To An Election
There certainly are a number of fascinating issues, elements,
and odd phenomenon to take into account as we all head to
the voting booths on November 3rd to decide the direction
of our local government for at least the next two years. Quite
a bit of what’s happening can not be affected by those
in the positions we will be voting on; nevertheless, the way
we end up voting will reflect the effects of everything that’s
happening around us. Such is the nature of life, and elections,
in a modern democracy.
First off, there’s this whole financial mess coming
down on us from state, federal and global levels. Income has
become harder to produce, be it on a personal basis or municipally,
through sales, mortgage and other fluctuating taxes. Credit
lines and grants are fewer and farther between, given the
major crises our banking systems have been through, as well
as the greater roles in all our lives we’ve given these
institutions in recent decades. The result has raised everyone’s
anxiety levels over taxes to unanticipated levels where ANY
slight shift in tax amounts, be it a few dollars or a couple
hundred, is being talked about in biblical terms used to describe
the breaking of camels’ backs.
Yet balancing these worries regarding the availability of
money is our systems’ continuing need to keep spending,
on both personal and governmental bases. Hard costs have continued
to rise, especially as demand has shrunk in many areas. Fuel
and maintenance and materials still cost more, on an averaged
basis, than they did a year before. And our penchant for pushing
off maintenance during better days, for politicized savings,
may have caught up with us on many fronts.
Then there’s that second of the major things at play
this election: the fixed costs tied to contracted labor, as
well as the ever-rising expenses of insurance, retirement,
and other benefits. No matter what some say, there’s
not much we can do about these things on an individual or
governmental basis except understand how unions and organized
labor got us to so many of today’s benefits, from five
day work weeks to vacations and sick leaves, as well as the
institution of civil service fixes on excessive political
spoils. Simply using bogeyman terms such as Marxist or Socialist
means nothing if it forces us to simply look away from the
reasons these philosophies arose in the first place, as a
means of trying to ensure that money doesn’t all end
up in one place, and that it’s uses include a bit of
fairness for working folk as well as owners.
Look… the threat of a teachers’ strike was averted
at Onteora and now we can all work towards healing the bad
blood built up between the different elements of our educational
system in recent years. Or just hold on to them, should we
prefer to see our kids raised like the sons and daughters
of abusive relationships.
The point is that these are systemic problems that need a
greater societal discourse, and not use as battering rams
in local elections.
To keep things simple, we’ll also bring up a third rail
upon which this year’s elections seem to be racing,
even if few candidates have seen fit to discuss its presence
much yet. We’re talking about climate change and our
subsequent global need to shift the ways in which we utilize
energy, an issue that many people scoffed at just one electoral
cycle ago, but which pulled in SRO crowds at last week’s
Local Government Day focus at Belleayre Mountain.
Much of what was discussed at that gathering started with
elements of doom and gloom, from the effects of increasingly
drastic weather on local flooding patterns and shifting infrastructure
needs, to bigger picture worries about changing economies
and everyone’s need to adapt to new energy realities.
But it also included enough local success stories, from Hunter’s
building of solar-aided windmills to Delaware County’s
initiation of promising new grass pellet and wood biomass
industries, to instill hope in the most jaded participants.
Sure, no candidates in our towns have developed meaningful
platforms on these matters to attract voters yet. But that
does not diminish the importance of these environmental issues
in the ways we choose who we vote for this election.
Does climate change trump development? Maybe. At least it
has reached a point where it needs to hold a prominent seat
at any table where new ways of spending to bring in new income
Just as the need to keep spending locally, be it on town and
county employees, has to be considered every time we talk
about how best to keep our Upstate economy afloat.
Complicated matters, on the one hand. But also the sort of
backdrop that makes our town’s and county’s elections
as important, if not more so, than the better-publicized votes
we follow on a state, national and global level.
Because here, we can see effects. And, hopefully, affect all