YES, FRIENDS, POLITICS IS ALL LOCAL, ALL THE TIME
Today's editorial in the Ocala Star-Banner is just so well written and too the point, that I simply had to post it in it's entirity here. I strongly agree with the writers in saying that this election is simply too important for anyone not to make the time to cast their ballot. You should simply replace references to Ocala and Marion County with the name of your city or town, because it doesn't matter whether you are in Ocala or Lakeland, Florida or Seattle, Washington or Moselle, Mississippi...it's all the same wherever you are.
A nationwide poll released last month found that 45 percent of voting age Americans rarely, if ever, bother casting a ballot. A stunning 22 percent aren't even registered to vote.
Lamentable as they are, the findings by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press are nothing new, really, nor are the reasons respondents gave for failing to exercise their democratic duty. They don't know anything about the candidates. The issues don't affect them. And, of course, that old favorite: voting doesn't change anything.
Of course, these excuses are nonsense. Especially this year. Amid the mudslinging and fear-mongering that has littered the '06 campaign trail, Tuesday's general election shapes up to be one of the most important, at least interesting, in recent times. Not only is control of Congress up for grabs, but we here in Marion County will help pick a new governor and vote on state legislators, county commissioners and a School Board seat, all of which could shift the policy-making direction on an array of issues that hit not just close, but right in our homes. Also on the ballot is the controversial local sales tax for roads, an initiative that will have a sweeping impact on our community, one way or the other.
Even the Congressional elections have a unusually local spin, given the hundreds of local men and women, and their families, who have been impacted by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the very visible change immigration - legal and illegal - is bringing to our community.
Yes, the 2006 election is an unusually local affair. From how Congress will proceed with the war in Iraq to how the new governor will deal with soaring tax rates and the property insurance crisis to how our County Commission will move forward with managing growth, this election has historic implications.
It is easy to sit back and bemoan the condition of the country. Poll after poll shows two-thirds of Americans think our country is headed in "the wrong direction." And, yes, it is easy to dismiss the value of a single vote by saying one person can't change things. But the issues on the table have too much impact and meaning in our lives to be cast aside.
Whether our sons and daughters have to go to war, and how that war is waged, is nothing less than a life-and-death matter. How our nation deals with the constant inflow of immigrants and the outflow of jobs has far-reaching implications, not just today but on generations yet to come.
Finding an answer to the property insurance crisis is vital to the economic security of Florida business and home owners, but also to the economic vitality of the housing industry, which is a key, maybe the key, cog in Ocala/Marion County's economic engine. Whether FCAT continues to be the dominant force in Florida's public schools assuredly touches the 42,000 young lives in the Marion County Public Schools. And how our County Commission proceeds with managing the new growth that is pouring across Marion County's borders every day will determine our collective lifestyle as a community decades from now.
This election is about how government impacts real people, real lives. It is about resolving critical and mounting pocketbook issues as well as lingering national security and foreign policy questions. If we learned one thing from 9/11, that is we live in a global village, and even in Ocala/Marion County, Florida, our lives are altered by events on the other side of the world.
Yes, this is a local election, from the top of the ballot to the bottom.
Whether you vote or not, there will be change. The war cannot continue status quo. Something has to give on property insurance costs. A tax revolt is brewing in our state, and too many parents and teachers simply are fed up with the pressures and penalties of FCAT. Our community, meanwhile, is increasingly divided on how best to control growth and preserve the "Marion County lifestyle;" and our once-enviable standard of living is becoming less enviable by the year.
This election is about change.
Whether that change starts in Washington or Tallahassee or right here in Ocala, rest assured the effects will be felt in our community, in our homes and, no doubt, in our pocketbooks. To anyone who says it doesn't affect them, we say, Hogwash!