Local Elections Have Big Impact on Day-to-Day Life

Enormous attention is being given to congressional and governorship races this election season. But Jim Hunt, a city council member in Clarksburg, W. Va., and the president of the National League of Cities, says there are thousands of local races that will have just as much — or more — impact on the day-to-day lives of constituents.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The national political parties have poured millions of dollars into important congressional races this election season, but commentator Jim Hunt says that there are other important races that will be decided in the next three weeks for positions like his, on the city council in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

JIM HUNT: For months, the airways have been filled with the chatter about candidates, issues and potential impacts to our foreign and domestic policy. But has anyone stopped to think about the folks who will actually have to implement these changes, policies and initiatives? Look no further than your own city hall.

At the same time voters choose a new senator or governor, they will also elect mayors, commissioners and council-members in thousands of municipal elections. These local officials will face the daunting, day-to-day task of implementing and funding any changes to federal and state policies. They will oversee the spending of 7 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

They will often do their jobs for little pay and work around the clock along with this country's 3.5 million municipal employees to make sure cities and towns function on a daily basis.

Most of these men and women won't be mingling at glitzy receptions in fancy hotels after they are elected. They will be confronted by constituents in the supermarket, on the sidewalk or at charity barbecues. Not only do local elected officials keep our cities and towns running, they are the first line of communication when federal policy changes affect individual citizens.

When Congress cuts funding for municipal programs, who explains to parents that their children's daycare is closing because of federal budget cuts? Who has to face angry constituents in a grocery-store aisle when they find out local taxes are being raised to cover what the federal government no longer pays for?

As Election Day draws near and the focus on congressional and gubernatorial races becomes even more pronounced, I challenge every voter to remember that local elected officials have a great deal of impact on our everyday lives. Far too often, we don't recognize the countless contributions of local elected officials - from ideas for economic development to the initiative to create and plan community events and a willingness to make themselves available to all citizens. Pay close attention to this year's municipal elections, listen to the candidates' ideas, and appreciate all that your local officials do to make our communities a place to call home.

SIEGEL: Jim Hunt is the president of the National League of Cities, and he's on the city council of Clarksburg, West Virginia. He is not up for re-election this year. He has a couple more years in his term.

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