As spring comes so does the sprouting, not of crocus, but of election signs in towns everywhere. At the major traffic intersections enthusiastic supporters of one candidate or another wave big placards. Sometimes their signs support one favored project or another, or they object to something being done.
This goes on until actual local town elections, which may be on any spring date. Then real flowers of spring can finally open, and also the real business of running town government can begin.
Running a town is not child’s play. Cities are worse. It’s not like folks with a beef or a bully pulpit bringing their kids to wave those signs with them. Running local government is all about necessary core services plus desirable services and also special lovely ideas. And running a town is – of course- all about experience and money.
As I read of the awful killings in Syria, the civil unrest in Egypt and Libya, and seemingly all over the world, I am so grateful to live in a town where I can walk the streets and smile. And sit in my home and eat supper in safety.
Partly it is because we live in a country that believes in the rule of laws, and most citizens follow them. (Consider the Magna Carta and our English heritage.) But it is also because we have good core services that support safety and our fine standard of living. What are core services? They are the things that keep a society functioning. Electricity of course, and water and sewer as well. Police and fire protection are major ones. They always answer the phone, and are really appreciated when one really needs them.
Also our streets get plowed during snow and patched in between. Our garbage gets picked up; even our yard waste. Dangerous street trees are pruned at town expense. And we support our children’s education and our schools.
The town has other services that may not be absolutely essential, but contribute to our sense of civilization. We care about public health, recreation, town planning, historic preservation, parks and open space. We have many self-supporting foundations and charitable institutions that contribute to the richness of life. In my town, this (2012) is one of the few years there has not been a huge campaign by some group or other for some special project they want done but they want everyone else to pay for.
As our slow economic recovery grinds on, some local governments find themselves in the middle of a financial meltdown. So far my town has been OK, but the business of governing is complex with intertwined departments and expenses. To keep us solvent and safe we need people who understand this complexity.
Who one votes for should be based on his or her deep experience and knowledge of how town government actually works. It should be someone who has served on different town committees over the years. He should have a rational intelligence, cooperative good nature, long experience and concern for the town.
Rigid ideology, sexual preoccupation, religious passion and personal self-image problems should eliminate any candidate. Also anyone looking for financial gain from laws or regulations to be enacted.
The character and caliber of local town officials make our democracy work. The alternative is civic unrest and bad government. With good elected officials, towns run smoothly, finances are monitored, citizens are more likely to be content, and the flowers that bloom in the spring can be happy.
Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More gardening information can be found on her website, www.mothersgarden.net