This post originally appeared as a column in The Diamondback
For a Democratic student, today seems like a sad day. All the headlines shout about Hogan and the Republican Senate. Some will say that this is a blessing in disguise — Republicans will be forced to legislate; they can’t just bash Obama anymore. I don’t buy it.
We lost. Lost bad, despite so much in our favor — popular positions on social issues, economic growth, a poorly rolled out but ultimately effective new health care system.
Still, real politics is mostly lots of little things that add up.
It’s hard to draw your eyes away from the national news, the headlines and big decisions. Local matters are much harder to think about. They’re so boring and unavailable. Great journalists don’t tend to cover local politics and local issues, mostly because no one will buy papers that cover that boring old stuff.
If we want to make the most difference, we have do it locally.
What are the major issues facing College Park? Mostly, they are perennial issues that face local governments everywhere: zoning, ordinances, schools, waste management, family services, business development programs, law enforcement.
These are issues that we don’t know much about or pay much attention to. We might know about the Florida gubernatorial race but not about how plans are made for roads to be paved and streetlights timed. We assume that garbage collection will be timely and efficient — but how much should it cost? Who approves new building construction, and how will it affect us?
The work and decisions of state and federal politicians will have real impact on our lives — there’s no denying it. Still, that impact is not proportional to the amount of attention we pay to it. Reading The Washington Post and The New York Times, listening to C-SPAN and NPR, being informed about foreign policy, caring about the big issues — those are good habits. Just as important, but less immediately cool, is regular attendance at city council meetings. You can make a difference there in a way that you probably can’t at a national level, no matter how much organizing, fundraising and campaigning you do.
The College Park Academy is a new model for middle and high school — should we expand it or eliminate it? Or do we need more time to figure it out?
Starting a municipal Internet service provider would likely be a tremendous boon to citizens who are otherwise at the mercy of big cable providers — Verizon and Comcast. How expensive would it be? Is it technically feasible?
How can we make sure that the waste generated by College Park residents is managed effectively? How efficient is our recycling program, and how well-informed are residents about what can and can’t be recycled?
What can we do to reduce crime and increase public safety (and the perception of safety) while we grapple with the issues of police brutality and overreach that seem to pervade police forces throughout America?
None of the countless issues critical to our daily lives is over and dealt with. None of these were really on the ballot. They are mundane, inglorious, even boring, but they are the issues that will shape the future of this city. In countless places across the country, good governance at the local level will shape the future. That takes real effort by real people — people like you.
You alone probably can’t get marijuana legalized in this state or force a switch to a flat tax. But you might be able to improve attendance at the farmers market, make sure we are recycling and maybe even ensure that the plans for the development in College Park bring us a more prosperous future.