Jenna Palacio: The power of voting in local elections at Lake Tahoe (opinion)
October 18, 2016
Presidential elections statistically drive more voters to the polls, but will that trend hold up to South Lake Tahoe's notorious voter apathy on Nov.8?
Recently, only about one-third of eligible voters in the area actually participate in the democratic process. If you're ready to tune out the current antics in the presidential election (who isn't, at this point?), tune into the local election, where your vote is incredibly powerful and needed. Local elections aren't bound to the Electoral College system that determines the national election. In fact, just a few votes can determine what happens next in our town, and your vote could possibly be one of those.
Vote like your future here depends on it. Because, it does. Want to enjoy a new recreation center, paid for by visitors? Want to have the city dedicate half-a-cent sales tax to fund affordable housing? Or, do you want absolutely none of the above? Get to your polling station, friend. Weighing in on local ballot measures, city council, school board and utility district candidates is the tried and true way to speak up on what you want to happen in the community (as opposed to exchanging posts on Facebook). Historically, South Lake Tahoe's major decisions made by vote come down to a very small margin of cast ballots — usually less than 100 votes. It's important that we as community stakeholders weigh our options, do our homework and turn out.
Instead of getting caught up in the Trump vs. Clinton, dig deep into local issues and ask tough questions of yourself and of the content on ballot. Think of the big picture, for example, the decisions the two candidates elected to serve on South Lake Tahoe City Council will have to make over the next four years, and how their leadership will help or hinder our community's wellbeing. Luckily, resources abound for voter education. On the politically neutral side, check out the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals' interviews of the 10 South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates and local measures P, Q, R, S, T and U at http://www.TahoeTRYP.org. Getting up to speed on local elections is as easy as watching a series of 10-minute videos.
You can learn more and even ask the 10 South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates questions this Wednesday, Oct. 19, at TRYP’s Tahoe Town Hall forum, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Tahoe Beach Retreat & Lodge’s new conference center.
Another tactic to get educated is cross-referencing candidate endorsements and interviews in community news outlets, as well as endorsements from local organizations to get a sense of the people running and why they're supported or not. Do these media outlets and organizations reflect your values? Are the local measures on the ballot substantiated? Like First Lady Michelle Obama said during her speech last week, it's time to roll up our shirt sleeves and get to work. You can learn more and even ask the 10 South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates questions this Wednesday, Oct. 19, at TRYP's Tahoe Town Hall forum, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Tahoe Beach Retreat & Lodge's new conference center.
Last but certainly not least, there are 17 state propositions that will be on the California ballot, each having implications on our community in one way or another. Not sure how to get through the manifesto explaining them? Plan a study session with friends to share the pros and cons and divvy up research while encouraging a fact-based discussion on how the November ballot will impact issues like banning plastic bags, legalizing marijuana and repealing the death penalty. It's easier than ever to get information and make educated decisions at the polls.
I hope to see everyone out rocking the vote on Nov. 8, and encouraging friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. Still not registered to vote in South Lake Tahoe? The deadline is Oct. 24. Pick up a registration form at your local post office or check your status and register at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections.
Jenna Palacio is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals, a foodie and an outdoor recreation enthusiast. When not freelancing communications or running Lake Tahoe Community College's Internship Program, you can find her paddleboarding, snowboarding, or hiking with her husband and two dogs.