By Ken Stern 

Elections demand high expectations

From the editor

 

October 18, 2023



Ballots will be arriving in the mail soon. We have very few choices in this year of municipal elections. There is only one contested seat: the La Conner school district Director 2 position. The rest of the positions in greater La Conner, for school director positions 1 and 4, Port of Skagit commissioner position 2 and Town of La Conner mayor and council positions 1 and 5 are all decided when the candidates cast their ballots.

That is our bad, residents and constituents of those jurisdictions. It may be that school board member Kim Pedroza and candidate Alana Quintasket are so good that there was no need to challenge them. In La Conner, Marna Hanneman, running for mayor and Annie Taylor and Mary Wohleb, to maintain their council positions, perhaps are so outstanding that no one saw a need to run against them.


It is not the candidates’ fault that they are running unopposed. But candidates and constituents all, don’t fall into complacency and allow the next 18 days to snooze on buy. It is not a matter of filling in boxes on sheets of paper – or not filling them in. The challenge, and responsibility, is on the candidates to make the effort and reach out to residents to explain why they are returning to another term of office – for Hanneman, what she hopes to accomplish – and why we, as voters ,need to to check the box in front of their names.

Citizen movements in various states have advocated for a “None of the Above” ballot option: NOTA, a box at the bottom of each office for voters to have the option to mark that yes, we actively decide that none of the candidates meet our needs for the office.


Since these positions are not contested, office holders have all the more reason to be visible and share their vision for the institutions for which they are volunteering to be responsible.

Why are they running for reelection? What is important about the positions that they want us to place our trust in them?

Gale Fiege is right to be disappointed, as she expresses in her letter this week, noting that no La Conner school district candidate submitted a voter profile for the election guide.

Still, residents need to thank every person standing for an office. These are our neighbors. They are willing to run for and serve as school board and town council members and port commissioners, stepping forward when no one else has. They have taken on difficult and often thankless jobs. Significant responsibility is involved: the schools budget is almost $13 million. Some 70 employees are responsible for about 500 students. The school board watches over all that.


While the Town of La Conner is a much smaller operation, with a $6 million-plus budget and maybe a dozen employees, every dollar spent and every day of work is done in service to the town’s residents.

Local elected officials toil at the start of and heart of democracy. In our small community they must move forward in always difficult times, overseeing institutions that are under resourced monetarily and staff-wise.


So citizens, these next 18 days take your civic obligation seriously and reach out to candidates. Voters do not “give” incumbents four more years. Voters elect candidates to four more years. Candidates, reach out and make the case for winning the votes of your neighbors.

There are issues and concerns important to you as officeholders. What issues do you need to be discussing with residents and what issues do you want them to pay attention to and provide support for?

And that contested school board race between Agen and Beasley? You can take a closer look. Watch the League of Women Voters of Skagit County’s recording of the Oct. 16 candidate forum on their website: skagitlwv.org/Election-Forums.html.

 

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