The political gamesmanship has begun. It's nearly seven months until our next municipal elections and, already, folks are jockeying for position. You can always tell when that special time is upon us. People begin choosing sides. New Facebook pages pop up. Church congregations get just a tad thicker.
Even more telling are the incumbents who suddenly begin reminding you of their achievements while paying great attention to projects that have sat idle for three-and-a-half years. You'll see them at COPS meetings, neighborhood forums and wherever else they can name up until the spring.
But that's par for the course, right? Voters have gotten used to the song and dance—it's an intoxicating number that all but hypnotizes a lot of folks into apathy. That complacency causes them not to get involved in the political process. Worse yet, it causes some folks not to vote at all. The premise is a familiar one. "My vote won't count" or "Why vote? Nothing changes anyway."
Fact is, if we aren't careful, in 2013 we'll give those folks more reason to sit at home.
Starting now, please make sure you vet all your candidates. I'd dare say that August isn't quite the time to set firm allegiances. Instead, ask questions, attend forums or other events and talk to your neighbors. Most importantly, if they're sitting officials, check their records. Ask yourself, "Has the incumbent made any noticeable accomplishments?" If they're challengers, check their platforms. Then ask yourself, "Does the challenger have a better plan?" I'm not talking about idealistic plans that everyone knows aren't doable, but tangible goals. Don't be pimped or pandered to. Beware of candidates who play on race, sensationalize crime or tell you exactly what you want to hear to get your vote.
Remember: We've learned from past administrations that putting time frames on promises can backfire. Crime can't be squashed in 30 days. You can't just declare that you're going to raise city-worker pay. And you can't tout successes and ignore the failures.
This time, Jackson, be smarter. The direction our city takes depends largely on the 2013 city elections—not entirely, but largely. We can either go forward or backward. The choices will be yours, and those choices are much too important for us to vote on someone because they are popular, comfortable, safe, old (or young), black or white. They're much too important for you to overlook someone because they have "white support" or a "short resume."
Ultimately, what I'm asking is that you take these mayoral and city council elections seriously—because they are. Take your time. Please. Who we put in office does indeed matter. Voting matters.
Remember: Bad politicians are elected when good people don't go to the polls.
And that's the truth ... sho-nuff.