Uncontested

The 2004 election left me with an impression that Iowa was a focal point for American politics. Everyone knew who the Republican candidate was to be, and few cared about the other candidates, so all the action was in the Democratic primary, and the starting gate was Iowa. As Des Moines is the center of Iowa politics, I expected to see some serious political action when I moved here. But early signs are not looking good. Seems there is a lack of candidates for the Des Moines City Council. This is standard for cities across the country, but what surprised me is that the local daily paper sees the lack of candidates as a good thing because it will save Des Moines taxpayers $80,000.

Let's ignore for a moment the potential that an unchallenged city council will waste well over $80k with no worries about future elections. Seems to me $80k is a very small price to pay for a healthy democracy. Have we all just given up on this whole democracy thing with its inconveniently expensive and time-consuming elections and all those competing ideas that require citizens to think?

Thankfully not everyone has. Jon Gaskell wrote an article for the local weekly newspaper, the City View. I'd link to the article, but it will be moved next week. So instead I'll just quote so much of it that you have little reason to visit the City View website. (See how unstable URLs are bad business?) Jon writes:

Nevermind that approximately 65 percent of your property taxes go toward your local schools, the school board is inept, officials lied about how much would be raised by a local-option sales tax (and have the gumption to want to extend it after it failed to rebuild all of our schools as promised), our kids are fat and stupid, our teachers make no money and schools are closing right and left. The only way to ensure that people start giving a damn about who's running the Des Moines Public School System is to make sure someone on the ballot is gay.

But 10 years ago, when Jonathan Wilson put his name on the ballot as an incumbent for Des Moines School Board, you couldn't keep the people away, as nearly 30,000 voters showed up at the polls. Were the schools in trouble? Was the system corrupt? Were our kids' test scores dropping to record lows? Were property taxes going through the roof and beyond? Who cares? Wilson was one of those scary homosexual types, and high taxes and dumb kids or not, we needed to make sure a monster like that wasn't going to hold sway over our solid educational system. Disregard that Wilson's lifestyle had absolutely nothing to do with him being the last board member to actually have a grasp on how to run our school system, the haters wanted to make sure some fag wasn't chiming in. So they turned out the vote like only the haters can. And they haven't been back since.

Sigh. It's popular to blame politicians for our country's problems, and they certainly deserve much of the blame. But the voters have earned a fair share of the blame as well. Citizenship comes with responsibilities as well as rights. When we ignore the former, we lose the latter.

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