recognize they are beholden to us and all issues begin and end at the local level. 
When voting, we must reflect on what issues are most important to us and seek a candidate who shares those concerns. Responsible voting must involve taking time to learn about a candidate and their policies before making a decision on which candidate to vote for. By making the effort to self-educate, our voices can be heard in local elections, inspiring a younger generation of voters to become involved in their representative government.  
There are many local elected positions that affect the everyday lives of Newton County citizens but all too often we sit on the sidelines and choose silence. It is important that every citizen educate themselves on the candidates and vote intelligently. This is a major component of a successful democracy. Re-electing self-serving candidates is the flipside of the coin and primary reason why we are contending with issues like high taxes, budget shortfalls, and corruption.  
We often ignore the local for the national. 
Let’s get this out of the way right now: your vote matters! 
Unlike federal elections, where your vote is counted amongst millions, local elections are direct and often counted among the hundreds. The power of your vote is more concentrated and has a greater impact. 
Local elections are not glamorous. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t fed up with politics in general. Since so much of our local leadership is elected in “off-years,” it does not reap the needed attention it deserves. Incumbents have a political advantage, but with the level of scrutiny given to candidates on the national level, why do local candidates not receive the same attention? 
The president is not the only person you can vote for. It’s not going to be what the president tweets that impacts your life as much as what’s going on inside the historic courthouse! Period. Hard stop. #OneNewton
This fact is lost on local newspapers like The Covington News
Being made aware of the process and how important your vote actually is, becomes an issue of empowerment. Ask yourself. Why would a local newspaper or candidate not want an informed and empowered voter? #BaaaahGoTheSheep
Citizens are notorious for staying home for local elections rather than heading to the polls, averaging less than 30% turnout. This is the tip of a systemic problem as billions of special interest dollars dominate national politics. We have reached critical mass as a nation and approach political “burnout.” #Impeachment2020 
We are under the impression that voting for the national is somehow more patriotic and important than participating in the local. When the president fails to live up to a campaign promise, does it adversely impact you as much as a county commissioner engaged in good ole’ boy politicking? We possess a skewed view of the hierarchy of politics, believing local elections rest on the lower end of the totem pole. 
Unbeknownst to the uneducated, this thought process is wrong. The actions of the president do not affect us as drastically as a vote cast by a city council member. Breaking News: the president is not constitutionally responsible for Newton County. 
Local elected officials are supposed to serve as an example of democracy in action. They act on behalf of us and our concerns. Therefore, participating in local elections is supposed to be the most indicative form of politics; these elected officials represent us on an intimate level and when we don’t vote, we create a disconnect between ourselves and them. This divide is counter-productive to liberty. 
Not participating in local elections allows small groups whose interests may not align with our own to hijack local politics. The smaller groups’ interests become the ones local leaders care most about. #Duh
Our voices must be heard, and can make a difference but it starts where it matters most: locally. 

Local elections is the best way to become politically aware. If more people participated, then more local issues would be addressed and solved! Period. Hard stop. #BrickFuckingWall