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Local votes pack supersize impact

By Dan Pool, Editor

            I was in our new downtown Jasper coffee shop recently and, like you are supposed to do at a coffee shop, began talking with one of the Jasper city council members and the owner of another Main Street business.

            This was pure shooting the breeze over our Red Bean coffee, nothing planned. The three of us just happened to be there at the same time and knew each other professionally.

            It was one of the most productive meetings I have been to in a while.

            The other business owner, who is relatively new here, had some ideas, the council member was very interested and I was engaged as a longtime business/building owner on Main Street.

This is what’s possible and wonderful about local government in a small town. Neither myself nor the other business owner are actually voters inside Jasper’s city limits, but we know our council members on a first name basis.

            You can call, e-mail or bump into our local officials. They will listen to you, not necessarily agree, but at least hear what you are saying. At the city and even the county level if you have a mind or motive for public service, you can get involved, bring your ideas to light and get a response.

            The towns of Jasper, Talking Rock and Nelson are simply too small for any voter or interested members of the public to be ignored. Show up at enough meetings and they may put you on some committee.

            Consider that in Jasper, the largest of our local towns, there are only 2,615 registered voters and in Nelson just 854 (391 in Pickens and 463 in Cherokee) and Talking Rock’s election is like a big family reunion with only 56 registered voters.

            Many voters get all excited by the hoopla surrounding the national elections – and they are certainly important – but perhaps on a daily basis much less so than who your city council member is.

            With national races, emotions run high about defeating the godless enemy – which is always the party you don’t belong to, regardless of who is running. Voter turnout may be well above 80 percent across Pickens County in a presidential vote – even though not one single resident of this county was asked their opinion directly by any candidate during the campaign. Nor will the outcomes immediately effect our day-to-day lives.

            In contrast, the local races determine things you may see when you pull out of your driveway.

            For example, the council races up for grabs could determine things like whether Talking Rock keeps expanding their downtown entertainment businesses, or whether Nelson finally settles their park issues, or how Jasper goes about controlling growth and creating infrastructure to serve new residential areas.

            A vocal group of citizens in any of the three communities can find candidates who would listen to them and they have a chance to influence the area right around their homes.

            Often you hear someone complaining about “they” in government as in, they won’t do this or they won’t listen. A better approach is act like the they is a we as in we talked this over or we are going to work on the parks.

            These council members are part of the community and every one of them will be spotted around their towns. Our communities are too small to hide while in office.The decisions facing the town councils over the next four years loom large with growth coming this way quickly.

            As of late last week, these local races where a vote really does make a difference weren’t getting much attention. In fact almost no one had shown up to vote early. Next Tuesday is Election Day and like the county election supervisor said earlier, we hope that most people in the towns are waiting to vote at their own town halls, rather than the county’s early voting location because the turnout thus far is dismal – which means you really should go vote. Your vote will count and you can’t be ignored.

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