By Paul Gorski
I feel a sense of voter apathy in the Rockford region. Personal discussions with voters, low voter turnout this past spring, and few — if any — comments on the recent campaign finance articles in The Rock River Times indicate that you are tired of local and national politics. Tell me I am wrong.
Write a letter to the editor. Tell me my analysis is off, or that I am right on. Educate the politicians, your neighbors and the region at large what we might do better to keep the public engaged in local politics. The written word has been a powerful tool for a very long time; do not be afraid to use it. Facebook posts are nice, but online and printed letters are available for a longer period of time and to readers who may not be on Facebook. If a letter to the editor does not work for you, I offer additional suggestions.
Contact your local officials. Let your voice be heard by expressing your opinions in writing or with a phone call. I tell you from experience that local candidates and elected officials do want to hear from you. Some officials simply need inspiration, and your ideas might be just the push those officials need to champion a cause. Residents contacted me in late 2008 to complain about landfill odors, and I took on that cause and brought local media and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attention to the problem. That may not have happened without calls from local residents.
Get involved. A small group of Cherry Valley residents successfully fought an unfair tax on their neighborhoods in 2010. These residents did their research and rallied to get the necessary signatures from voters and business owners to defeat a flood control tax they felt was not the proper way to fund a flood control and infrastructure plan in Cherry Valley. One of these residents, JoAnn Hudson, was encouraged to run for village trustee, and won her first election.
Vote. The next election is Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. You may vote for state offices, one being governor, and local races including: sheriff, county clerk and county board members. Registered voters will be able to vote early by absentee mail-in ballot and by voting at certain polling locations before Nov. 4. You will not need to give a reason why you want to vote early or by absentee ballot. Long-time incumbents have been surprised in recent years by losing elections to new people. Change can happen, but you cannot wish someone into or out of office, you need to vote.
Take this message to your friends and family. Many of you reading this are involved in local politics or the community. Great, but urge your friends and family to get involved. Spread the message to those who think no good can come from voting or getting involved in the political process. One person can make a difference, but we are more likely to succeed by working together.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the May 21-27, 2014, issue