Local elections most critical of all

I’ve tried many times over many years to explain why local elections have more tangible meaning to people than, say, presidential elections.

May 11 will bring another opportunity for Texans to vote on local races and issues. They will have a tangible effect on many aspects of our lives. Accordingly, the League of Women Voters is seeking to bring those elections to the top of our minds’ awareness with a forum that will be streamed live to kacv.org. And after the event, which occurs at 7 p.m. on April 25, it will be posted on our website for interested voters to have a look.

The LWV forum will include races for the Amarillo City Commission, the Amarillo College Board of Regents and will discuss a $99.45 million bond issue being proposed by the Amarillo Independent School District.

Why are these elections so vital? Allow me to examine the reasons, contest by contest.

* The City Commission: All five commission members are on the ballot, but only one of the races — the race for mayor — is being contested. The four incumbent commissioners will be present to make statements to voters. Why does this race matter so much? These are the folks who set policies on a whole array of issues. They set our municipal tax rate. They decide how the money will be spent. Do we want more police officers and firefighters? Better parks? More street lights? Do you want the city to repair your street? How about garbage pickup? Are the branch libraries adequately supplied with resource material? The commission determines where the money goes and how it’s spent. What’s more, the money it gets comes from us, you and me, in the form of property taxes.

Yes, this is a big deal.

* The Amarillo College Board of Regents: This is an at-large election. The top vote-getters will be elected or re-elected. Amarillo College also levies a property tax and the regents set the rate every year. The money is used to hire faculty, to purchase textbooks and other media for use in the classroom. AC educates something north of 11,000 students in many areas of study. Regents also determine whether to ask for money in the form of bond issues. They decide whether to expand parking availability at AC’s Washington Street campus, which is a chronic complaint topic among those who attend AC. Regents hire the college president, who administers the policies enacted by the board that hired him. The school works hand-in-glove with West Texas A&M University on transfer credit hours and other key issues.

This, too, is a huge election that deserves voters’ attention.

* AISD’s bond issue. The Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees is asking residents to approve a $99.45 million bond issue. State law says the bond issue money can be spent only on what’s known in the business as “brick-and-mortar” capital construction projects. The money to pay off the bonds comes — that’s right — from property taxes generated within the AISD. The school district is seeking to pay for improvements at school campuses, including the construction of classroom space. This bond issue affects homeowners directly and tangibly.

Is this one big? You bet it is.

We all have something at stake in each of these elections, whether we have children in school or anyone in our family attending Amarillo College. The City Hall election matters because we all should aspire to live affordably in a safe and livable city.

That’s why it matters and it is why we should watch the League of Women Voters local election forum on April 25, beginning at 7 p.m.


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