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Editorial: The mathematics of elections

Here is some simple math:

Between our two publications [West and Mid Rivers newsmagazines] we cover about a dozen municipalities on a regular basis. Most of the municipalities’ primary governing bodies meet twice a month. Most of those meetings last about two hours.

That means we are spending more than a full work week minding the people’s business each and every month – and have been for decades. That does not include the time spent writing the stories, doing follow-up interviews, or researching, editing and fact checking content before its ready for layout and proofing.

The vast majority of the time, we are the only media in attendance at city council and board of  aldermen meetings or those of fire boards, planning and zoning commissions and so on. 

Occasionally, like any business, we discuss ways to become more efficient. Inevitably the question arises as to why we spend so much time, effort and money at these governmental meetings. Many are available via live stream over the internet and, after so many years, we know most of the players involved and can get the information after the fact. The agendas are generally released in advance, so we have the ability to pick and choose what to attend.

So why go every week?

Our managing editor Kate Uptergrove has a simple, and utterly compelling, answer to this question: “Because when we are there, they act differently.”

She means that an independent media is critical to the proper functioning of government. The two are intrinsically connected. In other words, we are there to mind the people’s business. We are there because you don’t have time to be.

We are there because, every so often, we hold elections. As a city, district, county, state or country, we ask our citizens to weigh in on the critical choice as to who should represent us in those meetings.

That job of choosing, of voting, is remarkably difficult and the level of difficulty is inversely proportionate to the size of the office held. In other words, you are bombarded with information every day about freshman senators from far away states, but if you want information on your city councilmember you have to work a little.

Now is one of those times when we are going to ask you to do a little work, prior to doing the difficult job of voting. In this issue, you will find our Election Preview. We asked all of the contested candidates questions. Most, but not all, answered those questions, and we have printed them in this issue. We do not play favorites here. If they responded and are running in a contested election, we have printed those responses. All candidates, contested or not, are, at minimum, listed by name in this publication.

The Election Preview is meant to be a guide, not a comprehensive accounting of every candidate’s platform. If you still have questions after reading the preview, please ask them of the candidate. Do not be shy, it is their job to answer you.

After the election is over, we will continue to go to meetings every week and report on the actions taken by the officials you elect.

Voting is difficult. Local elections are difficult. Oftentimes, they can seem boring compared to the national contests. The reality, however, is that the more local an election is, the more day-to-day impact it will have on your life. Do the work, cast the most informed vote you can.

The math is simple: spend a short time informing yourself now, your life gets better for the next few years. Get out and vote.

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