Forget etiquette: Talk politics

Keeping democracy going takes work, but Americans up to that task

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2001

Editor's Note: The League of Women Voters periodically submits articles describing its positions on relevant topics and rationale for taking them. The League is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.

We've got to do something! Do something! Do something!

What can we do?

Change our lives! Change your life! Change my life!

One thing to do might be start talking about politics!

When we're having coffee with friends or acquaintances or even strangers, get the conversation to turn around to elections and voting and candidates and issues. Ask the person who is standing in line behind you, "How do you feel about Proposition 1?" When we phone our kids way off somewhere "Outside," can we ask them: "Do you agree about permanent fund dividend laws?" When the book group discussion has stalled, bring up subsistence.

And write a letter to this newspaper. Fill up this page which is devoted to our opinions. Let others know how we feel about this situation and that situation. Stop being quiet and passive.

Our community is going to vote on Tuesday. What might happen if we all talked to each other about how we feel about all these candidates and all these issues?

Oh yes, there are other places where we can make a difference. Have you ever thought about carrying a sandwich board at the Soldotna "Y"? Or calling a local radio talk show? Or having an evening out on the town attending a meeting where opinions are expressed and noted? Come on! There usually are refreshments of some kind. Take a date. Have a good time.

Where have all those town meetings gone anyway? You know, the ones where interested and involved members of the community stood up and told the world how they felt about the way things were being run. And they then took a part of that burden which always occurs when change is needed.

We could help make bid decisions like, "What color should we make the hundred thousand dollar concrete trim for the Soldotna sidewalks?" I think that the railings on the Moose River Bridge should be low enough, so motorists who don't drive SUVs can glimpse over the edge to see the river. Oh, that I could have made a suggestion before the concrete was poured.

And should we have more traffic signals, more crosswalks, fewer roadside signs or more? Do you know what group makes these decisions? How can we make our voices heard? Who can we call?

And what about those service boards? Do you know that there are six openings with no candidates? There are 22 openings where candidates are running unopposed. Are we letting an elite clique take over? They are the ones who get to input thoughts about how to spend out tax money. Who are these people?

How would you like to get your hands on the money? Do you know that when you serve on a service board you get to make recommendations about how to spend money? Oh, just think about all that tax money! We could get our communities more hospital beds, better medical service, bigger fire engines, superior senior centers, swimming pools.

And then ... and then ... there are the schools. Do you know that most high school seniors can actually vote? What if they get together and decide to run for some of these positions? Then, who would be in charge of things? Now, there's something to think about. Could we visit social studies classes and find out what these kids are learning? Could we get a hint about what they are thinking about? Is there any possibility that you or I might have an opportunity to influence them? Could anyone call and get a time to visit a class? Probably.

We have all had a lot of things to think about the last few days. Here are a few more. There are a lot of things that need to be done. Some we can't do. Some we can. Oh, yes! Change is tough.

But we all know that keeping a democracy going takes work. And we know that we can do it.

Jean Kimple has lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 1964. She is one of the state directors for the League of Women Voters.

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