Out of sight cannot mean out of mind

Keywords: Politics,

One of the brilliant ideas of representative democracy is that citizens can choose their level of involvement.

At one end of the spectrum, they can attend every board meeting, scrutinize every public document and submit comments on every issue, at least locally. In times of dissension, that often seems like the safest course, but it can also descend into mob rule in which emotions and fears override expertise.

By electing qualified individuals who consider themselves responsible to constituents, citizens also can choose to trust that they will be kept informed, consulted and represented well without the need to micromanage every duty of every elected official.

At the far end of the spectrum is complete apathy. Some people donít bother to vote, or vote against every incumbent because they believe the bums are all the same, or base their votes solely on political affiliation even for offices where partisanship is largely irrelevant ó and because they canít be bothered to study the issues and acquaint themselves with the candidates. Some people never provide input or attend a meeting, preferring to complain rather than contribute.

Most voters operate somewhere between the extremes, and for very good reasons. No one can monitor every government agency that affects our lives, even locally. There simply are too many. All of us have other demands on our time ó jobs, children, volunteer responsibilities, lawn-mowing and laundry. Good citizens do their best to prioritize, becoming involved on issues important to them and hoping other individuals are doing the same on other issues.

Because voters cannot be involved in every decision, they must be able to trust the officials they elect, and for that trust to be valid, they must choose carefully.

Electing the right candidates is paramount. They arenít all the same. Their education and experiences differ, as do their philosophies and motivations. Those qualities must be balanced, because many combinations can be dangerous: an unqualified candidate with an personal agenda, a highly qualified candidate with little interest in public input, a candidate who considers local public office mainly as a stepping stone to bigger things, a brilliant candidate with no ability to deal with practical realities.

Besides voting on the Cortez Fire Protection Districtís mill levy increase request, local voters will choose board members for the fire district and the Cortez Sanitation District. Mail ballots already have been delivered; voting requires almost no effort at all.

Choosing wisely does, of course, and thatís especially important for voters who have no ability or intention to monitor a boardís every action. Itís also especially important for those two boards, both facing serious challenges.

The worst option is the one most people are likely to take: just not bothering to vote. Apathy is the enemy of good government.

Study up. Vote.

Then donít competely retire. Stay informed and involved; give board members the support they need to do what they were elected to do.