By Editorial Board
Watching Congress come to blows as it considered for a second time whether to impeach former President Donald Trump, people on all sides of the spectrum agree Washington politics have reached a low-ebb probably unsurpassed since Watergate.
With the national landscape apparently unfixable, we suggest taking a closer look at your local political representation. At first glance, the picture may look pretty bleak there, too, but at least it doesn't have to stay that way.
Meaningful change can quickly take place in the local arena when small numbers of invested residents show up at school board meetings, run for office or write to their board of commissioners.
Your local representatives also have a far more direct impact on your community than the faceless bureaucracies tucked inside the Capital Beltway. As political engagement advocate Terri Minor Spencer recently put it in an interview for Gazette 2.0: “The presidential election is not the most important election – local offices affect our lives 365 days a year.”
It goes without saying that our representatives should be the best among us, but there’s nothing built into the election processes guaranteeing that. The bar is in fact set pretty low if residents don’t put in the work to raise it.
Most elected offices require no qualifications and admit those with colorful backgrounds anywhere short of a convicted felony.
Too many of our local officials take advantage of this leniency, finding power in local politics, which would be denied to them by the competitive private sector.
By the same token, the best among us often shy away from entering the fray, put off by the cronyism and infighting that places individual egos above community interest.
But this isn’t Washington. When more than 50 community members showed up to voice their support for a community athletics center in McKees Rocks, former council president Paul Krisby was pressured into backtracking his hardline opposition. If as many people had shown up again the following month, the project would have no doubt moved forward.
Instead, goaded by an empty room, council shut it down with a single motion.
Showing it can be done, last month, McKees Rocks residents speaking out this time against a possible sewage hike ensured the rates were kept down.
In fact, we’ve seen good things happen all across the western suburbs when residents step up and demand more, but all too often we watch a handful of officials direct your tax dollars in dark, empty rooms.
Our representatives should be the best among us, but it’s up to you to pick them — or step into the ring and become one.