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"People get the government they deserve." So the old adage goes. Recent events in Bell, Calif., are proving this 200-year-old quote to be right.
People there are outraged that their elected officials have salaries higher that the president of the United States. I have been in contact with a journalist covering the story and he tells me that these officials have been in office quite awhile for the most part, one at least 26 years.
People there are mad, but they got the local government they deserved. Unopposed candidates, running in poorly attended elections, going on for years, leads to what they have on their hands today. Voter turnout at the last general election in Bell was about 25 percent. City officials there didn't vote themselves a $200,000 pay raise in one big shot, they voted themselves 10 to 15 percent annual pay raises for many years and it is only now that someone noticed. Are we heading for similarly embarrassing results here in Tell City?
Awhile back, a referendum was passed because people decided that they just were "happy to have a vote" in the upcoming election. Tell City-Troy Township will elect its first school board members this fall. The question is, who will run?
My sources say that only three or four people have even picked up papers. Will we really get a choice? Or will this be an election where everybody votes for nobody? How many local elections have you voted in where a candidate ran unopposed? Too many. The referendum that passed doesn't have equal representation for all district voters and that is a dangerous move for our community.
It will become even more dangerous if 10 signatures is all it takes to get on our school board. While the referendum for an elected board won by a large margin, people who voted for it made up less than 20 percent of registered voters in the district. Seventy-five percent of the voters failed to show up.
Apparently, few people want the job created by a referendum in which few bothered to vote. Are there people waiting to see if they can hijack our local school district by waiting until the last minute and swoop in to run? Are we another Bell in the making?
The people of Tell City-Troy Township deserve better government than those in Bell. To start this, we need potential leaders to step up and put their name on the ballot. School board positions are nonpartisan, so there's no party loyalty to claim or maintain, just good, reasonable people willing to take on a tough job.
Continuing budget cuts by the state and continuing pressure to consolidate smaller school districts means the next board is going to be in for a challenge.
We need to truly get a choice in who runs our school district for the next four years and not have to settle for who signs up. One significant advantage to an appointed board was that city leaders at least had a tool to filter out people who had an agenda rather than really cared for what happens to the school system.
If only three people sign up, that filter is lost and we could be in serious trouble. I'd like to challenge those of you who actually took the time to read this letter to the end to think about our future and step up to be part of the solution, and not sit back and continue to be part of our problem.
Holm is a member of The Tell City-Troy Township School Board. This guest column was written before several people filed.