A Grin at the End: Do your homework – Responsible voting takes a little effort

April 2016 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

carl-sampsonBy Carl Sampson

For the 69 percent of Oregonians who cast ballots in the last general election, this will be a busy year.

Not only are we going to choose a new president — God help us all with that bunch — we will choose a U.S. senator, member of the U.S. House, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of labor and industry, a legislator or two and a Marion County commissioner.

In our communities, we will choose mayors and a batch of city councilors. In some cities we’ll also vote on levies to help pay for running libraries, pools and parks.

Add to a number of half-baked initiatives and a handful of state judges no one has ever heard of that will show up on the ballot and we’ll have our hands full.

So what’s a responsible voter to do?

How can anyone keep up on national, state and local politics? I know, I know, I’m not a political junky, either. It’s just that I like to know where my tax dollars are being spent and who’s spending them.

The first place to go are the various websites. Silverton, Mount Angel and Scotts Mills have OK websites that will help you figure out who the elected officials and the city staffs are. You can also take a look at the city budgets, if they are not posted, ask for a copy.

I found Marion County’s. It’s $380 million a year.

Boy howdy, I could have some fun with that. I can’t exactly tell you what I’d do with it but it would involve one-way plane tickets and lots of Mai Tais.

I could have even more fun with the $68.9 billion the state spends every two years. Heck, I’d buy a 747 and a string of tropical islands with that kind of money.

But I digress. Another way to keep up with politics is old school: Read the newspaper. I know, a lot of newspapers — especially the daily and the weekly — aren’t what they used to be, but they do the best they can, I suppose.

Another way to keep in touch is to go to a city council meeting. It won’t kill you. In fact, in the nine hundred billion public meetings I’ve attended as a journalist, nearly all of them were pretty interesting. The schedules are posted online and listed in the paper.

Another option is to watch the videos of the city council meeting that are posted. Go to the Silverton website: www.silverton.or.us .com. Click on “Watch Meetings.” Mount Angel and Scotts Mills don’t have video, but current documents, like agendas and meeting minuters are there: www.ci.mt-angel.or.us and scottsmills.org.

But I have one word of warning for anyone trying to learn about politics: Don’t believe anything you see on Facebook. I have found that any “information” posted on Facebook beyond pictures of grandchildren and cat videos is suspect.

Democracy takes work. Not much, but it takes more that sitting around doing nothing.

So my advice is to saddle up and get ready for the elections.  We have some ballots to fill out.

Carl Sampson is a freelance editor and writer.

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