By Edith Morgan
It’s here: Decision time has come, ready or not! TODAY Worcester votes! We elect or re-elect our local government officials. And against all reality, I am still hopeful that we will erase the dismal figures of past local elections and show up in greater numbers.
Before casting our ballots, we should give a few moments’ thought to some very fundamental questions: because local government touches most of us most directly – in our homes, our streets, our children, our neighborhoods, our daily lives, we should be most concerned who makes decisions about these things, but we should also learn what the limits of the powers of the local officials really is.
I am often amazed at how little so many of us really understand about the structure of our government, the powers that each position actually has, and how to get things done by our local leaders.
Too many of us go directly to our councilors for help with things that are better and more quickly taken care of by the established bureaucracy – like filling potholes, trimming trees, reducing traffic, picking up trash, etc A call to DPW and P, at 508-929-1300 is the best way to go – they will direct you to the right department if needed, or give you a number to refer to if they can not help you immediately.
For help with school matters, it is best to go up the ladder – from the classroom teacher, to the principal, to someone at 20 Irving Street, then as a last resort, to the elected members of the school committee.
I always encourage people to start with those most likely to be able to solve problems directly, because that is their job, and because they are the most likely to have the answers.
So, what can our elected officials really do?
While we are accustomed to expect “favors” from those we elect, I do NOT expect that. That is the road to nepotism and corruption. Rather, I expect that those I elect will provide leadership, long range planning ideas, make sure that the city is governed by the basic philosophy that we can agree on. Often, a single occurrence bring out the hysterics, so we end up with ordinances that are not well thought out and affect too many of us negatively.
There is always a temptation to win votes by taking on tasks that should be done by hired employees, but I look to my elected representatives to keep their eyes on the broader picture – they all represent the entire city, whether they are elected from a district, or at large.
I look for a person who has a vision for the future, who knows and understands our city, who is well-informed, and can listen to other viewpoints.
I am not impressed by buzzwords, by “kissing babies”, hiring relatives, being seen at all events, ( we grew up believing that “:fools’ names and faces are often seen in public places”) – and I also hope that voting for people who represent a variety of viewpoints will bring good discussions to our meetings.
Above all, I want to be represented by people who are guided by FACTS, not emotions or the drive to power.