It has been difficult readjusting to regular life after last week’s big City Commission election. I’m no longer driving around town staring at campaign signs, hearing accusations about stealing campaign signs, or making wild and inaccurate guesses about who is going to win the election by the number of their campaign signs.
I will miss receiving phone calls and emails from local politicians concerning rumors about misuse of campaign money, inappropriate comments, and which candidate’s daughter said what on Facebook - all of which could have been the script for “Mean Girls Part Two” with no major wording changes. I will also miss spending my days having candidates visiting the Tribune office to animatedly express their emotions and spending my nights experiencing the enchanting entertainment of Candidate Forums.
I’ve had plenty to keep me busy since the election with the rec center asking for more money, social workers being fired from special education, and meeting with County Commissioners to plan trips to Hooters. I had to wait at least a week to officially react in print to the election results, mainly so I wouldn't foolishly write anything that would inspire our new Commissioners to draft proposals allowing them to chase me out of the Memorial Building with torches and pitchforks.
The truth is that I spent far more time thinking about how this election was going to turn out than any sane person probably should. If I voted strictly for the choices that would make my life as a newspaper reporter more interesting, I would have made exactly the same choices that the majority of voters in Chanute did.
It was a fascinating race because of how partisan it became, and how stiff and rigid the two factions that formed ended up being. These sides didn’t change or budge too much throughout the election process, and no one tried to gain votes by attacking their own side. The depressingly small percentage of local voters who actually showed up to the polls ultimately seemed to make their choice based on which side of that divide they preferred.
Considering this, the final results shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody. People who are angry about the current state of affairs are always more motivated to go out and vote than those who are relatively content with the way things are. This is why Republicans usually do well in mid-term elections when there’s a Democratic President and vice versa. Voting against an agenda seems to be more motivating to people than voting for one.
The incumbent Commissioners, city staff, and those hired for a lot of money to work on the fiber plan obviously made some strategic errors in the way that simple questions were not specifically answered. Changing all the key details of the fiber plan right before the election probably didn’t help their cause much. The challenging opponents and incoming Commissioners seized on this and turned it to their political advantage, which was obviously a smart strategy that worked for them.
Even though I feel that people have a duty to question decisions that the local government makes on their behalf, it would be nice to see both the incoming and the outgoing Commissioners get some respect and recognition for their willingness to serve the community. Despite what some in the community might think, the Commission has never been some evil cabal hell-bent on destroying the town for their own greedy aims. Rather, it is a group of citizens trying to figure out the best way for the city government to do what it has been set up to do – properly serve the people who live here. Whether or not we like all of the specific decisions they make, anyone who is willing to serve on the Commission has to gracefully take a lot of verbal abuse and ill will for a very meager amount of money. Those of us who wouldn’t consider putting up with that should at least show a little deference towards those who do.
As a citizen, I also hope that the community can come together after this election that seemingly divided it so much. While we may have differing opinions on the merits of certain ideas and certain plans, we should still be part of a united front in wanting what is ultimately best for our city.
There is certainly going to be a new dynamic in the way this city is run now, and it is going to be fascinating to watch how it all shakes out.
Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or invitations to use county money to dine at Hooters to firstname.lastname@example.org.