An F for civic duty

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I was meeting with a client Tuesday who noticed my "I voted" sticker and asked me what I voted for. I was torn about whether to laugh or whether to be dumbfounded that a businessperson in our community had no idea that a city election was taking place.

Ultimately, I decided that voter apathy is a problem that plagues our city and too many others across the nation.

I have a hard time comprehending how or why a city resident could justify not investing the 15 seconds it takes to color in four bubbles -- three if you didn't vote for the uncontested mayoral seat -- to voice your opinion about who should lead city government in the coming years. I'm not sure what issue has to be on the ballot or who has to run for mayor or city councilor to compel people to vote, but the fact that there were no major issues or political controversies isn't a valid excuse to ignore the foundation of our democratic structure.

On one hand, I wish I could spark a fire under each and every resident not only to vote, but also wake up on election days and be excited about casting a ballot. A lot of Iraqis did just that a couple of months ago.

On the other hand, I would expect the more than 5,300 registered voters in the city of Craig to want better for their community and to do better when it comes to civic duty.

Perhaps the saddest thing to me is hearing election judges, who invest countless hours election after election monitoring the votes and counting the ballots, view a turnout of 547 voters as praiseworthy. I only can imagine how dismal election turnouts have been in previous years to make Tuesday's 10 percent turnout a notable achievement.

The bottom line is 10 percent is a failing grade, no matter what school you come from -- I certainly don't think our city can or should be proud that 4,787 people couldn't find a single good reason to exercise their civic duties and show support for the five men willing to give their time for the good of every Craig resident.

Our newly elected city councilors have very little direction from city taxpayers. When 70 percent of voters turn out, candidates can rest assured that the public's voice was heard. When 10 percent of registered voters turn out, it only confirms that we're lucky that friends, family members and co-workers of each candidate care enough to vote.

I find it hard to believe that nobody in Craig cares about the Elkhead Expansion Project or the future of The Memorial Hospital and Colorado Northwestern Community College, or the upcoming water plant upgrade. I find it even harder to believe that nobody cares who makes the decisions that will affect whether a new restaurant gets a liquor license, whether handguns can be carried in city parks, or, better yet, what landscaping hoops a new business must jump through to be allowed to operate. These are the issues that we are electing residents to discuss and make decisions about.

Craig is fortunate that five quality candidates ran for office.

Unfortunately, too many voters didn't share a whit of that commitment to serve the community.

If, as a city, we expect to maintain progress with a clear vision,we need to show our city councilors and mayor that we not only care, but care a lot.

As a community, we need to do our part to be sure that our friends and neighbors are exercising their precious right to vote.

As a citizen of our community and the publisher of our community newspaper, it is my hope I will never again meet a community member on Election Day who asks, "What did you vote for?"

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