Balance should not be just an idea, it ought to be a priority goal for all. Elections always have consequences and one consequence we should look into after the 2019 municipal election is a lack of balance on the local front.
Less than 25% of Marion County voters participated in an election that sets the leadership that hits closest to home for the next four years. These results are what we get when the community is not so into the election. All the issues that rise to the top are likewise the priorities of the 25% who were interested.
We can do better, but it starts long before Election Day, long before the primary, long before slating conventions. It happens as candidates are identified.
Communities deserve candidates who reflect the community, as it exists at the time of the election, not reflective of a line started long ago that lets the next one simply get called up. Communities deserve the right candidate for right now—candidates who are inspired, who have been working, who are in it for the people, who understand the current needs and bring with them the expertise required to get the work done.
I am convinced that our low turnout is tied to a lack of inspiration and interest in the processes, and whom we have running. If you look at the Indianapolis City-County Council races, the candidates who have personal ties to their districts have been able to draw their support systems, networks and, ultimately, neighbors to the polls. These communities had higher turnout.
Imagine a year in which the candidate pool is representative of the people and chosen for the candidates’ community-level work and for the good of the people, not for commitment to party. Consider what it would look like to have an election cycle with full community buy-in—one in which candidates entered with excitement and fresh community-driven ideas.
It’s possible for the next election, but we have to start now. We need to clear the way for the candidates to emerge, to have access to the resources needed to run, and provide them the support needed to withstand the pressure of politics. We have great potential candidates that are serving as unelected civic leaders in our community today.
But there are a few things to consider. Not everyone can run for office while being employed—some jobs allow it and others do not. Another barrier is the cost to run—upward of $10,000 to $15,000 for a competitive council seat in Marion County. Fundraising support is needed.
Another barrier is a general lack of understanding of the responsibilities and tasks for the various elected positions. Several community organizations have been doing the work to provide this information, but we can all pitch in to inform the electorate and inspire the right candidates in the process.
As a community, we can do this. We can raise voter turnout and hold inspiring and engaging elections while moving our city forward. We just have to start now.
In the meantime, we have a second-term mayor who needs our engagement to be successful. He and his administration will need all of us to participate in town halls, attend community meetings, serve on task forces and committees, and just share feedback that will help improve our city.
Please engage. As our friends at Indy Hub say, “People make the city.”•
Slash is a diversity and inclusion consultant in the health care industry and is president of The Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League. Send comments to [email protected]
Click here for more Forefront columns.