Local Government Week puts spotlight where it should be

Local Government Week puts spotlight where it should

3 9 17

 

The Issue: People tend to focus on things that have no immediate impact on them.

Our View: Local Government Week recognizes those who keep our communities running.

It was 10 years ago that the Illinois General Assembly declared the first full week in March as Local Government Week, a designation designed to help citizens understand the role local government plays in their daily lives.

Unfortunately, these days, when people think of the word “government,” their mind immediately goes to what is currently taking place in Washington, D.C. The finger-pointing, blame and constant stream of “alternative facts” makes even the most studied political news junkie cringe. What some people forget is that the things that go on in our local village, city and township halls have far more effect on our day-to-day lives than the U.S. Congress or even the Illinois Legislature. While we’re not implying our federal and state governments aren’t important, we just think credit is due to our local representatives who won’t allow two years to pass without a city, village, township or county budget, and who don’t allow partisan politics to get in the way of good common sense — usually.

For years, this space has preached the position that party affiliation has little-to-nothing to do with village, city, township or county politics because the issues most often causing party line divisions aren’t decided at the local level. No one serving on a public body in Macoupin County will ever have to vote on issues like gay marriage, abortion or gun control. Character is much more important, locally, than party affiliation. A fact that should never be forgotten.

Those who make up our local governments have much more to do with the day-to-day quality of our lives than those in state or federal positions ever could. We look to our local governments to address health and safety issues. Those who don’t agree might want to move to Flint, Mich., for a few months as a customer on their water system.

Local governing bodies control how our local tax dollars are spent. They control the quality of our streets, fire departments, police departments, health departments. Those working in local government help local residents in countless ways. Unfortunately, it is human nature to take such efforts for granted. For example, this publication, like many other around the state, go to great lengths to report on the happenings of our local governing bodies. From the school board to the city council and the county board, we work hard to make sure readers understand what actions our local governing bodies take. Despite such efforts, many people claim to have no awareness of the decisions local elected officials make on behalf of the city, township, county or school district. They are, however, fully versed on who got married, divorced, sued or arrested. It’s frustrating that people are more drawn to the scintillating aspect of the court page than they are to the stories about the meetings during which decisions were made that directly affect them.

Serving on a local governing body can be, and usually is, a thankless job. Few who haven’t served in such positions fully understand the amount of effort it takes to do those jobs well. Not only does it take a good working knowledge of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act, but an understanding of municipal code and whatever code of ordinances applies is necessary.

It’s time to show some appreciation for the work these individuals do on our behalf.