by Natalie Kahler, Brooksville Main Street Executive Director
A dear friend of mine has been walking doors for a local campaign. It’s her first time campaigning and she has been shocked by the number of people who believe their vote doesn’t matter and the election results don’t matter. Give me a chance to convince you that both your vote and the results matter more in local elections than any other.
Local government determines how your garbage is collected, how much they will pick up, how often it is collected and whether or not they handle recycling. Local governments with sewer control how clean your water is (and if you can drink it out of the tap), what happens when your toilet flushes, and the process for making water usable again. Local government decides what kind of playground, softball fields, and public restrooms you will be able to use. Local government dictates if your road is brick, asphalt, gravel or dirt and the level to which they will maintain it. Local government controls how regulated your life will be. For example, City Council recently voted down an ordinance whose first draft would have required a permit for pressure washing and washing your car. (It was a 3-2 vote against it. One vote would have changed everything). Local government advocates to the State on speed limits and safety precautions on State roads.
Local government chooses the quality of your first responders – their level and caliber of staffing determine life or death in your most critical moments. Brooksville City Council decided in 2018 to eliminate the city police force and have the authority to do the same for city fire.
Local government is vitally important in natural disasters. Both City and County officials work in the Emergency Operations Center and craft responses and recommendations county-wide. They provide you with sandbags and shelters and coordinate with FEMA in the aftermath. When Hurricane Irma in 2017 caused flooding in Cloverleaf, Brooksville Police Department rescued many senior citizens with HumVees and canoes. Also during Irma, the City Manager at the time was woefully slow in obtaining a contract for debris pickup. Piles of limbs sat on people’s lawns for weeks, and we still have a spot in our yard where the grass hasn’t grown back because of it. Local government can make your life better or it can make your life worse. And you get to decide who is leading it.
Because so few vote in local elections, your vote truly matters. In 2020, City Councilman David Bailey beat his opponent by only 87 votes. In 2018, City Councilman Pat Brayton won with a 220 vote margin. And in 2012, County Commission candidate Jason Sager beat his opponent by 8 votes. EIGHT votes. Your vote matters. And who wins matters. Think back to 2019-2020 when some members of the City Council wanted to eliminate Brooksville Main Street. We were pulled from the budget and it was only the outcry of over 200 residents and businesses that caused one of the council members to flip their vote and support us. One council member had the power to decide what all of us would have in our community. And if the 2018 elections had been different, we’d never have even had that fight to begin with!
There are two City Council seats on the ballot this November and each have two people running. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to get information about those candidates because there aren’t forums and campaign events like we see in “bigger” elections. At our next Brooksville Matters breakfast, we will host a forum for the candidates and also provide you the chance to speak to them one-on-one. They are really different from one another – one has been in various positions in city government, one has been in government at the county level, one is a local businessman, and one is experienced at managing people. One candidate’s family has been here since the city’s founding and one is a first generation Brooksvillian. One is in his twenties and one is in his seventies.
All four say they want to lower taxes but their plans for doing so are vastly different including one candidate who believes the best route is to eliminate the city altogether. Campaign mailers aren’t going to get you the details you need to make your decision so be on the lookout for candidates at events and in your neighborhood. And reach out to them and ask them whatever question matters the most to you. The cool thing about city government is these people are generally accessible (if they aren’t visible, I personally wouldn’t vote for them). You’ll see them at the grocery store, at church, or at the ball field. You can have conversations with them at levels completely impractical for other forms of government. Take advantage of it! Get informed, come to our forum, make your voice heard, and vote for City Council members 2022. The direction of our community will be determined by it.