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Lyons: Local elections more important than you think

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 8:59 a.m. CDT

If the number of people who complain about their towns, school districts or other local governmental units were equal to the number of people who actually bother to vote, we’d have something closer to a representative democracy.

About 66 percent of McHenry County voters turned out for the contentious November presidential election, compared with about 20 percent for the 2012 spring primary. Bet the under for the April 9 Illinois Consolidated General Election.

Grown people can fling themselves into hysterics over what a president or U.S. Speaker of the House said or implied 365 days a year. You’re free to rail against the Koch brothers, the liberal media, Fox News or the bogeyman of your choice.

But the reality is that whatever those people do or say doesn’t usually have much impact on your daily life. Frankly, they care about your suburban existence about as much as you care for box elder bugs.

Yet some form of local government touches you nearly every day. Did Eric Holder pick up your trash this morning? No, but a waste hauler contracted by your municipal government did.

Take a shower this morning? Thought so, couldn’t smell you from here. If you live in a municipality, that was city water flushing the crust out of your eyes. The city sets the water rate and makes sure the water is up to environmental standards so it doesn’t wash your corneas out along with the crust.

Have kids in school? That’s an obvious one. Even if you don’t, do you know where more than half of your property-tax bill is going? Perhaps you should. And if your schools stink, that affects the value of your home.

I could go on and on, but the point is that local government is more relevant to you than the federal government despite what the shrill voice on the radio tells you. It’s not that you shouldn’t care about what’s happening in Washington, D.C., or Springfield, but village hall and your local school boards deserve your attention, too.

The good news is that you’ve got plenty of time to research who’s running in the races that will appear on your ballots on the Northwest Herald’s election website – Election Central – at elections.nwherald.com.

Not all of the scores of taxing bodies in our coverage area have contested races, but we reached out to candidates in contests for cities, villages, school boards and townships, and most candidates responded to questionnaires, which we’ve posted on the site.

We also gathered brief video introductions from the candidates that will be posted by this weekend so you can put a face and voice to the name, and members of our editorial board have been meeting with candidates to determine our endorsements, which are scheduled to begin to be published Sunday.

Some of these races might not be great talk radio or social media fodder, but for the most part, these are candidates who just want to make their communities better. While they might disagree on the means, the intentions usually are good. The pay is minimal to nonexistent, and the efforts should be appreciated.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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